Drugs and Driving – Information You NEED to Know

Lerner & Rowe Injury Attorneys
How drugs affect driving
Lerner and Rowe is here with information about how drugs affect driving.

We live in an age with advancing technology and medicine. Much of the medicine presently available to treat illnesses was not available even fifty years ago. Drugs can be invaluable when it comes to the treatment of diseases and other conditions.

With this being said, however, using a drug outside of its intended use could have devastating consequences. This is especially true if a person is under the influence of a drug while doing something that involves risk, e.g. driving. Lerner and Rowe Injury Attorneys want you to stay safe on the road and in your home. So, here is some information on different types of drugs and how these drugs may affect driving abilities.

NOTE: The information in this blog is not meant as medical advice. Consult a licensed medical practitioner before starting/stopping any medications.

The Types

There are many different types of drugs. Each type has specific purposes, and potential side effects and risks. Learning more about a drug can help reduce the chance of accidents and injuries, especially if you plan on driving.

Depressants

Depressants are designed to act on the central nervous system (CNS) in a way that may make users feel like they are “slowing down,” relaxed, calm, sedated, or sometimes tired and lethargic. Furthermore, people may take depressants to help treat insomnia, anxiety, paranoia, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and other conditions that prevent a person from feeling at ease.

However, some effects of these drugs may not be entirely desirable for some users. Potential adverse events, side effects, and risks of depressants may include:

  • Slowed reaction times
  • Lowered concentration
  • Sloth and torpor
  • Sleepiness
  • Difficulty multitasking
  • Difficulty maintaining information/attention
  • Low blood pressure
  • Impaired memory
  • Higher risk of diabetes
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Respiratory failure

Examples of substances that act as depressants include:

  • Alcohol
  • Cannabis (marijuana)
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Xanax
  • Valium
  • Barbiturates
  • Rohypnol

While depressants are prescribed to treat specific health conditions, people who take the drug should follow any medical warnings prior to driving. For instance, some depressants may cause a person to feel fatigued and fall asleep at the wheel. This side effect may even lead a driver to drift in and out of lanes and possibly cause a car crash. Therefore, anyone taking a depressant needs to make sure they know how their medication can affect them before they start to drive.

If someone under the influence of drugs crashed into you and caused you injury, contact Lerner and Rowe Injury Attorneys for a free consultation.

Stimulants

Like depressants, stimulants act on the central nervous system. However, they work a bit differently. Instead of potentially making a person feel relaxed and at ease, they quicken signals to and from the brain to elicit a feeling of “speeding up.” Because of this, stimulants may be used to enhance focus and concentration for people with narcolepsy and ADHD. Stimulants may also have mood-elevating effects, hence their potential for abuse.

Possible adverse events, side effects, and risks of stimulants may include:

  • Overconfidence
  • Increased risk-taking activity
  • Anxiety
  • Psychosis
  • Paranoia
  • Stroke
  • Seizures
  • Increased body temperature
  • Strain on the cardiovascular system
  • Loss of appetite
  • Liver and kidney damage

Examples of stimulants include:

  • Cocaine
  • Amphetamines (e.g. Adderall, methamphetamine, and ecstasy)
  • Caffeine
  • Ritalin

Ultimately, after taking a stimulant, a person may feel focused and in control, but in reality they could be acting recklessly. This type of behavior is extraordinarily dangerous while driving.

For instance, stimulant abuse could cause a person to rapidly swerve in and out of lanes, speed, and make other dangerous maneuvers. If you see someone acting dangerously on the road, stay far away from them and notify authorities immediately.

Opioids

Opioids, also known as narcotics, are powerful drugs that can be very effective but can also be addictive to some after long term use as part of a pain treatment program. For instance, opioids can have similar effects as depressants and sedatives. They may even produce a feeling of euphoria in some who take the drug. While they may work well at treating pain, there are a few things to keep in mind when taking opioids.

Some adverse events, side effects, and risks of opioid use could include:

  • Euphoria
  • Drowsiness/sedation
  • Pupil dilation
  • Heart attack
  • Nausea
  • Coma
  • Dependence/addiction
  • Constipation
  • Slowed breathing
  • Confusion
  • Liver damage

Examples of opioids include:

  • Heroin
  • Morphine
  • Fentanyl
  • Vicodin
  • Percocet
  • Codeine
  • Oxycontin
  • Oxycodone
  • Hydrocodone

Due to the potential side effects, it could prove to be quite dangerous to take opioids before you drive. Play it safe and follow the instructions listed on the bottle. These warnings usually instruct those who take the drug to not drive or use any machinery that may cause injury, especially when a person first starts the medicine. Your medical provider will go over these and other precautions.

