On March 2nd, a new law about drug driving will come into force. The law is intended to give a “medication defence” for people taking medication which would cause drug tests to appear positive. This law is relevant to sickle cell patients who have been given certain types of painkiller, including codeine, morphine and diamorphine .
Under the new regulations, if you are suspected of drug driving you could be tested at the roadside. If you test positive for certain drugs that you are taking in accordance with instructions, you may be able use the medical defence.
What this means for sickle cell patients
• Roadside testing is not available for the painkillers you may take, so the police will be looking for other evidence of impairment. A blood test will then be necessary.
• Some people get used to taking high doses of painkillers, and it doesn’t affect them even though they are over the limit. You may be entitled to use the medical defence in this case.
• If you think your painkillers might be impairing your driving DO NOT DRIVE.
What should I do?
• Keep suitable evidence with you in case you are stopped. This could be a prescription or a letter from your doctor, for example.
• If the police are satisfied that you are taking medication on the advice of a healthcare professional, the police will not prosecute you for the offence.
• If you believe your medication could impair your driving – for example, if you feel sleepy—DO NOT DRIVE. Even if you are using the medicine legitimately, it is illegal to drive whilst impaired.