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Can you drive under the influence of a prescription medication?

Your doctor recently prescribed a popular sleep aid to help you cope with insomnia. For the past few days, you've slept better, although you still feel groggy in the mornings. Your cup of coffee hasn't yet taken the edge off your drowsiness as you head to work, and before you know it, a police officer pulls you over for crossing the center line. You and other Massachusetts residents may be aware of the potential dangers of driving with a drug in your system that causes sleepiness, but you might not realize that you can also face OUI charges.

Sleeping pills - both prescription and over-the-counter - often cause grogginess upon waking, but they are not the only medications that can be unsafe to take when you need to drive. Drowsiness is also not the only dangerous side effect of some medications. The National Institute on Drug Abuse has cautioned people about the following medications and potential impairing effects:

· Antihistamines, cold medicine and narcotic painkillers causing sleepiness

· Antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications that cause confusion, brain fog and dizziness

· Medications containing caffeine or certain drugs that treat mental conditions and cause jitteriness or nervousness

· Prescription drugs that treat chronic health conditions resulting in unexpected side effects, such as blurred vision, seizures or fainting

The warning labels on your medicine bottles are there for a reason. If they say not to drive or operate machinery after taking the medication, the chances are good that you might face legal consequences if authorities detect the medication in your system while you are behind the wheel. As you might imagine, you could face additional consequences if a drug's side effects resulted in an accident that caused injury to other people.

You may wish to speak with your doctor about dosage times, amounts or alternate medications if it is not an option for you to stop driving. You should also know that you have the right to a competent defense.

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