Depressants are one of seven categories of drugs that Drug Recognition Experts look for in a driving under the influence evaluation.
This article discusses the effects and signs of depressant drug use.
The depressant drugs include barbiturates, tranquilizers, and methaqualone.
Drug Recognition Experts are officers trained to determine if a driver is impaired by drugs. The Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) looks for signs of drug use and impairment and then makes a guess about which type of drug a person may have used.
The DREs have divided commonly used drugs into seven categories, one of which is depressant drugs. Each category of drugs produces different side effects and signs of use. The DRE will ask a driver to perform a series of tests, and then performs an evaluation of the driver.
The results of the test are used by the DRE to guess which type of drug a driver used (if they don’t already know from admissions or a search).
What Behaviors of Clues Indicate Depressants Use?
- Droopy eyes
- Drowsiness and drunk-like behavior
- Fumbling Galt ataxia
- Thick, slurred speech
What are the Signs of Depressant Use?
Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus – Present
Vertical Gaze Nystagmus – Present with high dose
Lack of Convergence – Present
Pupil Size – Normal. Soma, Quaaludes, and some antidepressants may dilate pupil size
Reaction to Light – Slow
Pulse Rate – Down. However, Quaaludes, alcohol, and some antidepressants may elevate pulse rate.
Blood Pressure – Down
Body Temperature – Normal
Muscle Tone – Flaccid
Signs of overdose – Cold, clammy skin, pupils dilated, rapid and weak pulse, coma, shallow breathing
Time of Drug Effects
- Barbiturates: 1 – 16 hours
- Tranquilizers: 4 – 8 hours
- Methaqualone: 4 – 8 hours
Driving Under the Influence of Depressants
A DUI arrest for depressants would be charged with Operating While Intoxicated, a misdemeanor punishable by up to 93 days in jail, fines and costs, probation, or all three.
Most depressants are commonly prescribed medications, such as Xanax, Valium, or Phenobarbital. A person must be “under the influence” of the depressant to be convicted of OWI. This means the person’s ability to drive was significantly affected by the drug.
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