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Is it illegal to drive/work while on narcotics?

LovinggardenerLLovinggardener Posts: 494
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:29 AM in Pain Medications
My surgeon does not want me to drive on narcotics. While my pain doctors never said anything about not driving. I have to say that I don't get high from narcotics because my body adjusted to it a long time ago. Even now I take three Lortabs a day and I don't feel any side effects (not even constipation). I am adhering to my doctor's order right now, so I don't drive or work. I don't want to get him or myself in trouble.

My internist refused to give me more pain pills. I had to go find a pain doctor. Didn't even know such doctors existed until my internist refused to help me with me pain. Well...she is not my internist anymore.


  • j.howiejj.howie Brentwood, Ca., USAPosts: 1,730
    It is illegal. Surgeons will tell you your not released to drive until your off of your pain meds.
    Pain management doctors have never said anything to me about this subject. I think surgeons are much more worried about medical law suits.
    There has been a lot of discussions on this forum about driving while taking meds. There are many different opinions and many different posts on that subject. And where as there may be "gray" areas. It is none the less illegal in the eyes of the law.
    Good luck,Jim
    Click my name to see my Medical history
    You get what you get, not what you deserve......I stole that from Susan (rip)
    Today is yours to embrace........ for tomorrow, who knows what might be starring you in the face!
  • Jim is right on.

    I've never heard of it being illegal to WORK while on medication-but I could see cases where it would/could/might be.The best thing to do in that case would be to simply talk to your superviser about your medications.Most work places nowadays do random drug tests-if you discuss your meds with your boss/superviser,you won't have to worry about failing a drug test.

    I do know that if a person gets injured while on the job and has to go to the ER for treatment that workmens comp won't have to pay if a person is taking medication that your boss is unaware of.Now there are loopholes in this,and I'm not a lawyer or here to get into a urinating contest (lol-j/k)-but always best to talk to your boss and have these things charted.

    Not that I did this back when I was working,but it's always easier to give advice than it is to take it.Or was anyway--I can now take advice much better than I could all those years ago.. :^o
  • I should have searched for answers before posting this question. Thanks for the tip.

    I am hoping that my surgery will keep me from taking narcotics. It is interesting that none of my pain doctors ever said anything about not driving. I didn't even know that Fentanyl patches were very powerful med. Believe it or not I did not feel anything, not even pain relief.

    Ultimately what made me stop driving temporarily was the pain itself.

  • driving under the influence is driving under the influence...those colorful stickers on the bottles aren't just there for decoration...driving while taking many of the popular spinal meds is very unwise due to the wide variety of side effects. not to mention many of our own muscle spasm, nerve pains, numbness, and other limitations that make us possibly less than safe on the road.

    think very carefully my spiney friends the next time you drive! :?
  • I am not driving. I am under my surgeon's care and order.
  • Personally, I would not recommend asking "permission" for your medications or even discussing them with your supervisor in the workplace. Frankly, it's none of their business and not information they have a right to know, unless the use of drugs is specifically addressed in your job description. Bringing up that topic without a very good reason is just putting a target on your back for discrimination and stereotyping.

    As far as random drugs screenings in the workplace - those apply to use of illegal drugs, not drugs prescribed to you by a physician for a medical reason. For the vast majority of people, their use of pain medication on the job is not only legal, it's protected under the Americans with Disabilities act, so long as the drugs themselves don't interfere with your ability to complete your essential job functions.

  • I never thought about telling my supervisor about it until my surgeon mentioned it. For about 10 years I have been on narcotics on four occasions and never thought about telling my supervisor. And when my pain got unbearable and had to take a lot of meds, I missed work for those days. I even got docked, because I get less than 10 days of personal/sick day in a school year.

    First, I do believe telling my supervisor about my health issues could put me in jeopardy of discrimination or not being rehired. Second, I also agree it is none of their business. This is the first time my back pain last longer than a month and I had to tell my supervisor about my condition. Initially, I felt embarrassed that I had to tell my supervisor about being in pain and having to break the news about missing work for surgical recovery.

    I know that I am on long term disability. Really don't know what that includes except I will be paid while I am not working. Bionicwomen, how does one qualify for American Disability Act? This question sounds awkward, but how do I know that I qualify for ADA.
  • tried to delete the repeat
  • You qualify for protection under the ADA just by having a chronic condition.

