You know that driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs is both dangerous and illegal – and you’d never intentionally put yourself or anybody else in harm’s way.
But could you do so accidentally? Many people are completely unaware of the fact that over-the-counter (OTC) medications for colds and allergies can sometimes lead to DUI charges.
It’s all about your personal reaction to what you take
Many OTC medications contain ingredients that are sedating and can impair your ability to drive safely. For example:
- Antihistamines: These are used to relieve allergy symptoms like sneezing and a runny nose. Some antihistamines, like diphenhydramine, can cause drowsiness and impaired coordination.
- Decongestants: They are often used to relieve nasal congestion. Pseudoephedrine, a common decongestant, can lead to jitteriness, nervousness and distractedness.
- Cough suppressants: Ingredients like dextromethorphan (DXM) are found in a lot of cough syrups, which can cause impaired judgment and dizziness in some people.
- Alcohol content: Many liquid cough medications contain alcohol, which can lead to a surprise positive result on a breath alcohol content test if you’re pulled over.
When taken as directed, OTC medications are generally safe. The problems start coming in when people don’t realize the potential for side effects when these drugs are in use. Plus, people who aren’t feeling well sometimes “load up” on several different OTC cold relief options, and that can compound the effects.
Don’t expect the police to cut you a break
Another error people make in this situation is admitting to an officer who pulls them over on suspicion of drunk driving that they’ve been taking OTC meds. They either assume that the officer will be understanding or think that, since the drugs are legal and widely available, they have a reasonable explanation for why they’re weaving, nodding off at the wheel or having other problems.
However, admitting that you loaded up on cough medication is admitting that you’re under the influence of something that impairs your ability to drive. That can immediately complicate your situation.
If you’ve been charged with a DUI, it can help to learn more about your defense options by seeking legal guidance as soon as you possibly can. Otherwise, you could make missteps that could compromise the strength of your defense.