Spotting Drug Abuse: Five Signs the Other Driver Has Been Abusing Medication

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Depressed man mixing alcohol and pills

You’ve just been in an accident, and you know it wasn’t your fault. But the other driver seems off. Has he been drinking? There’s always that possibility, but there could be another explanation: He could be high on prescription drugs. How would you know? Here are five signs, as listed by the Mayo Clinic, that someone has been abusing prescription drugs.

  1. Drowsiness:

Commonly abused prescription drugs, including opioids like Oxycontin or Vicodin, are used to treat pain. As well as delivering a feeling of euphoria, these drugs also make the user drowsy, which is why they warn users against driving.

  1. Poor concentration:

Does the driver seem confused and exhibit a lack of focus? He could be abusing anti-anxiety medication, like Xanax or Valium–that are usually meant to be taken right before bed, because they can treat insomnia. These drugs tend to induce a “fuzzy” feeling in the user; a user’s brain function won’t be as sharp as normal.

  1. Agitation or paranoia:

It’s normal to be upset after an accident, but perhaps this driver seems to be overly agitated. She might be on a prescription stimulant (like Ritalin or Adderall) that is used to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Taken in the prescribed amount, these drugs shouldn’t impede driving, but when abused, the user may become nervous, even paranoid.

  1. Slurred speech or poor coordination:

In addition to being a telltale signal that someone has been drinking, either of these signs in a driver could mean that he has been abusing painkiller or anti-anxiety medications. When taken excessively, these drugs can severely limit motor function.

  1. Violence or hostility:

Sometimes that excessive nervousness or paranoia from Ritalin or Adderall can turn into outright violence. In such a situation, it’s best to stay calm, avoid escalating the situation, step back from any potential dangerous confrontation, and wait for the police to arrive.

Arizona has a “zero tolerance” policy when it comes to the presence of illicit drugs in a driver’s system. Even though the police may test both of you for alcohol or drugs, it’s wise to tell the officer on an accident scene if you’ve witnessed one or more of these signs in the other driver.

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