Ask a Trooper: DWI incidents include prescription drugs, too

Minnesota State Patrol courtesy photo
Minnesota State Patrol (Courtesy photo)

Question: I read somewhere that the number of DWI arrests had declined recently? Is this true? What about nonalcohol related DWI arrests?

Answer: While alcohol-related DWI incidents have dropped over the past 10 years in Minnesota, controlled substance-related DWI incidents have increased over the past 30 years.

Controlled-substance convictions:

  • 1990: 5 controlled substance-related DWIs
  • 1997: 128
  • 2007: 659
  • 2017: 1,982

We believe that most drivers know when to get a sober ride when they had consumed too many alcoholic beverages. Illicit and some prescription drugs can affect our ability to safely operate a vehicle, even if taken as directed. The term “controlled substances” refers to both of these categories, and part of the rise of drug-related DWIs is due to their increased use.
Another factor for the increase in controlled substance arrests are that law enforcement officers are better trained in DWI detection especially with nonalcohol related DWI offenders.

Minnesota currently has 277 specially trained officers called Drug Recognition Evaluators (DREs). Noncertified DRE officers can and do call for the assistance from a DRE officer to assist with a DWI, if needed.


Tips for motorists who are currently taking prescription medications:

  • If you don’t yet know how a medication will affect your judgment, coordination and reaction time, either have someone else drive or wait to take it until after you get home.
  • Check the warning labels carefully. Does it have one about “operating heavy machinery?” That includes motor vehicles.
  • Some medications are fine on their own, but can impair you when mixed with other medications or alcohol – even a small amount. Learn about the interactions and talk to your doctor or pharmacist.

Please take the proper precautions, and remember: If you feel different, you drive different.
A portion of state statutes were used with permission from the Office of the Revisor of Statutes. If you have questions concerning traffic related laws or issues in Minnesota, write to Trooper Jesse Grabow – Minnesota State Patrol, 1000 Highway 10 West, Detroit Lakes, MN 56501-2205. Follow @MSPPIO_NW on Twitter or email .

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