man driving with one hand on wheel

There is a common misconception that only driving under the influence of alcohol, or ‘drunk driving’, can have a negative impact on the individual’s coordination and judgment; any kind of drugged driving is extremely dangerous and is illegal. Individuals caught operating any heavy machinery while under the influence of a substance could face criminal charges, or be submitted into an inpatient drug rehab program at the very least. Any substance that has an effect on the brain’s depth perception and balance, or on the body’s motor functions, has the potential to impair an individual’s ability to drive safely.

The dangers of drugged driving are not limited to illegal substances: many prescription medications can interfere with the mind and body’s ability to control a moving vehicle. Although the ways in which drugs can affect driving skills differs depending on the substance in question, drugged driving endangers more than the life of the driver; it is potentially dangerous to anybody on the road. Law enforcement struggles to fight drugged driving as there are few ways of performing a legitimate test to measure the full spectrum of regularly-used intoxicants.

Which Drugs Are Linked to Drugged Driving?

Inpatient drug rehabs around the country frequently warn young people of the dangers of driving while under the influence of any substance. Rehab centers aim to educate the youth about the various harmful effects which can result from driving after ingesting dangerous or illicit substances; the problem is that many people don’t see the similarities between drunk driving and drugged driving.

Research has shown that driving under the influence of THC – the active ingredient in marijuana – is almost as dangerous as driving drunk: it can lead to decreased car handling performance, longer reaction times, sleepiness and poor physical coordination. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 22 percent of drivers are under the influence of some type of substance, whether illicit or prescription, and the 2nd most common drug tested in individuals who have been in or caused an accident is THC. Drugged driving can be as dangerous and irresponsible as drunk driving, and it is your responsibility to ensure you are not a hazard on the road.

What About My Medication?

Substances that can impair an individual’s ability to drive are not limited to those that are illegal: some prescription medication has side effects that can dramatically reduce motor coordination and alertness while driving. Most strong pain medications that contain opiates or a derivative – such as codeine and oxycontin – have been proven to reduce an individual’s ability to drive. These prescription medications, which are frequently given by doctors to patients suffering chronic pain or immediately following a painful procedure, slow down one’s reaction time. This is a potentially dangerous side-effect when driving a vehicle, as the roads are full of hazards that require very quick thinking.

Pain medications are not the only prescription medications that are known to impair a person’s ability to drive; anti-anxiety medication such as Xanax and Valium has been involved in a number of recorded traffic accidents. If you or a loved one take chronic medication it’s important that you read up on the potential side-effects. Getting behind the wheel while under the influence of legal or illegal drugs should be taken as seriously as drunk driving.

Contact one of our admissions counselors for more information about our drug rehab programs.