Michigan Driver's License Restoration and the Issue of Prescription Medication - Part 1

April 16, 2012

One aspect of the Michigan Driver's License Restoration (or, as some people say, Michigan Driver's License Reinstatement) process that has been turning up more frequently in my Office involves the use of prescription medication. Depending on the medication, and/or the reason for its use, this can be a huge issue, and has the potential to derail what would otherwise appear to be a winning Michigan License Appeal. This article will examine the issue of the potentially addictive, or mind and/or mood altering prescription medication use in a Michigan Driver's License Appeal. Our focus will be limited to legitimately prescribed medications, and will not encompass any other substances, like recreational drugs, or medication used without a valid prescription.

I need to be clear about something right up front; there's a significant part of this topic that is intimately wrapped up with the strategies I use to win Restoration Appeals. As much as I'm going to pull the curtain back on this topic, like a magician talking about his show, I'm not going to reveal my "trade secrets." The fact of the matter is, much of what I know about properly handling License Restorations accounts for why I win as much as I do, and why I offer a first-time win Guarantee. This separates me from the pack of Lawyers who claim to "do" License Appeals, or who buy web site domain names with the words "license restoration" in the title. None of these operations, as far as I know, (whatever Fee they may charge), offers a Guarantee like I do.

RX1.2.jpg Anyone who is truly in "Recovery" fundamentally understands that they cannot use any kind of potentially addictive, mind and/or mood-altering substance unless there is no medically suitable alternative. We're not talking blood pressure medication, or thyroid medication, or anything like that; we're talking about things like tranquilizers, painkillers, and psychotropic medications upon which people can become hooked.

I realize that there are some people who've been able to quit drinking (often without the help of AA or any kind of long-term treatment) that don't know this. Within the context of winning a License Appeal, however, they need to know it, even if I'm the one to teach them. Unfortunately, some approaches to Recovery and Sobriety fail to recognize that certain people are capable of overcoming a drinking problem without lifetime AA involvement or anything more than a commitment to never drink again, and a fundamental understanding that they cannot.

Beyond that, in the real world, there are people who have successfully quit drinking and that safely manage to use medication that would otherwise be considered potentially addictive or mind and/or mood altering without any problems.

That doesn't change the fact, however, that the Michigan Secretary of State, through its Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD), will absolutely DENY an Appeal if someone tests positive for, or otherwise admits to using any such medication without proper explanation. As we continue our analysis, we'll more fully explore the meaning and significance of testing positive for any of these medications, and what a "proper explanation" for their use really means.

Thus, by way of recap, we're standing at the line looking at the use of potentially addictive, mind and/or mood altering medication by people seeking Restoration or Reinstatement of their Michigan Driver's License and we've broken these candidates into two categories:

  1. Those who understand that they cannot use such medications unless it is medically necessary and there is no suitable alternative, and
  2. Those who don't know this, or fully understand it.
I suppose that, at this point, the reader who already understands all of this, and who does things like inform his or her treatment providers that they're in Recovery and need to avoid such medication, can skip the rest of this article. As much as the state expects everyone to know this stuff, most readers, if they're honest with themselves for a moment, will have to admit that they don't. They may have heard about it, and may even be a bit familiar with it, but all that turns to white noise if a person has remained alcohol-free for a few years and has had reason to use some of the "forbidden" medications, especially if they've done so without any problems.

Time then, for a refresher course....

Let's rewind all the way back to having an alcohol problem. Being a problem drinker; being alcoholic. At some point, a person who has crossed the line from being a "normal" drinker whose use of alcohol does not create problems in their life to someone whose use of alcohol can (and sometimes does) lead to damage that need repairing, recognizes that the only way to avoid creating any more damage is to not drink; not at all, and not ever.

This fundamental understanding is really the cornerstone of Recovery from an alcohol problem.

Some people kind of understand this, but cannot fully accept it. These are part of the larger group of people destined to struggle with an alcohol problem for life. Think back to those people who were the "big drinkers" back in high school, or the "old drunks" the reader might remember from his or her youth. What happened to those people? In most cases, nothing happened. They are as they were. The big drinkers from high school became big drinkers as adults, racking up divorces, DUI's and otherwise doing what they've always done. Those "old drunks" from years ago either died as "old drunks," or decayed into pretty sad shape.

Others fight with the idea that they must completely quit drinking. They fight it hard. They try to limit or otherwise manage their drinking, but sooner or later (usually later), they surrender to the reality that they only way to completely control what has grown into a drinking problem is to not drink. That struggle is called denial, but the eventual acceptance of the need to "put the plug in the jug" leads to actual Recovery.

However long or short the incubation period the seed for Sobriety must undergo, it either sprouts, or not. And while a bit off-topic, the harsh reality of the situation is that only an elite minority of people ever manage to get over an alcohol problem. Thus, most people who are caught up in this struggle will not win. Within the context of a potentially successful License Appeal, however, only those who have actually won this battle need apply.

In some of my other blog articles, I talk about how and why Sobriety is a first requirement in a License Appeal. There is no need to repeat all that here; the preceding links will take the reader to the referenced articles, should they want any further discussion of Sobriety as a requirement in a License Restoration (or Reinstatement) Appeal. The point is that anyone really ready to move forward with a Michigan Driver's License Restoration proceeding will have accepted, within the core of their being, that they cannot ever drink again.

People who have or at least had attended AA for enough time to really talk about the steps, and spend enough time examining the finer nuances of the first step, come away with an understanding that alcoholism is addiction; alcoholics are addicts whose drug of choice is alcohol. As such, alcoholics and/or addicts (we can use the terms interchangeably here) are forever at risk for cross-addiction, and can easily get hung up on using a substitute substance instead of their drug of choice.

At its most basic, this means that a person who has stopped drinking and maintained that abstinence for a couple of years can be knocked "off the wagon," so to speak, if their Doctor gives them a cough medicine with codeine, and they unwittingly take it, and like the relaxing feeling the medicine produces.

Notice that, in the scenario above, the person does nothing wrong to put themselves at risk to "fall off the wagon." This whole issue of "medication" in a License Appeal begins with an otherwise legitimate need.

In Part 2 of this article, we'll continue our examination of the potentially dangerous role of prescription medication in a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeal. We will pick up with the role Doctors do and do not play in this situation.