    There's a ton of information on the ADA website: http://www.ada.gov
    Q. Who is protected from employment discrimination?

    A. Employment discrimination is prohibited against "qualified individuals with disabilities." This includes applicants for employment and employees. An individual is considered to have a "disability" if s/he has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, has a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment. Persons discriminated against because they have a known association or relationship with an individual with a disability also are protected.

    The first part of the definition makes clear that the ADA applies to persons who have impairments and that these must substantially limit major life activities such as seeing, hearing, speaking, walking, breathing, performing manual tasks, learning, caring for oneself, and working. An individual with epilepsy, paralysis, HIV infection, AIDS, a substantial hearing or visual impairment, mental retardation, or a specific learning disability is covered, but an individual with a minor, nonchronic condition of short duration, such as a sprain, broken limb, or the flu, generally would not be covered.

    The second part of the definition protecting individuals with a record of a disability would cover, for example, a person who has recovered from cancer or mental illness.

    The third part of the definition protects individuals who are regarded as having a substantially limiting impairment, even though they may not have such an impairment. For example, this provision would protect a qualified individual with a severe facial disfigurement from being denied employment because an employer feared the "negative reactions" of customers or co-workers.

    Q. Who is a "qualified individual with a disability?"

    A. A qualified individual with a disability is a person who meets legitimate skill, experience, education, or other requirements of an employment position that s/he holds or seeks, and who can perform the oeessential functionsî of the position with or without reasonable accommodation. Requiring the ability to perform "essential" functions assures that an individual with a disability will not be considered unqualified simply because of inability to perform marginal or incidental job functions. If the individual is qualified to perform essential job functions except for limitations caused by a disability, the employer must consider whether the individual could perform these functions with a reasonable accommodation. If a written job description has been prepared in advance of advertising or interviewing applicants for a job, this will be considered as evidence, although not conclusive evidence, of the essential functions of the job.
  • By my PCP and Orthopedic doctors that even though we adapt and do not seem or act impaired after taking narcotics long term. We will test positive for Opiates etc, and therefor will by quilty of DUI.

    I operate in a gray area and hope things work out. I do not take any pain meds until I arrive at work. I do not take any pain meds after 11:00 am. I take my meds as soon as I walk in the door after work. I pray levels in my blood when I do drive will not be enough to convict me of anything...I have so many things to worry about, adding not being able to drive at all would really depress me more!
    I have actually been pressuring my boss to allow me to work through lunch so I can get home an hour earlier and take my meds. So far he has allowed me to do this against company policy. Is any of this for real? Pinch me please...

    Bionic, are these the "new" ADA guidelines? I read in the paper that as of Jan 1st, IIRC, the guidelines are more in our favor. They allow us more in the way of accomidations before we can be tossed to the curb. If I read it and remember it correctly, my boss allowing me to kep working these last two years under my currecnt limitations makes it very difficult for them to now say they can't use me! :)

    Personally, I am all too tired on these long days, pain and misery. Even with my SCS coming up it is hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
  • Thank you for this information. What is working in my favor is that the top dog in our institution just had back surgery as well. I think his surgery was more severe than mine.

  • When we have to rely on other people to either hurt or have been hurting, usually long term, for them to understand?

    My direct supervisor has Arthritis, not sure of his actual diagnosis, not my business. He often asks me how bad I hurt on weather flip days as I call them... My co-worker was suffering from siezures and on heavy epilepsy meds for a long time. He just lost all his healthy upper teeth due to bone loss from the meds for that.

    I guess I never really connected it before. Thank-you for helping me make the connection! That is probably why they have been so supportive! I have been amazed at the level of people at work that do have compassion. I need to remember that more often. It is not a good thing when we ourselves ignore that people around us do care!

