Drugs and Driving Don’t Mix Well Either
The same day a woman is sentenced to nine years in prison for killing two people when she was drunk driving, a man is sentenced to 10 years for milling his passenger when he was driving while high on methamphetamine.
More and more, our courts are dealing with drivers who aren’t drunk, but under the influence of drugs. Whether it is street drugs or prescription drugs, we are seeing more and more cases come to court. There are two key reasons. First, police have gotten a little better at detecting when a person is high and what drugs to look for. Secondly, and much more predominantly, we live in the most overly medicated society in the world. More and more people are getting prescribed medication from everything from chronic pain, to depression, to attention deficit disorder and the list goes on. This means more and more people taking these medications, which can impair your ability to drive, EVEN IF TAKEN AS PRESCRIBED, and more and more people having access to these medications even though they don’t have a prescription. Both these groups build up tolerance to the drugs they are using, which means they have to take more and more to get the relief or to get high or they have to switch to stronger drugs. This as it is announced a new pain medication is going to be coming to the market that as one expert described would be like taking five vicodin in one pill.
Two groups being hit especially hard by this trend are the chronically ill and teens. As a defense attorney, I am seeing it more and more often. The scenario often goes, some person is injured and prescribed vicodin. It works for a while, but, they develop a tolerance very quickly and there are negative side effects like constipation. Soon, they are moving on to Percocet. Some are eventually prescribed even methadone, a drug used to wean addicts off of heroin. Many of these patients develop mental issues, such as depression. The next step is to prescribe something for that. Any of these medications can make it safe for you to drive, together, it is even worse. Sadly, the warnings usually say to take care or caution when driving or using heavy machinery or not to drive or use heavy machinery until you are adjusted to the drug. The problem with that is even if the medication is not making you feel off, your mental faculties, like reaction time, judgment, peripheral vision and others may already be impaired. So, you are doing exactly what your doctor told you to do and paying attention to the warnings, and unwittingly putting yourself and everyone else on the road at risk.
But, there is no easy answer, to ban driving for all these people would be over reaching and mean that millions of Americans who are victims of pain or illness would suddenly be trapped and not allowed to drive.
Prescription drugs have now surpassed marijuana as the gateway drug of choice for teenagers. More and more kids are first experimenting with getting high with the medications in their parents’ medicine cabinets or the friends’ parents medicine cabinets. Needless to say, getting high that way is way more dangerous, whether you drive or not, than pot ever will be.
Starting three decades ago, massive amounts of effort was put into educating people about the dangers of drinking and driving. That on-going effort has done more to prevent drunk driving than any punishment for it ever could or will. It seems we need to have the same effort put forth to educate people, especially teens, about the dangers of using prescription drugs.