Instead of a dry, boring article, the following is an excerpt from a recent interview with Attorney Leckerman on the subject.
Interviewer: What are some of the most common prescription drugs you’ve seen that are causing problems for people out there?
Kevin Leckerman: Xanax is a drug that many of my clients take and then get arrested for and charged with DUI. Part of the reason is that some people will use Xanax and alcohol. That combination is extremely bad for any person, even if you’ve been taking Xanax on a regular basis. The alcohol exacerbates the effects of the Xanax and can cause amnesia. Essentially, the driver has a total blackout of the events after the Xanax kicks in. I’ve had a number of clients tell me that,” I just don’t remember what happened that night. I took the Xanax, I had some alcohol, and then all of the sudden I found myself in police custody. I don’t remember what happened in between.” That’s the root problem with Xanax and alcohol for instance.
Interviewer: Any other prescription drugs that you’ve seen frequently and recently?
Kevin Leckerman: A lot of clients will have been prescribed the benzodiazepines. That’s going to take into account your Xanax and some of the other drugs that tend to be abused. These drugs would be Valium, Ativan, Halcion, Paxal, etc. I do see most of my clients come to me after they’ve been accused of the DUI but have been prescribed these drugs for a substantial period of time. There are occasions when I get clients who will come to me after they recently got a prescription from a doctor and really didn’t get good advice from that doctor about how to use it. Sometimes, these doctors will not specifically tell them not to drive on the drug or not to drive until the doctor says that it’s a good idea to do so, following a few days of getting used to the effects of the drug.
Interviewer: Let’s name a few names. Percocet is pretty common. Oxycontin (which people call Oxys), and Vicodin I am familiar with. Do you run into these prescription drugs for instance?
Kevin Leckerman: Yes. Those types of drugs, which are narcotics like Oxycodone, Percocets, Oxycontin, or Hydrocodone, do tend to be abused by certain people. However, just because you have been taking those drugs and you’re driving certainly does not mean that you’re under the influence of the drugs. When the person has been taking Percocets, for instance, for a number of years, there is a certain tolerance that’s built to the drug and it will not have an effect on your ability to drive. Former heroin users will often be prescribed Suboxone or Subutex. Again, these drugs will not be dangerous for a driver, if used according to the prescription and after a doctor gives the driver approval to drive.
Interviewer: Any other kind of prescription drugs, such as ones for hyperactivity or attention deficit disorder, like Adderall or Ritalin?
Kevin Leckerman: Well, I certainly have clients who have been taking Ritalin or Adderall. These drugs are usually prescribed to enhance concentration; but, there can be opposite effects. Let’s say you’ve been taking Adderall for a substantial period of time and then you stop taking it for a day. That person can experience what’s called a rebound affect, where even though the drug is not in the system, the person is actually experiencing somewhat of a hangover from the withdrawal of the drug. And that rebound affect, which has been noted by a number of doctors and scientists, will actually mimic the effects of alcohol. So, if somebody stops taking their Adderall after taking it for a sustained period of time, he or she may appear to be sluggish, may have slurred speech, have difficulty walking and other similar symptoms to being drunk. Those symptoms that the person is exhibiting could be misconstrued by a police officer as being under the influence of alcohol.
Interviewer: How about over the counter stuff, like cough syrups, Ibuprofen, Claritin, things like that. Have you had run ins with those kinds of drugs and what have been the effects?
Kevin Leckerman: Well, certainly any over-the-counter medication that has alcohol in it, or some type of sedative effect can be something that could affect one’s ability to drive. Claritin or ibuprofen are not going to generally affect somebody’s ability to drive.
Interviewer: Or like Nyquil? A heavy dose of Nyquil?
Kevin Leckerman: Nyquil can have an effect on somebody’s ability to drive. And certainly, if you’ve taken too much of it, and it has a sedative affect, then that drug can be detected in a driver’s blood or urine.
Interviewer: I wanted to know for certain if you’ve had firsthand experience with people getting pulled over and they’ve had cough syrup, Robitussin, Nyquil, Pseudoephedrine, Ephedrine, and other over the counter medications.
Kevin Leckerman: I’ve never had anybody who’s been charged with that. Again, most of the over-the-counter drugs are not going to affect somebody’s ability to drive. There are instances where somebody may be taking a drug that is a decongestant, where there’s some form of amphetamine in it.
Those are the types of cold or sinus drugs that you would have to sign for at a pharmacy. The reason why somebody would be signing for them is because they can be used to actually make methamphetamine. There’s a specific chemical that could be extracted from it and then combined with other chemicals to form the illegal drug. If somebody has been taking that, then there is the potential of that metabolite being found in somebody’s blood system and misconstrued by the prosecution as the illegal methamphetamine or amphetamines.
Interviewer: How about if someone’s pulled over on suspicion of DUI whether or not they, I guess to the point where the police officer wants to search the vehicle and they find pills that they don’t have a prescription with them or are not in a prescription bottle, or if they’re in plain sight. Does that cause problems for people?
Kevin Leckerman: Well when you’re carrying drugs in your vehicle they should be in a prescription bottle. Certainly, if a police officer sees that there are particular pills in somebody’s possession, that’s going to spark the officer’s interest in whether or not you’re under the influence of those drugs. And then that will most likely begin an investigation of the driver. So, it’s never a good idea to have your prescription drugs out in the open when you’re driving. They should always be in a prescription container and in a pocketbook, or in a bag, or in the center console. Somewhere out of sight.