DUI Includes Meds Too
As reported on Seacoastonline.com by Elizabeth Dinan (4/09), DWI doesn't always
mean driving while intoxicated. A pair of older drivers in Portsmouth, NH
discovered that recently when they were arrested for DWI charges alleging they
were driving while impaired by prescribed medications.
Certified drug recognition expert and police Lt. Corey MacDonald says those
kinds of arrests "are relatively new," but the Portsmouth public can expect to
see more of them. The city police department has five officers certified as
drug recognition experts (DRE), a percentage MacDonald said is comparatively
higher than most police departments. "Coupled with the fact that a lot of
society is heavily medicated," he said, DWI will more often mean driving while
impaired. "We're definitely looking at it more," he said. "It used to be that
if a driver didn't have an odor of alcohol, they would be released. Now we're
looking beyond that."
Also serving as manager of the city's police prosecution office, MacDonald said
DRE officers on the street can offer "expert opinion" as to whether a driver is
impaired by prescription medication, while urine or blood samples provide
ultimate proof. Since New Hampshire does not accept urine samples, blood tests
are used in this state and reveal specific medications, he said. MacDonald's
advice for drivers taking prescribed medication is to follow the advice of the
prescribing physician. He said most arrests are the result of someone taking a
wrong dose, mixing medications and/or consuming alcohol with medications.
Someone combining one drug with one drink, he said, becomes as impaired one who
had two drinks or two drugs.