How Prescription Drugs Can Impact Your Driving

Under Florida law, “driving under the influence” doesn’t just apply to alcohol, but also the use of any drug that may impair your ability to operate a vehicle. This includes illegal drugs, prescription drugs, or over-counter-medications.  

If you’re pulled over by a police officer who suspects you are impaired, you can still be arrested for suspicion of DUI…even if the drugs were legally prescribed.

Tampa DUI attorney Ben Stechschulte explains the effects prescription drugs can have on driving and best defense practices for this type of DUI charge:  

Prescription Drug Facts 

Most people understand the dangers of combining alcohol with driving, but according to statistics, far fewer people recognize how prescription drugs can impact our ability to drive.  

  • Two-thirds of drivers consider driving under the influence of alcohol to be a serious threat, however, only 28 percent of drivers think the same about prescription drugs. 
  • Only 35 percent of drivers choose to avoid driving, even when they can tell their medication is affecting their ability to drive.  

Because of the following reasons, assessing the actual risks between drug use and driving can be far more difficult to measure than alcohol use.  

  • Different drugs have different effects. 
  • The effect of drugs varies from person to person. 
  • The concentration or dosage of a drug can cause a huge variance in how it affects a person.  
  • Drugs can remain in your system for different lengths of time.  
  • The effects of drugs can be heightened when used in combination with other drugs or alcohol. 

If you’ve been arrested for DUI while taking a prescription medication, it is critical to contact an experienced DUI attorney immediately. Contact Stechschulte Nell at 813-280-1244 for a free case review. 

Types of Drugs 

Depending on the side effects of the drug taken, driving can be impaired in several ways. So how do you know if it’s safe to get behind the wheel? Here are the most common types of prescription drugs and how each one can alter the ability to drive.  


Narcotics are commonly used to treat severe pain, especially when other forms of pain relief fail to work. Because they aid in making an individual pain-free, they are highly addictive and have a significant risk of dependency.  

When taking narcotics, side effects may include dizziness, euphoria, physical dependence, decreased respiration, sedation, and nausea. Common narcotics include Codeine, Fentanyl, Hydrocodone, Hydromorphone, Meperidine, Methadone, Morphine, and Tramadol. 

Attorney Ben Stechschulte has a proven track record of success in defending DUI cases where prescription drugs such as narcotics have been involved. 


While medical marijuana has been made legal in the state of Florida, it is still a substance that can impair your ability to drive. According to EMSA Online, marijuana can affect reaction times, perception of time and distance, and judgment. When combined with alcohol, these impairments get worse, and when combined with opiates or sedatives, it can cause hallucinations!  


Depressants are used to treat conditions such as sleep disorders, anxiety, and muscle spasms. The entire purpose of a depressant is to slow down the body’s systems, making it extremely dangerous to take before operating a vehicle.  

They have strong sedating effects, slow down cognitive activity, and delay motor functioning. Common depressants include Fiorina, Valium, Xanax, Ativan, Lunesta, Ambien, and Sonata. 

Depressants are a common prescription drug, many of which are taken daily. DUI attorney Ben Stechschulte has the experience to properly defend your DUI drug charges.  


Stimulants speed up the body’s systems and are used to treat conditions such as ADHD (as a study aid) and weight issues (as a hunger suppressant). Stimulants increase body temperature, blood pressure, and pulse rates and can cause insomnia, loss of appetite, and physical exhaustion.  

Because they impact areas of the brain responsible for attentional, perceptual, cognitive, and motor functions, they are extremely dangerous to take before driving. 

Avoiding Prescription Drug DUIs 

If you are taking one or more prescription drugs, there are several safety measures you can take to avoid a DUI. These include: 

  • Always read the list of possible side effects. You must know the risks before taking a drug (or driving while on medication). 
  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist if you are unsure about your ability to drive. Make sure to mention any other drugs or supplements you are taking (prescription and OTC) and ask if those drugs may interact to cause impairment.  
  • Don’t drive until 24 to 48 hours after your first dose. This allows you to evaluate how the drug may impact you.  
  • If you must drive immediately after taking the first dose, have a friend ride along in case you show signs of impairment.  

Our Tampa DUI law firm is experienced in handling prescription DUI arrests can help defend your case.   

Defending Prescription Drug DUI Cases 

For prescription drugs to be a viable defense to a DUI case, certain qualifications must be met. These include:  

  • The prescription drug must have been taken as directed by the doctor.   
  • There can be no evidence of having consumed alcohol.  
  • The doctor or pharmacist did not advise you to refrain from operating a motor vehicle after taking the medication.  

An individual has a strong defense against a DUI charge if all the above qualifications are met and he or she can prove that the impairment was caused by legally prescribed drugs.  

Stechschulte Nell Tampa’s Top DUI Attorney 

Driving under the influence of a prescription drug can be just as dangerous, if not more dangerous, than driving after drinking alcohol! Likewise, a DUI from drug use can be just as devastating to your life as one from alcohol use.  

If you are facing a possible DUI conviction for drug use, please call our Tampa law office today at 813-280-1244

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