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Impaired Driving Caused by Prescription Medication Increasing Teen Driving Concern

June 18, 2011

Concerns regarding driving under the influence by teen drivers is not exclusively limited to alcohol consumption, but also includes impaired driving resulting from the effects of certain medications, whether prescribed by a doctor or obtained over-the-counter.

Many prescription and over-the-counter medications have some sort of side effect that negatively affects a teenager’s ability to drive as a reasonably prudent person would without the influence of particular medications. When anyone in Atlanta or throughout Georgia drives while impaired by prescription drugs, it creates an unacceptable risk of a serious car accident resulting in personal injury or wrongful death. Many people don't realize that you can be charged with DUI when the impairment is caused by a prescription drug or over-the-counter medicine.

A major driving concern with teenagers today involves the increasing use of pain medications, stimulants, or other medicine to get high. Approximately, one in ten teens report the abuse of cough medicine to attain a euphoric effect making it more popular in that age group than cocaine, ecstasy, LSD or methamphetamine. Many teens that abuse cough medicine for the purposes of getting high do not believe that prescription medications are addictive. Teens tend to have a misconception that prescription drugs are safer than illegal drugs particularly when it comes to safe driving. However side effects from some prescription medication and over-the-counter medications can mirror the effects of illegal drugs. For example, Ritalin (Generic: methylphenidate) is a stimulant that when abused can mimic some of the effects of amphetamines.

Driving behaviors which are common when drivers are under the influence of an amphetamine include drifting out of the lane, erratic driving, weaving, speeding, drifting off the road, an increase in risk taking and high speed collisions. Because Ritalin may mimic the effects of stimulants like amphetamines, the growing trend of abuse of this drug can pose serious risk of fatal Georgia car accidents.

Side effects of many prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications also are associated with drowsiness or sedation depending on the type of medication. Impairment levels may vary depending on whether these drugs are taken alone in high doses or mixed with other drugs or alcohol, which may intensify the effect. One of the most frequently abused prescription drugs is benzodiazepines, which can increase the effect of sedation when alcohol is consumed simultaneously.

Some types of prescription or over-the-counter medications that are popularly abused and can contribute to serious Georgia car accidents include:

  • Sedative, hypnotic, or antipsychotic prescription medications
  • Antidepressants
  • Hallucinogens
  • Analgestics or painkillers
  • Cough medicines and antihistamines
  • Combinations, such as sedating antidepressants
  • Narcotic painkillers
  • Anabolic steroids
  • Stimulants

The age groups that are most vulnerable to the impact of prescription drug abuse are teenagers and the elderly. Teenagers between the ages of 12-17 exhibit a high rate of abuse or the use of prescription or over-the-counter medications without a medical purpose including barbituates, psychotherapeutics, and amphetamines. Sensitivity to the side effects of medicine increases as people age, which means that those 65 and older are particularly vulnerable to increased side effects. The side effects of ingesting or consuming a drug can include drowsiness, impaired reaction times or distorted depth perception.

Prescription abuse is dangerous when combined with driving, alcohol, or both and can increase the risk of a fatal accident. Any level of impairment from drugs and alcohol puts people at risk for a serious car accident in Atlanta, even if the impairment is caused by a few drinks, cough syrup or an allergy medicine. If you have been injured in an automobile collision involving prescription drugs or over-the-counter medications, as well as alcohol or illegal drugs, you should seek legal counsel because you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. Our Georgia auto accident attorneys are available to assist clients throughout all of Georgia, including but not limited to Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Dalton, Gainesville, Macon, Marietta, Rome, Roswell, Savannah, Smyrna, Valdosta, Warner Robins and all smaller cities and rural areas in the state. Call us today for your free consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333) or visit us on the web at No matter where you are, we are just a phone call away, and we will even come to you.

Category: Auto Accidents

Please Note:
Many of our blog articles discuss the law. All information provided about the law is very general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Every situation is different, and should be analyzed by a lawyer who can provide individualized advice based on the facts involved in your unique situation, and a consideration of all of the nuances of the statutes and case law that apply at the time.