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Methadone and Driving: What You Need to Know | Medmark

Man driving after taking methadone

While methadone is a critical component in the journey towards overcoming opioid use, it’s important to understand its potential impact on activities like driving. Navigating the road safely while on methadone involves being aware of both legal implications and health effects. In different states, just using methadone could lead to a DUI charge, especially if methadone affects your ability to drive safely. This risk is higher if methadone impairs your driving abilities, for example, through misuse or when it interacts with other drugs.

Driving while on methadone treatment requires a careful understanding of your state’s laws and the interactions between methadone and other substances.

How Does Methadone Affect Driving?

If you’re asking yourself, “Does methadone impair driving?”, the short answer is no, usually not on its own. However, there are some nuances you should be aware of if you’ll be taking methadone as part of a medically-assisted treatment program.

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 appear to be nodding off behind the wheel and could face reports of erratic driving.

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 used on its own can impact your driving ability, such as drowsiness.

What Are the DUI Laws Related to Methadone?

Person writing notes on DUI laws and methadone

Methadone and the similarly used buprenorphine, both Schedule II controlled substances, require government regulation for their ownership and use. One way the government regulates methadone use is by making laws about whether a person can have methadone in their system while driving.

State laws can be particularly strict about using methadone and similar drugs and then getting behind the wheel. Methadone and driving regulations vary from state to state, but their laws generally fit into three categories. If a person drives with methadone in their system, they may face DUI charges if they meet one of these criteria:

  • They are incapable of driving safely: If a controlled substance renders someone  incapable of driving safely, it could result in a DUI. If a person can still drive safely while on the medication, they are not breaking the law (assuming they follow traffic laws). 
  • They have an impaired ability to drive safely: This type of law is very similar to the first but is somewhat stricter. Under this type of law, a person may still be capable of driving safely but can still be subject to a DUI charge if their driving abilities are significantly impaired. 
  • They have methadone in their system: In states with the strictest laws, someone can be charged with  a DUI for simply having any amount of a controlled substance in their  body. These are some referred to as zero-tolerance laws.

These laws still apply to individuals with a methadone prescription who are facing DUI charges. You should look up your state’s laws or consult a lawyer for comprehensive information about the laws for methadone and driving in your area.

Avoiding Impairment While Taking Methadone

If you live in a state where DUI charges depend on your level of impairment, ensure that you avoid actions that could alter how methadone affects you. 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.

In addition, it’s often recommended that you have someone else drive you during your stabilization period while you are getting to know how methadone affects you. Once you know which methadone side effects you experience and how strongly they manifest in you, you can judge whether you can safely and legally drive during medication-assisted treatment. 

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.

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