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Can you face DUI charges for legal prescription drug use?

Most people know the law forbids driving while drunk or under the influence of illegal drugs. However, it would still surprise some to learn that taking a routine, properly prescribed medication can also result in criminal charges.

Oklahoma law forbids driving if you are impaired by any type of substance or under the influence of anything intoxicating. Generally, the law defines intoxicating substances as those that tend to affect the nervous system, sensory perception and physical movement.

If the medication affects your driving, you may face charges

Just because your medication is necessary and you take it according to your doctor's instructions does not mean it cannot also impair your driving. Many commonly prescribed medications often have side effects that affect important functions and can make it unsafe to operate a vehicle.

Common prescriptions to watch out for

Some drugs are particularly well-known for side effects such as drowsiness, vertigo, blurred vision, inability to focus and impaired coordination. These medications include sleeping aids, drugs used to treat anxiety and depression, and painkillers. In many cases, doctors and pharmacists will specifically warn about these possible effects.

Taking precautions

Some people may experience unusual side effects, or develop them in response to a change in dosage or a new combination of prescriptions. To err on the safe side, avoid driving until you have a chance to see the effects of your new prescription.

Using over-the-counter drugs

Some over-the-counter medications may have similar effects for some people. Common offenders include remedies for colds and allergies. Combining any medication with alcohol, even with amounts that would not normally result in a problematic blood alcohol content, can increase or produce side effects and impair driving ability.

Taking a medication does not mean you experienced a side effect

Conversely, some people never experience any side effects at all. Different people can experience a wide range of reactions when taking the exact same drug. To convict of a DUI offense, prosecutors need to prove impairment or influence of an intoxicating substance. However, the presence of the prescription drug in your blood does not, on its own, prove the drug affected your driving.

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