Dissociatives

Dissociative drugs are especially disorienting and can result in risk-taking and dangerous behavior. These types of drugs may interfere with the transmission of glutamate, a crucial chemical responsible for cognition, emotion, and pain perception activities. Because of this, users may experience heavily altered perceptions of reality and self-awareness. A feeling of invincibility may also ensue, resulting in poor decision-making. Some dissociatives may have similar side effects as some opioids, too.

Potential adverse events, side effects, and risks from dissociative use include:

  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Difficulty talking
  • Hallucinations
  • Detachment from reality
  • Numbness
  • Dizziness and nausea
  • Memory loss
  • Respiratory failure
  • Increase in blood pressure accompanied by increased heart rate and elevated body temperature.

Examples of dissociatives include:

  • Phencyclidine (PCP)
  • Ketamine
  • Dextromethorphan (DXM)
  • Salvia divinorum (Salvia)

Because of how dissociatives may affect users’ cognition and perceptions, they may be incredibly dangerous to take before/while driving. In fact, doing any activity that involves risk after taking a dissociative could result in an injury.  

If you suspect someone is under the influence of dissociatives while on the road, pull over and contact the police immediately.

Similarly, contact us immediately if you have you been injured by a driver under the influence. Because of their act of negligence, you may be eligible for compensation for injuries, lost wages, and other damages.

Hallucinogens

Like dissociatives, hallucinogens disrupt signals to the brain in a way that alters the user’s perception of reality. In fact, hallucinogens may cause users to see or hear things that don’t exist, e.g. fantastical creatures.

Additionally, they may cause users to experience reality in distorted ways, e.g. seeing walls move or vibrate. Perceptions of color, time, and motion can also be affected. It therefore follows that one should not drive while under the influence of these disorienting substances.

Adverse events, side effects, and possible risks of hallucinogen use may include:

  • Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD)
  • Hallucinations
  • Fear, paranoia, and anxiety
  • Nausea
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Psychosis and distorted cognitive function
  • Increase in breathing rate and in body temperature
  • Loss of appetite
  • Abnormal thoughts
  • Sweating

Examples of hallucinogens include:

  • Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD)
  • Ayahuasca
  • Yagé
  • N, N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT)
  • 5-MeO-Dimethyltryptamine (5-MeO-DMT)
  • Lysergic acid amide (LSA; found in morning glory seeds)
  • Psilocybin (found in magic mushrooms)
  • Mescaline/Peyote

It’s nearly inevitable that driving while under the influence of a hallucinogen could result in a disastrous accident and injuries.

Inhalants

Inhalants can vary in chemical structure, potential harmfulness, and accessibility. For instance, many inhalants are found in ordinary, household items such as markers or paints.

Reportedly, there are those who use inhalants for reasons other than their intended use and these substances may cause a user to lose focus and develop problems with coordination.   

Adverse events, side effects, and risks of inhalants may include:

  • Altered/weakened sense of smell
  • Loss of strength/coordination problems
  • Difficulty communicating
  • Euphoria and possible elation
  • Increased heart rate
  • Nosebleeds/severe headaches
  • Brain damage
  • Irritability
  • Hearing loss
  • Depression
  • Heart and liver damage
  • Lung and kidney damage

Examples of inhalants include:

  • Fumes from markers, gasoline, paint, and paint thinners
  • Room deodorizers
  • Aerosol sprays
  • Pen ink
  • Glue

Physiological effects such as increased heart rate and difficulty communicating could also make it dangerous to drive while under the influence of inhalants. Ultimately, sober driving is always safer than driving under the influence.

Combining or Mixing Drugs

You should never mix drugs, medications, or other substances together without the approval of a licensed medical practitioner.

The reason for this is that taking any two of the aforementioned substances simultaneously may cause unpredictable, catastrophic, or even fatal outcomes. For example, combining depressants and opioids can result in seizures and other serious side effects.

The Best Course of Action

To start, you should first seek a health evaluation from a licensed medical practitioner prior to taking a prescribed drug or seeking an alternative form of medication. Second, make sure that you follow the instructions for your medications diligently (unless otherwise instructed by your doctor). Then, if you plan on going out, make sure you know how your medications will affect your driving ability and basic motor skills.

If you do need to get somewhere while under the influence of a drug, seek a safe mode of transportation such as a city bus, rideshare, taxis, or a clear-headed friend or family member.

Injured by Someone under the Influence?

If you or someone you know has been injured by someone under the influence of drugs, contact Lerner and Rowe Injury Attorneys for a free consultation. Our office hours are Monday through Friday, from 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., but someone is always available to take your call at 844-977-1900. Additionally, you can fill out an online form or take advantage of our LiveChat feature to get in touch with us. The best part? We don’t collect a penny until we win your case, so don’t wait! Contact Lerner and Rowe today!

The information on this blog is for general information purposes only. Nothing herein should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.