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You can get a DUII on pain pills

I am a retail pharmacist in Southern Oregon and trying to do my part for public safety. In many of my consults with patients, I remind them not to drive under the influence of pain medications (and other controlled substances, as well).

Often, patients are agreeable and that's that. However, sometimes I get the response, "It's OK, I've been driving on this medication for years and never had a problem." When I hear that, I tell them that I believe that if they were stopped for any traffic infraction or were involved in an accident and were found to have the drug in their system at an appreciable level, they could be cited for driving under the influence of a controlled substance.

Is this true? — Anonymous

What you are telling them is absolutely true, although they would be actually arrested, not just cited. It's not so much the appreciable level that we would be concerned with when doing a roadside field-sobriety test or at a crash scene, but what is the effect that the drug is having on that person. Does it make them impaired to a perceptible degree? If so, then that's what we would use as the basis for making a DUII arrest.

The same criteria is used for making all types of DUII arrests, whether it be from alcohol, illegal or prescription drugs, inhalants or combinations of any of the above.

Thanks for your question on this subject. I wish you could explain to your patients some of the harm and heartache I've seen caused by drivers who use that very same reasoning, that "I've done it lots of times before and never had a problem." Eventually, if you drive impaired, something bad is going to happen, so keep trying to get your message through to your patients.

If we can all do our part in our own little sphere of influence then maybe we'll save someone from going through a tragedy. Or at the very least save them from a criminal record, time in jail, probation, getting their vehicle replaced or at least impounded, a suspended license, court appearances, higher insurance, fines and lawyer fees.

Dace Cochran is a patrol sergeant with the Jackson County Sheriff's Department. Have a question for him? Write to Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501, or e-mail cochradc@jacksoncounty.org.