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Prescription drugs and driving in Scotland

It's important to understand the law around taking prescription drugs and driving.

It's a crime to drive if you're either:

  • over the limits for certain prescription drugs
  • unfit to drive because you’ve taken any drug

You do not need to worry about being over the limit if you were prescribed the drug and you take it how your healthcare professional advised.

Driving when you’re over prescription drug limits

The legal limits for most prescription drugs are above what you’ll usually be prescribed.

If you’re on a dose that takes you above the legal limits, you'll only commit a crime if:

  • you were not prescribed the drug for medical or dental reasons
  • you do not take prescription drugs as advised by the person prescribing them

The rules are different for illegal drugs and driving.

How prescription drug limits affect you

The limits are what's measured in your blood and not how much you can take.

Factors that affect this include:

  • your age
  • your weight
  • how hydrated you are
  • how your body tolerates the drug

It's impossible to say for sure:

  • what dose of any drug will put you over the limits
  • how safe it is to drive after taking it

Keep taking any medication as advised. Talk to a healthcare professional if you're worried medication is affecting your driving.

Drugs that the law applies to

  • amphetamine including dexamphetamine – for ADHD
  • clonazepam – for epilepsy and other seizure disorders
  • diazepam – for anxiety, alcohol withdrawal and muscle spasms
  • flunitrazepam – for insomnia
  • lorazepam – for anxiety and insomnia
  • medicinal cannabis – for epilepsy, chronic pain relief
  • methadone – for drug addiction withdrawal and pain relief
  • morphine – for pain relief
  • oxazepam – for anxiety and insomnia
  • temazepam – for insomnia and sedation before medical or dental procedures

These drugs can sometimes be prescribed for different reasons. Check with a healthcare professional if you're unsure. 

Driving when you’re unfit through drugs

It's a crime to drive after taking any drug if it affects your driving.

This applies to any drug and includes:

  • prescription drugs
  • over the counter medicines, such as co-codamol or antihistamines
  • illegal drugs, such as cocaine or cannabis

You can still be convicted of this crime even if you're not over prescription drug limits.

It's your responsibility to be sure you're fit to drive.

Being tested at the roadside

The police can:

  • stop you if they think you’re drug driving
  • test you at the roadside for illegal drugs, using saliva from a mouth swab
  • make you do a field impairment test – this includes checking your pupils, and whether you can walk in a straight line

If you fail the roadside test

You will be taken to the police station for a blood test.

If it’s proven you were unfit to drive, you can be charged with a crime.

If you’re convicted of drug driving

You'll get all of the following:

  • a driving ban of at least 1 year 
  • between 3 and 11 penalty points
  • either a fine of up to £5,000, up to 6 months in prison, or both
  • a criminal record

Your driving licence will show you've been convicted of drug driving. This lasts for 11 years.

You could go to prison for life if you cause death by careless driving while under the influence of drugs.

A drug driving conviction can also affect:

  • car insurance costs
  • current or future jobs
  • travel to certain countries, such as the USA
  • volunteering – especially with children or people who have support needs

Reporting someone who is unfit to drive

Check how to report a crime.

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