You know for a fact that you can be arrested for driving while intoxicated (DWI) if you’re caught drunk driving. You may even know that you can be arrested for driving under the influence of marijuana or another illicit drug, such as cocaine, methamphetamines, heroin, LSD, or ecstasy, but get arrested for driving under the influence of lawfully prescribed medications? Yes, that can definitely happen.
Texas’ DWI law is covered under Section 49.04 of the Texas Penal Code. Contrary to popular belief, the state’s DWI statute is not limited to alcohol; it applies to alcohol, illegal drugs, and lawfully prescribed medications. Under the law, it’s illegal to drive while “intoxicated” in a public place.
Under Sec. 49.01(2)(A), “intoxicated” is defined as: “Not having the normal use of mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol, a controlled substance, a drug, a dangerous drug, a combination of two or more of those substances, or any other substance into the body” or by having a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or more.
Drugged Driving is Dangerous
The reason why drivers can get a DWI for driving under the influence of a controlled substance (legal or illegal) is that it can be just as dangerous as drunk driving. Per the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), specific drugs can affect the brain and driving skills, including marijuana and certain prescription medications.
“Certain kinds of prescription medicines, including benzodiazepines and opioids, can cause drowsiness, dizziness, and impair cognitive functioning (thinking and judgment). All of these effects can lead to vehicle crashes,” according to the NIDA.
How do medications affect people’s driving? According to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), some medications and even over-the-counter drugs and supplements can affect people’s driving because they cause drowsiness, blurred vision, dizziness, fainting, focus issues, nausea, and slowed movement. All of these side effects can affect a person’s ability to drive safely.
“Using a new medicine can cause you to react in a number of ways. It is recommended that you do not drive when you first start using a new medicine until you know how that drug affects you. You also need to be aware that some over-the-counter medicines and herbal supplements can make it difficult for you to drive safely,” advises the FDA.