Methadone may not be the first drug you think of when you picture driving under the influence, but taking methadone and driving can come with hefty fines and dangerous outcomes. Depending on your state, just having taken methadone can lead to a DUI. It can be even more likely — and dangerous — if it causes impairment or makes you incapable of driving, such as through misuse or drug interactions.
Driving while on methadone treatment requires a careful understanding of your state’s laws and the interactions between methadone and other substances.
DUI Laws Regarding Methadone
Methadone, along with the similarly-used buprenorphine, is a controlled substance. As such, some state laws can be particularly strict about using it behind the wheel. The Legal Action Center identifies three different types of laws regarding controlled substances and driving, even with a prescription. They occur if the driver:
- Is incapable of driving safely: If a controlled substance renders you incapable of driving safely, it could result in a DUI. If the medication doesn’t affect driving ability, it wouldn’t violate the law.
- Has an impaired ability to drive safely or is under the influence of an intoxicating drug: This type of law is very similar to the first, and it includes the effects of intoxication that can occur from controlled substances.
- Has methadone in their system: In stricter states, you can also receive a DUI for simply having any amount of a controlled substance in your body.
Look up your state’s laws or consult a lawyer about driving or operating heavy machinery before taking controlled substances.
Avoiding Impairment While Taking Methadone
If you live in one of the states where receiving a DUI depends on your level of impairment, it’s important to make sure you don’t do anything that would affect the way methadone works. Taking certain medications like other opioids or benzodiazepines with methadone can have dangerous results. Side effects could include a slow heart rate, slow breathing and unconsciousness. Alcohol can have similar effects, even if you only have a small amount.
To avoid these issues, always check with your doctor before taking any new medications and don’t drink while taking methadone.
How Does Methadone Affect Driving?
Methadone is typically a safe medication when administered and prescribed by licensed professionals. Still, it can become dangerous when it’s combined with other drugs, like opiates and benzodiazepines. When this combination occurs, the following side effects can set in:
- Slurred speech
- Drooping eyelids
- Constricted pupils and poor response to light
- Poor muscle tone
- Poor performance on tests like walk and turn, one-leg stand and finger to nose
Drivers experiencing these effects may be reported for erratic driving and may appear to be nodding off behind the wheel.
Even if you take methadone exactly as prescribed, you’ll still want to take caution before driving to ensure that you’re in an appropriate state to do so. Some side effects of methadone on its own can impact your driving ability.
Learn More About Methadone Treatments and Effects
If you or someone you know is considering methadone treatment or wants to learn more about driving while on an existing treatment, reach out to your nearest MedMark Treatment Center. You can also call us at 866-840-6658 to learn more.