When it comes to driving under the influence of substances that aren’t alcohol, marijuana is the biggest concern for many Americans. Colorado has spent millions of dollars on a series of “Drive High, Get a DUI” commercials, while Washington did the same last year.
But in Alabama, alcohol and weed are no longer the main substances plaguing drivers on the state’s highways and byways. Believe it or not, Xanax now far surpasses marijuana as a leading cause of DUI.
Benzos and Driving are a Bad Combo
Data compiled by the Department of Forensic Science found that Xanax was involved in 29 percent of DUI cases throughout the state, compared to 23 percent for marijuana. That number has continued to remain stagnant for the last three years.
Numerous controlled driving tests have shown that even taking just 1 milligram of Xanax resulted in increased weaving behind the wheel. In some cases, driving tests even had to be stopped because the participants were too drowsy to continue.
Peter Hendricks, a chemical psychologist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said that even those who take Xanax as prescribed “can be impaired even if it’s in the therapeutic range. What I tell my students is that benzodiazepines are actually alcohol in pill form.”
Measuring Benzo Intoxication
But while intoxication by alcohol can be easily measured with a breathalyzer, it’s harder to determine with Xanax or other prescription medications.
Prosecutors have to rely on field sobriety tests and identifying physiological symptoms, including pupil dilation and body temperature, in order to identify evidence of impairment. The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency even has Drug Recognition Experts, which are special-trained officers who assess impaired drivers that didn’t consume alcohol.
The increased difficulty in identifying a DUI from Xanax certainly doesn’t make these drivers immune to being prosecuted, though. Last November, Caren Gayle Rush was convicted of manslaughter in a 2012 crash that killed a former high school softball star. She received a sentence of life in prison.
The Rise of a Problem Drug
Xanax has been the most-commonly prescribed drug in the U.S. since 2005. There were 48.5 million prescriptions filled in 2013 alone. This extraordinarily high volume means it’s also remained one of the most widely-abused prescription drugs.
If you or someone you know has developed an addiction to Xanax, a medically supervised detox is in order, as it helps to minimize the effects of withdrawal symptoms. Although the early stages of detox and recovery can be difficult, having a qualified medical team on hand to assist can help you break free of your addiction and live a sober life.
Learn more about the effects of Xanax abuse and addiction.
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