Drivers warned of prescription medication that could send them to prison

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Motorists could be breaking the law if they drive with some prescription medications in their system. There are different rules about what it means to be “under the influence”, depending on the substance.

When it comes to alcohol, motorists are permitted to drive unless they have exceeded the maximum legal limit.

In the UK, this is 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood or 35 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath.

However, drivers could still be prosecuted if alcohol has made them unfit to drive, even if they are under the legal limit.

When it comes to prescription medication, motorists may drive legally if the medicine has not impaired their ability to drive.

Bilal Hussain, a serious injury lawyer at Irwin Mitchell said: “It’s illegal to drive with legal drugs in your body if it impairs your driving.

“Legal drugs include prescription or over-the-counter medicines.

“If you’re taking them and not sure if you should drive, you should talk to your doctor, pharmacist or healthcare professional.

“Driving whilst taking prescription and over-the-counter medication can be very dangerous and can affect your driving in a number of ways, similar to illegal drug use.”

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Some prescription medications could land drivers in trouble in the same way as illegal drugs.

Mr Hussain said: “It’s an offence to drive if you have over the specified limits of certain drugs in your blood and you have not been prescribed them.”

These drugs include:


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Morphine or opiate and opioid-based drugs (for example Codeine, Tramadol or Fentanyl)



It is only legal for motorists to drive with these drugs in their system if they have been prescribed them and have followed the advice on how to take them by a healthcare professional.

The consequences of drug driving can be severe.

If a motorist kills someone while driving under the influence of drugs, they could be handed a life sentence in prison.

Previously, drivers who killed someone while driving dangerously or under the influence of alcohol or drugs faced a maximum custodial sentence of 14 years.

This has since been increased, in line with the introduction of Section 86 of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 (PCSCA).

The act came into force in June and gave the courts new powers to hand down life sentences under:

Section 1 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 for causing death by dangerous driving.

Section 3A of the Road Traffic Act 1988 for causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink or drugs.

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