    Thank you again.
  • if you cause an accident and you are found to be incapable due to drugs then yes its illegal ..but to drive whilst having consumed drugs is not ..providing you are not tired and you feel that you driving would not suffer .then i would drive ..but i have stopped my self from getting behind the wheel without drugs because i did not feel well enough to operate a vehicle to a standard that i would normally be happy with.i think that a degree of common sense would prevail with this topic.as for work .i know that some companies routinely test for certain drugs.
  • I love to drive, but realize that although I feel O.K. I am probably not on top of my game, so if someone else is travelling with me I have them drive. Thankfully my sons are both good drivers and my wfe is so-so =))

    I let them drive a lot more than I used to. I really do like to drive, but...
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,846
    We have had different people post rules and laws from different states regarding the matter of driving while under the influence of narcotics. Thats all very nice and the words look good on paper.
    But to me, it all boils down to common sense. Forget the law for a second. Just think how you feel after taking some of your narcotic pain medications. A little woozy, a bit dull, etc. I hear this all the time from people who take these meds and they talk about how dopey they feel and such. Well, if anyone feels that way after taking these medications, WHY would they want to get into a car?
    Heck, I've noticed that just after all the years of spinal problems and just getting older, my reflexes are not as sharp as they were before.. Add some narcotics to that, forget it, I might not know the difference between a highway and a aide street!
    Someone at the Pool Rehab center put it in such a way that it is so easy...
    When you get into a car and start to drive, always think you have your 1 year old baby in the sit next to you and there is no car seat. How will you drive? Or will you drive at all? The answer to that question is something we all have to think about the next time.
    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com

  • I asked both my local police and a state cop this question, since I am on many meds. I was told by both that it was legal to drive as long as my doctor prescribed the meds and said it was alright to drive. The state cop also added that you had to follow the doctors orders precisely and that taking more than prescribed would land you a DUI.
  • A friend of mine is a county deputy in Idaho and he told me it is not illegal to operate a motor vehicle while taking prescription narcotics (as long as they are YOUR prescription). Technically, it's not illegal to drink and drive either, unless your blood alcohol level exceeds legal limits. The issue is whether or not you are impaired. If your pain meds impair your ability to operate a vehicle safely, then yes, you are subject to a DUI charge. If a driver passes a breathalyzer and the roadside tests he puts them through to assess their level of impairment, he would have no reason to ask for a blood test and the driver would be sent on his/her way.

    There has to be a level of common sense when it comes to driving and working while on pain meds. If I couldn't drive under any circumstances while taking narcotics, I would have been unemployed for 7 months last year (as opposed to the two weeks I took off after my surgery). Not to mention, I would have to have someone take me home every day my lower back acted up and I took 1/2 tramadol and an advil. Obviously some jobs are more dangerous than others and you wouldn't want to be doped up on anything....For example, an airline pilot or truck driver or surgeon vs. a grocery store clerk or a telemarketer or a janitor. Different jobs just have different responsibilities and varying degrees of mental and physical requirements.
  • Hi Ron, I remember the old post regarding this topic and I think the word exciting is an understatement ;) It was more of a fiery nature :D .

    Anyway, I stay at home so this doesn't apply, but I do have to drive sometimes. My driving has been drastically cut down due to my current problems, but I never was held back by my NS or PM doctors. I am very aware of the law and I agree we do operate in a gray area when it comes to this. It is all about using common sense. For instance, I would not be stupid enough to take my muscle relaxer prior to running an errand, is one example. You must not drive unless you know how medications will affect you- ANY MEDICATION. You just have to be careful and exercise good judgement. Of course, if you get in a car accident and you ARE found to be under the influence, you WILL get thrown out of pain mgt as well as face legal troubles.
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,846
    I just love it when people remember some of the older posts...
    I really do believe, forget the legal aspect of driving when using pain narcotics, and like I tried to say, just the common sense part.
    That separates the issue
    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • I think it's so important to talk about this issue because some of the new friends are totally caught up in the expectation of having surgery and this topic would probably not cross their minds. I didn't think of it my first time around. Everyone is understandably preoccupied about recovery and getting back to work soon enough, but don't realize that they may be on strong medication on a long term basis.

    You need to have people who can drive you around when you're not able to do it. I really have no one but my husband and I don't like pulling him off work all the time. I have look into medical transportation as a back up but was turned down because I don't have Medicaid. Cabs are extremely expensive and many of us live outside metropolitan areas where there are no buses. I have a car but there are many times that it will just sit there because I'm not well enough to drive. This is just one more thing to keep in mind :S

