FINDING HOPE: Driving under the influence of opioids

Posted at 6:12 PM, Dec 03, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-03 20:12:23-05

It's no secret: DUIs are a big problem, but most of us think of alcohol when we think about a DUI. But what about opioids?

Getting behind the wheel on opioids or prescription medications can land you the same consequences as drinking and driving.

“Drug influence DUIs are quite prevalent and we see them very often," Corporal McConnell with Idaho State Police patrol says. "In the past several years, I think it’s been clear that the numbers have increased. Now whether that be because there are more people driving that are drug influenced or that our training has gotten better in identifying drug impairment could also be a factor."

McConnell is a certified Drug Recognition Expert assisting officers from ISP and other agencies to conduct DUI investigations when they believe drugs may be the impairing factor or a drug-alcohol combination.

"I come in and complete an evaluation to try to determine which or which category somebody’s under the influence of," McConnell said. "However that’s not always an available option if a DRE like myself is unavailable so I’m that case it would proceed as a DUI investigation as normal. We’re just kind of an additional step that we try to use when available.”  

McConnell attended a special academy in Fresno, California where he worked with California Highway Patrol and was required to attend and pass a course.

He says there seems to be a rising trend in drug DUIs in Idaho. 

"In the last year, from today, 145 evaluations were conducted where it was determined that narcotic analgesics were the influencing drug of the person being charged with DUI. Now, again, that number only counts when a drug recognition expert is called," McConnell said. "There are, I’m sure, an unknown number of DUIs that were caused by a narcotic but they weren’t able to have a drug influence evaluation done.”

And he says even if a medication is prescribed by your doctor, it could still impair you to receive a DUI. 

“The rule of thumb and advice we can give you is if you’re taking any medication like that, any medication then it’s best not to operate a vehicle while you’re taking it,” McConnell said.