Local News

Prescription Drug Abusers Caught in 'Booze It and Lose It' Net

Posted April 16, 1999 7:00 a.m. EDT

— Booze It and Lose Itcheckpoints are set up mainly to spot drunk drivers, but alcohol is not the only substance that can impair drivers.

If a driver is impaired by a prescription or over-the-counter drug, Cary officers call in Lt. Doug Scott. Scott is a certified Drug Recognition Expert, the only one in the state with that level of training.

"You see a lot of people who are using muscle relaxers for injuries they've had and they go out to the sports bar and drink two or three drinks and think they're OK to drive," Scott says. "Their blood alcohol is low, but they're still very impaired."

A local pharmacist says prescription drug abuse is a growing problem.

"What I would be most concerned about is just the added drowsiness," Pharmacist Laura Zettel says, "somebody [who's] just going to be so drowsy they're not going to be able to function, not have the reaction time in the car. Of course adding alcohol is going to make it even worse."

Scott admits the problem is not as common as abuse of alcohol, but it can be just as dangerous.

"Sure it doesn't happen as frequently as alcohol-impaired driving, but we know it's happening because we've seen at least three very good examples in Cary in the last two and half months."

Scott says not every officer needs this specialized training, but a small group should have it.

People do shop around for doctors, he says, and abuse prescription drugs. "They do abuse cocaine, marijuana, and heroin and when those people are encountered, law enforcement need the resources to deal with them."

Thirty-nine states have drug recognition training programs; North Carolina does not.