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Driving and taking prescription painkillers: some things to know

The opioid epidemic is nothing short of a national health crisis. Its connection to the issue of drugged driving is only one aspect of a much larger problem.

The number of fatal overdoses from these powerful medications in recent years numbers in the tens of thousands. Overall, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention puts the number of lives lost to opioid overdoses since 1999 at a staggering 183,000.

The opioid crisis reached a new peak in recent years. A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine showed that more than 92 million Americans used opiates in 2015, with an estimated 12 million people misusing them (taking them more often that prescribed, not having a prescription or taking them for reasons other than those indicated by the physician).

The spreading use of opiates has become not only a public health issue, but a law enforcement issue as well. Prescription drugs can potentially affect driving, causing decreased reaction times and a propensity for distractibility.

As we discussed last summer, however, in a post on the Tiger Woods case, the fact that your medications are affecting your driving doesn't necessarily mean you are driving while impaired. It may mean that officers are overreaching, applying their subjective assessments of impairment when you are actually in compliance with the law.

Tennessee and other states have struggled to implement law enforcement protocols to measure drugged driving. We've discussed the difficulties of roadside testing to identify drugged driving several times before. That being said, if you are found to be under the influence of an opiate or of a street drug, it is possible that you could face DUI charges plus additional criminal charges.

These charges come with serious consequences and the potential to be life-changing. When you are facing Tennessee DUI allegations, you need a spirited, aggressive defense attorney at your side.

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