Lawmakers, prosecuting attorneys and law enforcement officials have all noted that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to not only prosecute individuals impaired by prescription drug use, but also difficult to identify such individuals.
Law enforcement officials, in particular, are taxed with the burden of discretion in judgment when approaching an individual who appears to be impaired in some fashion. When police officers suspect that an individual may be under the influence due to erratic behavior, the tough call is, ‘what substance has caused the impairment?’
In the case of alcohol or illegal drugs, such as cocaine and marijuana, it’s an easy call to make. The difficulty comes when a legally prescribed medication is causing the impairment.
“Drunken driving is easy to discern – officials have tests at their disposal which check for not only the use of alcohol but also the degree of alcohol within the bloodstream,” begins a spokesperson for Mountainside Drug Rehab and Alcohol Treatment Center in Canaan , CT. “The problem arises with medications that are prescribed for an individual which cause impairment; such medications include painkillers, muscle relaxers or anti-anxiety medications. Clearly, the proper use of prescribed medications isn’t illegal, but their effects can cause mental and cognitive impairments that can become detrimental while driving. The challenge is that there really is no effective way to measure what amounts, specifically, cause impairments, particularly with those who have been on those types of medications for an extended period of time. Individuals who have been on a prescribed medication for a long period of time tend to build up a tolerance, requiring a higher dosage to get the same therapeutic effect as someone who has just begun taking the particular medication.”