When most people think of driving under the influence (DUI), they normally think of driving under the influence of intoxicating alcohol. However, in the state of Alabama, people are commonly arrested for driving under the influence of drugs. This can be prescription drugs, regardless of whether suspects have a valid prescription or not, or it can be an illegal drug such as marijuana, cocaine, or heroin.
While alcohol is obviously the most common cause of DUI arrests, until recently, marijuana was the second most common substance on which people were accused of driving. However, according to a recent news feature from Alabama Live, Xanax (generically called Alprazolam) has now passed marijuana and become the second leading cause of DUI arrests in the state of Alabama.
The article begins with a discussion of a case in which a defendant was accused of driving under the influence of Xanax in an rollover accident that allegedly resulted in the death of his seven-year-old daughter. It took prosecutors months to secure an indictment in this case. If the substance involved had been alcohol, it could have happened much sooner, but it takes a lot longer to test a driver for a controlled substance such as Xanax. Unlike on TV shows such as CSI, for cases not involving an emergency situation such as a manhunt, it takes months for the Alabama state toxicology lab to process results and get those results to police and prosecutors.
As our Birmingham DUI defense attorneys can explain, Xanax is the brand name for the generic drug Alprazolam. Xanax is a prescription anti-anxiety medication and has historically been considered one of the most over-prescribed medications in America, especially during the 1980s, when addiction to Xanax was very common.
Xanax has been show to cause feelings of relaxation, light-headedness and sleepiness, which is why it works for patients suffering from anxiety. However, it is not meant to be taken prior to driving. It is best used for a person who can lie down after taking the drug, or, for example, someone who is afraid to fly. The patient can take the drug and rest on the flight. When someone takes Xanax and gets behind the wheel, it can lead to weaving and being too drowsy to drive. In fact, when the Alabama toxicology program tried to see what the effects of Xanax were on drivers, many of the test subjects were unable to complete the test due to extreme drowsiness.
While there is no question it would be unsafe to take a large quantity of Xanax and drive a vehicle, the officers who frequently stop DUI suspects are not medical doctors and do not really know how to tell if someone is the under the influence of Xanax or any other controlled substance. While every case is different, you should speak with an experienced DUI defense attorney about the facts relevant to your situation.
Taking a look at the actual data, Xanax accounts for roughly 29 percent of all DUI arrests in the state of Alabama, which is clearly a significant figure.