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Prescription drugs, older adults and DUI

Regular readers of our Denver DUI blog know we have repeatedly addressed concerns people have with finding themselves in jail for driving under the influence of prescription drugs. Today, we're going to look at a particular group of people -- older drivers -- who are more likely to be taking prescriptions than the rest of the population and are therefore at perhaps greater risk of driving while impaired by prescribed medications.

One organization addressing the issue is The National Institute on Drug Abuse, which says its "mission is to lead the Nation in bringing the power of science to bear on drug abuse and addiction." A lofty goal, even for this arm of the federal government. As part of its efforts to achieve the goal, the NIDA tries to help various groups of people understand the physical and mental effects of drugs, including legally obtained and commonly used prescription drugs.

The NIDA notes that in 2010, just over one-quarter of all drugged drivers in fatal traffic accidents were 50 years old or above. While illicit drug use in that group of older drivers is on the rise (now up to 7 percent), it is very possible that many of those drivers in the crashes were taking prescription drugs. After all, 9 out of 10 drivers age 65 and up take one or more prescription medications.

Nearly 40 percent of the 65 and up group take five prescription drugs or more, according to a study from last year.

Sometimes a person taking that many prescriptions will make a mistake and take more of the drug than is recommended. That can lead to unintended impairment that can lead to a DUI charge if the person gets behind the wheel of a car.

Research of fatal accidents found that 46.5 percent of the drivers who tested positive for drugs had taken a prescription medication. (Some of the prescriptions might well have been illegally obtained.) The most commonly found prescription drugs in those crashes were Xanax at 12.1 percent, Vicodin at 11.1 percent, OxyContin at 10.2 percent and Valium at 8.4 percent.

An experienced Denver DUI defense attorney understands that the goal is to quickly, effectively minimize any possible penalties you face involving the use of prescribed medications while driving.

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