  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,846
    This is a serious matter and like I said forget about if it is legal or not.
    Face it how many of us at one time or another got into a car and started driving after having one drink too many!
    I remember all to well, many years ago when I was on Vicodin and how the initial dosages would send me flying. I got in my car and drove to my physical therapist and thought nothing of it.
    I was lucky, not for myself, but that I never cause another person harm. Fast forward and I was Oxycontin which believe it or not never gave me (or maybe others) any big pain relief or woozy feeling, but it was even spread. So, I never felt like I was impaired. Doesnt matter, I was. Again, I was so lucky to never cause harm to any other human or animal.
    Today, I drive to the various doctors I see without taking my medications. Its a matter of piece of mind. I know I am doing the right thing by doing this. Strange enough, after some of my visits to my Osteopathic doctor, I am more spacey,more relaxed, more woozy then I have been with narcotics. It scares me to get into the car.. Several times, I just sat in the car and listened to music until I felt back in control
    I dont want to judge anyone on what they do after they take their medications. For some, its almost impossible to get to a doctor, a therapist without driving themselves. Its not easy.
    I still would much rather forgo an doctors appointment and avoid having an accident in which I might injure or kill someone.
    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • I wonder how it would work in Texas. There are many people on some kind of medication (not just narcotics) that could impair their judgment and motor/reflex coordination. How do they (and I) manage to make a living while receiving pain management therapy?

    One thing off topic-- I cringe when I see people talking on their cell phone while driving. I know that their attention is not fully on driving. I have seen this in car pool lanes.
  • When I first took vicodin, I didn't drive because I clearly felt woozy.

    This is a difficult topic, especially for those still in the work force. I can't just quit my job because I am in pain. Furthermore, I am too young to retire. I just hope that this surgery is the answer to my pain issue.

  • I'm afraid that, since driving comes naturally to us, that we may easily go on "autopilot" esp. while on meds. Haven't we all done that, you know, space out in a way. We may be deep in thought or distracted and all of a sudden you've arrived at your destination. Freaky @) . Surely we have to be extra aware when behind the wheel and not be lulled into a false state of security just because we don't experience effects of what we take.

  • The flip side of driving on meds is how well are you going to drive while in severe pain. I drive better on my meds than without. Also just not taking your meds when you are driving won't keep you from getting a DUI. Narcotics stay in your system for @ 3 days.
    I agree that if you don't have to drive just don't drive. And if you have to drive use your best judgement.
    I am still in the workforce and I could not function without the meds. I don't like it but I have no chioce.
    One thing I will say is that after being on meds for over a year I have become very proficient while using them. Aa they say we do what we have to.
  • You're right, we all have to do what we have to. Life doesn't stop for chronic pain and all of us have to make adjustments and proceed with caution.
  • j.howiejj.howie Brentwood, Ca., USAPosts: 1,730
    I was here on the old forum when this topic came up. And what about driving in excruciating pain, wincing and squirming. Or worse yet in withdrawal.
    I'M positive I could drive better on a quarter dose than none at all. But I realize It does stay in your system for quite some time and could land me in jail. And I have been on medication for years. So I'm quite used to it. But after the long running post on the old forum and thinking about all the different opinions I just don,t drive anymore than I absolutely have to. And I use all the common sense and caution that Ive learned here on spine health forum discussions.
    Ron, it would be beneficial to newer members if somehow you could rerun that old thread from the old sp forum.
    Good luck, Jim
    Click my name to see my Medical history
    You get what you get, not what you deserve......I stole that from Susan (rip)
    Today is yours to embrace........ for tomorrow, who knows what might be starring you in the face!
  • You have a good point there. I can't drive if I am in that much pain. Well....for me... I think it is just as bad being on meds, because I can't concentrate. And I am in bad mood.. My commute to work can be 30-40 min. and it's awful when the pain starts increase before I get home.
  • having taken narcotics continuously for almost 10 years (both long acting and IR), I imagine there is not a time period in the day that I do not have them in my system. For the past seven years, I've traveled for my work...have to pay bills in order to live. Maybe it's my tolerance, but I don't "seem to be" any different before I take them as opposed to afterwards...just in a little less pain. I hope that I never am in a situation where I even hit someone through no fault of my own and am drug tested, but I'll cross that bridge if I ever come upon it...I can't worry about it so much that I'm consumed. Everyone has different views on this subject
  • may cause drowsiness if affected do not drive or operate machinery avoid alcoholic drink
    this leaves it up to the individual to make the call dont you think?
    i myself am not affected by oxycodone {in a sleepy sense} i am however affected by temazepam {a sleeper} and would not drive }
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