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Prescriptions, even over-the-counter drugs could impair driving

In Tennessee, if your driving is impaired by alcohol, illicit drugs or any substance, you could be charged with DUI. That includes prescription medications, over-the-counter drugs and even herbal or dietary supplements. The fact that they're legal won't prevent you from a DUI charge or even a conviction. Therefore, it's crucial to know what drugs could impair you and avoid driving when you could be impaired.

Do not stop taking prescribed medications unless your doctor tells you to do so. Always tell your doctor everything you're taking, including supplements and OTC medication, as these can sometimes interact with prescription medications in ways that could impair you.

Drugs are considered potentially impairing if they cause symptoms like:

  • Sleepiness/drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Loss of focus or inability to concentrate
  • Slowed movement
  • Lack of coordination/balance problems
  • Nausea
  • Excitability
  • Fainting

What types of drugs are potentially impairing?

According to the FDA, common types of drugs that may cause impairment include:

  • Prescription anxiety medications, especially benzodiazepines like Valium
  • Antidepressants
  • Pain relievers, especially codeine and other opioids
  • Cold remedies, which may contain dextromethorphan or alcohol
  • Allergy products such as Benadryl or doxylamine succinate
  • Sleeping pills and tranquilizers
  • Stimulants, including diet pills and "stay awake" drugs, which often contain ephedrine or pseudoephedrine and caffeine

No blood alcohol test required

If you take these or other medications that could impair your driving, you could be arrested for DUI. Even though there is no breathalyzer for prescription drugs, the state can build a DUI case against you based on a law enforcement officer's observations about your driving and, possibly, a test showing what drugs you were taking.

Steps you can take to limit impairment

If you're concerned that something you're taking could impair your driving, talk to your doctor or pharmacist. Either of these healthcare professionals can identify which, if any, of your medications could cause impairment. Then, your doctor can make recommendations for reducing the potential that your driving could be impaired.

The potential for impairment is greatest when you first begin taking a medication; when your dose is raised; and when you add a new drug to your regimen. You should pay close attention to how the drug makes you feel before getting behind the wheel. If you feel sleepy, dizzy, excitable or any of the symptoms listed above, you should not drive. Call a cab, hail a Lyft or take public transportation instead.

Get help if you're arrested for DUI

If you're charged with driving under the influence of legal drugs, talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney right away. Your lawyer can work to get the charges dropped or reduced, or to limit the negative consequences of the case.

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