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The new drug driving laws explained

New drug driving laws, that enable police officers to test drivers for eight illegal drugs and eight prescription drugs, have come into effect in England and Wales. In this blog, Port of Call explains the new rules further.

Drivers suspected of driving whilst on drugs are facing stiff new penalties, following a nationwide shakeup of drug driving laws. Driving under the influence of drugs has always been illegal, however the inclusion of prescription drugs is now in effect. It is not just alcohol and illegal drugs that can lead to complex addiction issues. Some prescription drugs, such as anti-depressants, painkillers and stimulants can also be highly addictive and a dependence on these types of substances presents its own unique set of challenges.


A person being breathalyzedNew roadside ‘drugalyser’ devices will enable police officers to test for eight illegal drugs (including cocaine and cannabis) and eight prescription drugs (such as morphine and methadone).

Under current rules it is an offence to drive when impaired by any drug and anyone caught doing so faces a one-year driving ban, a fine up to £5,000 and up to six months imprisonment. The new laws clamp down on low levels of detection for eight illegal drugs and higher levels for eight prescription drugs. However, drivers using prescription drugs within recommended levels will not be penalised.

Even if a driver passes the roadside check, officers can also choose to enforce further tests at a police station to detect other drugs like ecstasy, ketamine, LSD and heroin. The plan is to develop more advanced roadside devices, that can test for a broader range of drugs, in the future. While a government backed THINK! road safety campaign has also been launched in unison with the new regulations.

How drugs affect your driving

Driving under the influence of drugs is extremely dangerous and can affect driving skills in a number of ways

according to the official website for the government’s THINK! road safety Initiative.

“Drug drivers can suffer from slower reaction times, erratic and aggressive behaviour, and inability to concentrate properly, nausea, hallucinations, panic attacks, paranoia, tremors (or ‘the shakes’), dizziness and fatigue.

“Additionally, during the phase whilst the effects of drugs are wearing off the taker may feel fatigued – affecting concentration levels. In such conditions it is a bad idea to be behind the wheel of a car, for the driver and their passengers as well as for other road users,” they add.

Prescription drugs covered by the new law

It is now illegal to drive when mis-using the following prescription drugs. If you, or someone you know is mis-using prescription drugs, please contact Port of Call today. Not only can we provide you with free and confidential information and advice, we can also help you gain access to vital treatment to overcome your dependence or addiction to prescription drugs.

  • Clonazepam: prescribed to treat seizures or panic disorders.
  • Diazepam: used for anxiety disorders, alcohol withdrawal symptoms or muscle spasms.
  • Flunitrazepam (Rohypnol): a sedative originally used in hospitals for deep sedation.
  • Lorazepam: used to treat convulsions or seizures caused by epilepsy.
  • Oxazepam: used to relieve anxiety, including anxiety caused by alcohol withdrawal.
  • Temazepam: unbalances chemicals in the brain and can cause insomnia problems.
  • Methadone: used in the treatment of heroin addiction and pain relief.
  • Morphine: used to treat moderate to severe pain.


Make us your first Port of Call. We can help you to access the right drug addiction help or alcohol rehab facilities at the right time. Take the first step towards recovery by speaking to one of our advisers today. Please call our free phone line on 08000029010.


About the author: Martin Preston

Martin is our Founder and Chief Executive. Martin is himself in long term recovery and started Port of Call to help families navigate treatment options. In 2020 Martin will open Delamere Health Ltd, the UK’s first purpose built addiction treatment clinic.

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