Driving Under the Influence, Public Policy, and Pharmacy Practice

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Motor vehicle accidents due to prescription drug impairment have increased in the past decade. Typically impairment is associated with medications causing excessive drowsiness, such as opioids or benzodiazepines, but the scope of DUI-drug charges are reaching into medications that are not typically considered impairing, such as antipsychotics, antiepileptics and mood-stabilizers. Data associating medication use with driving impairment is growing, especially with agents not typically thought of as impairing. Forty-three states currently train drug recognition experts, who employ a twelve-step evaluation to detect the presence of drug impairment. Seventeen states have instituted “per se” laws, which make it illegal to drive with the presence of drugs or metabolites in the body. Pharmacists should recognize an ethical, professional, and perhaps legal responsibility to inform patients of the risk of impaired driving with prescription agents. Pharmacists should reconsider how they are counseling patients on medication impairment and lower their threshold for warning a patient of potential impairment; expanding to agents typically not thought of as impairing. Pharmacists are in a position to ensure that patients fully understand the risk of impaired driving and the potential for DUI prosecution.



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