Interviewer: What are you seeing as far as drug related DUIs are concerned?
Sam Sachs: A lot of people think if they have prescription medications, it’s okay to drive when taking them. Also, lots of people think that if they have prescription medication and have a drink or two, it’s okay. When they think of drug related DUIs, they think of illegal substances, but the overwhelming majority of drug related DUIs are usually prescription drugs or prescription and alcohol interactions.
Either Prescription Drugs or Street Drugs Can be the Cause of Drug Related DUI Charges
Interviewer: What kind of drugs are we talking about here? Is it partial illegal drugs and legal drugs?
Sam Sachs: Drugs can be prescription or they can be street drugs; they could be either. People don’t understand that just because they’re given a prescription, it does not mean that they can drive with it and even a small amount of alcohol interacting with a prescription can cause intoxication. Where the amount of alcohol alone or the prescription alone might not cause intoxication, it has a synergistic effect.
Types Of Illegal And Prescription Drugs Prevalent in New Jersey
Interviewer: What are the types of illegal drugs and what are the types of medications that you’re seeing?
Sam Sachs: Illegal drugs are the ones that you read about in the newspaper all the time. The most common drug now, believe it or not, because of its cheap street price, is Heroin, but there are others, Ecstasy, also called MDMA, and there are all kinds of pills, not sold on the streets as much as they used to be. Although there is a market for pain killers, they are very expensive. The drug of choice is now Heroin and, of course, there is always marijuana. Marijuana has been there forever and it will always be there.
The Majority of Drug Related DUI Cases are Due to Prescription Drugs
More often than not, when we get a drug related DUI, it’s not street drugs, it’s prescription medication. Someone taking anti-depressants, someone taking sleeping pills, someone taking painkillers, someone taking muscle relaxants and/or someone taking tranquilizers, are in and of themselves or with a combination of small or sometimes fair amounts of alcohol. Where the alcohol alone wouldn’t cause intoxication, the effect, in combination with the other drugs, does. Take a guy who works with his back, a truck driver or a construction worker, he gets up in his 40s or 50s and things start to hurt. He goes to the doctor and gets a prescription for a painkiller. No big deal. If he takes the painkillers during the day and if he takes enough of them, he meets the legal definition of intoxication from drugs. Or maybe he doesn’t take enough to be legally intoxicated, but then on the way home he has 2 beers thinking it’s one or two beers, that is nothing, but when the one or two beers interact with the painkiller that he took, he now is legally intoxicated.
A Person Taking Prescription Medication for an Ailment May Be Charged with a Drug Related DUI
Let’s say a guy has a prescription for Vicodin and he takes it once a day. He’s been taking it for 3 years because his back hurts. It may not amount to legal intoxication, but then he has a couple of beers on the way home and now he’s intoxicated. Or maybe he starts taking the Vicodin at a higher dose than has been prescribed by the doctor or maybe the Vicodin prescription itself, at its regular dosage, is enough to cause intoxication. If it causes impairment in being able to operate a vehicle of a sufficient magnitude, then it becomes intoxication. They come into my office and say, “well they busted me and they gave me tests and they said I was intoxicated. All I did was take a prescription that the doctor prescribed for me and I didn’t have a drop of alcohol in my system.” That makes no difference.