DWI's caused by prescription drugs are on the rise - KXXV-TV News Channel 25 - Central Texas News and Weather for Waco, Temple, Killeen |

DWI's caused by prescription drugs are on the rise

It's a new and potentially deadly trend in Central Texas. More and more people are getting pulled over not for drinking and driving, but taking prescription drugs and being impaired behind the wheel.

The Bell County Attorney's office says an increase of DWI's and the use of prescription drugs are on the rise.

"It's true we've had an increase. I can't quantify for exact numbers anectodicaly," said Jim Nichols, Bell County Attorney. "Reading the cases and assigning them to the various prosecutors, we've had an up take to the prescription drug only cases."

So far this year, Nichols and his staff have seen DWI's jump 22 percent over the same time last year. A growing number of those cases don't involve alcohol, they're arrests for driving while taking prescription drugs, which can be just as dangerous.

"People have the misunderstanding and think, 'Well because I have a prescription and I'm taking it as prescribed, therefore I shouldn't be charged,'" Nichols said. 

State troopers have also seen an increase with people getting behind the wheel while under prescribed drugs. 

"It does look like we are seeing more prescription drugs lately. I don't know what the trend is, if it's moving that way," said DPS Trooper D.L. Wilson.

Attorney Seth Sutton handles DWI cases every day. Sutton had one case where his client took a sleeping pill before bed, and hours later crashed on the way to work.

"I had a case recently that ended up turning into a felony of an intoxication assault because a man took Ambien and woke up in a field," said Sutton. 

The client was sentenced to 10 years probation.

"The law doesn't make that distinction while intoxicated. You're intoxicated or you're not," Nichols said. "You have the moral use for the normal you of your physical and mental facilities or you don't."


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