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Sleep aid effects on the morning after focus of federal study

Authorities face a lot of pressure to crack down on drivers operating vehicles under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The rules of evidence are clear and put the onus on officials to prove the various elements of their cases in order to win convictions.

Faced with such challenges, it's not unusual in Tennessee or in other states for authorities to push the envelope. This can be especially true in instances when a defendant has a previous DUI conviction on his or her record. Regardless of the situation, anyone facing any  DUI charge should be consulting with an experienced attorney. 

How to deal with drivers who operate vehicles under the influence of prescription drugs may be one of the most frustrating areas for authorities, especially if the case involves a sleep aid that was taken appropriately. The question becomes, if a driver properly took a drug before bed, is it possible the effects may linger and affect driving the next morning?

Consumer advocates have said for many years that such concerns are worth looking at. But it is only recently that the Food and Drug Administration began to look more closely at the issue.

It's not clear how many people may be hitting the road each morning under the possible influence of prescription drugs. What is known, according to one data resource company, is that some 60 million sleep aid prescriptions were written by doctors last year alone.

Because they're FDA approved, they are determined to safely put people to sleep. But in recent months, the agency has started to be more aggressive in asking drug makers to study and document how their drugs may affect driving. Warnings against driving are even being issued for common over-the-counter allergy drugs that are known to cause drowsiness.

It would be nice to have a "safe list" of drugs that do not affect driving. But researchers say it's nearly impossible to create because individuals don't always have the same reactions. There are also no set standards for how to test driving.

The FDA is trying to remedy that testing standard issue, but it’s not clear when new rules may be issued. 

Source: NYTimes.com, "To Judge Sleep Aids, U.S. looks at Drowsy Driving in the Morning," Katie Thomas, Aug. 13, 2013. 

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