5 Prescription Drugs that Commonly Lead to DUI Charges

Posted by Neil Shouse | Feb 27, 2020 | 0 Comments

person taking pills while in car
Prescription drugs can lead to DUI charges...

DUI charges can stem from any drug that impairs the ability to operate a vehicle safely. There are five prescription drugs in particular that commonly lead to DUI charges:

  1. Adderall,
  2. Xanax,
  3. Ambien,
  4. Vicodin, and
  5. Clarinex.

Each of these can cause a motorist to be under the influence.

None of these drugs cause any alcohol to enter the bloodstream. Nevertheless, they can lead to a DUID or DUI of drugs charge if they impair someone's ability to drive safely.

1. How can Adderall or other ADHD prescriptions lead to a DUI?

Adderall can lead to a DUI because it alters how people feel fatigue.

Adderall is a combination of the drugs dextroamphetamine and amphetamine. These drugs work to keep someone focused and attentive. Adderall is used to treat ADHD and other attention disorders.

Similar drugs include:

  • Ritalin,
  • Focalin,
  • Adzenys, and
  • Vyvanse.

These drugs work by stimulating the central nervous system. That stimulation begins to fade after about six hours. This can leave the person taking Adderall feeling tired. This can impair their driving.

2. Can taking Xanax lead to a DUI?

People taking Xanax can get pulled over and charged for drugged driving because Xanax can make people feel sedated.

Xanax and other anti-anxiety medications use a class of drug called benzodiazepines. These drugs work by depressing the central nervous system. They make people feel relaxed and calm. They are used as a short-term treatment for anxiety and insomnia.

Similar drugs include:

  • Librium,
  • Doral,
  • Valium, and
  • Ativan.

Taking Xanax and then driving can leave drivers too calm. They can impair a driver's ability to operate a vehicle safely. Drivers may be too sedated to notice dangers and react to them appropriately.

3. Is it illegal to drive while on Ambien or another sleeping pill?

Ambien can also lead to a drugged driving charge.

Ambien is a sleeping pill that induces drowsiness. It is another drug in the benzodiazepine family. It works by slowing activity in the brain and nervous system. Ambien is used to treat insomnia and sleeping problems. Similar drugs include:

  • Lunesta, and
  • Sonata.

Sleeping pills like Ambien can have after-effects on people after they wake up. Like a hangover, these can leave people feeling drowsy and lethargic.

Ambien DUI can happen:

  • immediately after taking the sleeping pill, when they begin to feel sleepy, or
  • the morning after taking a pill, when they still feel drowsy.

In either case, that drug-induced sleepiness can impair their ability to drive. This can lead to a DUI.

4. Is it illegal to drive under the influence of painkillers like Vicodin?

It is also illegal to drive while under the influence of Vicodin or other strong painkillers.

Vicodin uses hydrocodone and an opioid. These are some of the strongest types of painkillers. They work by blocking pain signals and receptors in the brain and spinal cord. Similar drugs include:

  • Oxycondone,
  • Percocen, and
  • Roxiprin.

Vicodin DUI can happen because the painkiller can leave drivers with a variety of symptoms, including:

  • dizziness,
  • drowsiness, and
  • lightheadedness.

Each of these conditions can impair someone's ability to drive.

5. What about allergy medications like Clarinex?

Drivers who are under the effects of an allergy medication like Clarinex can also face a DUI charge.

Clarinex is a strong allergy medication. It is an antihistamine. It counteracts the chemical histamine, which triggers allergy symptoms. Similar drugs include:

  • Allegra,
  • Claritin, and
  • Benadryl.

Antihistamines come with some significant side effects. The most important of these is drowsiness. People who take Clarinex and then drive may be too tired to stay attentive. This can impair their driving ability.

Can there be a DUI charge with no BAC?

Drivers can face DUI charges even though they had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.00%. Police just need to prove that the driver was impaired.

All states prohibit two types of DUIs:

  • per se DUIs, which involve drivers with BACs at or above the legal limit, and
  • driving while impaired or under the influence of a drug.

For example, in California, there are separate laws for each type of DUI:

These distinct laws let police make DUI arrests in the absence of BAC. They only have to prove that the driver was impaired. Police can show impairment by:

  • interviewing the driver,
  • noting signs of drug impairment,
  • taking the driver's vital signs, and
  • detecting the presence of drugs in the driver's bloodstream.

A driver can be considered impaired if their ability to drive was diminished by a drug, even a prescribed one. In theory, any reduction in driving ability can support a DUI charge.

About the Author

Neil Shouse

A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.


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