Michigan Driver's License Restoration and the Issue of Prescription Medication - Part 4

April 27, 2012

This will be the fourth and final installment in our examination of the issue of prescription medication a Michigan Driver's License Restoration case. We began Part 3 of this article by turning our attention to the urine test that is a required part of a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeal, and we noted how that test is more than just a "dirty" or "clean" proposition. A urine test that is positive for potentially addictive or mind and/or mood altering medication in a License Appeal is almost always bad news. As a Lawyer who specializes in Michigan License Restoration cases, I can plan around the necessary use of such medicines, but if they are first detected in a urine test, or, worse yet, are revealed at the License Hearing itself, things pretty much crash and burn.

In the course of the actual License Hearing, a person will be asked about their use of any prescription medications, past or present. I can only theorize, but I think when asked about this, some people feel they can demonstrate the strength of their Sobriety by admitting to having used something like the painkiller Vicodin in the past without having suffered any adverse consequences, like a relapse.

prescription bottle3.1.jpgUnfortunately, the Hearing Officer won't see it that way.

Instead, he or she will see a person supposedly in Recovery who failed to tell their treatment provider about their alcohol problem. The Hearing Officer will not view this as a success, but rather a big potential problem that, fortunately, didn't come to pass.

Beyond a problem that didn't occur, the Hearing Officer will become concerned about the person's lack of understanding of the need to abstain from any and all potentially addictive, or mind and/or mood altering drugs. They'll perceive the person as a risk. Remember, the most important issue before any Hearing Officer in a multiple DUI License Appeal is that the person's alcohol or substance abuse problem is likely to remain under control. Even if a person has been Sober for years, a few spoonfuls of Codeine or a few Vicodin pills can trigger a relapse. It doesn't necessarily have to be a relapse with alcohol, either. A person Recovering from an alcohol problem can easily be lulled into a relapse with a different substance.

Up to this point, we have not examined the role that medications for mental health issues play in a Michigan License Restoration case.

Anxiety disorders, ADD and ADHD problems as well as bipolar issues, to name a few, are rather common across the population, and this is no less the case with people in Recovery. However, some estimate that as many as 60% of all people with bipolar disorder will suffer from some kind of addiction problem. This is often called a "dual diagnosis." Examination of this in any detail would require a separate article, and probably one like this, with multiple installments. For our purposes, it is only necessary to note that the DAAD looks beyond the use of medicines to treat mental health issues, focusing its concern on the underlying issue, as well, and the potential it presents as a risk for a person's "alcohol or substance abuse problems...to remain under control."

In my Practice, I believe it is critical to thoroughly examine and explore these issues with my Client BEFORE he or she ever undergoes the Substance Abuse Evaluation.

In this context, if the implications of these issues, and the medication(s) used to treat them are not comprehensively analyzed before undergoing the Substance Abuse Evaluation, any subsequent examination by the Substance Abuse Counselor will reach conclusions over which the person will have no control. To put it more directly, a darn big part of my job is helping a person control and shape the way things turn out in the License Restoration process, beginning with preparing for the Substance Abuse Evaluation, to making as sure as possible that it is both favorable and helpful, to preparing for the License Appeal Hearing itself, to make sure that it concludes favorably, with a win, as well as every step in between.

The cost of not carefully dealing with mental health issues before the Substance Abuse Evaluation is that a person leaves how such issues will be perceived as impacting (or not) their License Appeal completely to chance. This means that the conclusions reached within the Evaluation will come as surprise, and not as a planned-for result.

I don't like surprises, except on my birthday. Surprises are seldom pleasant. And that's a description of exactly how NOT to handle a License Appeal.

In some cases, the risks associated with using "risky" medicines, and the underlying conditions those medications treat (like anxiety), can themselves can trigger further inquiries about a person's "ability and motivation to drive safely, and within the law." We'll come back to this in a few paragraphs.

I've had people who have made the decision to stop medicating their problems and deal with them in other ways, such as through therapy. Some people just want to break free of the reliance (NOT dependence) on medication to feel normal, and find some other way to get through life.

The wisdom of such decisions falls far outside my field expertise, except that, in a Michigan License Appeal, it's one less obstacle to getting back on the road that I have to deal with.

Assuming the reader has kept pace with me through the preceding installments of this article, it might prove helpful here to take a step back and look at how this subject fits into the bigger picture. In a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeal, there are several legal issues that a person must address, and satisfy by "Clear and Convincing Evidence." Normally, these boil down to proving that a person's alcohol (or substance abuse) problem is under control, and, more importantly, that their alcohol (or substance abuse) problem is likely to remain under control.

In a case involving more pronounced anxiety or bipolar type issues, a third Legal issue is triggered under DAAD Rules.pdf, the rule that governs Michigan License Restoration Appeals. This sub rule requires that the person prove (again, by clear and convincing evidence) that he or she "has the ability and motivation to drive safely and within the Law." While I identify this issue on my website as the "seldom occurring issue," when it does arise, it most often does so in the context of a person having a rather disastrous (as in accident-loaded) Driving Record, or having been caught driving after their License has been Revoked. Nevertheless, the state is concerned about a person's overall ability to be a safe driver, and the Hearing Officer wouldn't be doing his or her job if there were unresolved doubts or concerns about a person getting behind the wheel. Remember, if this issue arises at all, the person Appealing must not just prove their ability and motivation to drive safely and within the law to the Hearing Officer's satisfaction, but rather by the more objective "Clear and Convincing Evidence" standard. Accordingly, an unresolved doubt falls short of proving anything by clear and convincing evidence.

No matter what medical and/or mental health issues arise in any License Appeal, the biggest issue, and the one that dominates all others, is whether a person can prove, by clear and convincing evidence, that they are a safe bet to never drink again. Anything that impacts this is a problem.

I have, I think, sufficiently reiterated that the use, either past or present, of potentially addictive mind and/or mood altering medication is something that must be worked around in a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeal. To be fair, there are circumstances that might just be too difficult to overcome. I haven't seen those yet, but that doesn't mean it isn't possible.

No matter what the facts and circumstances of anyone's particular case, there will be a lot of work to do. Some cases are easier than others. Anyone wanting to get back on the road will have to be willing to put in the time and effort and do that work. I certainly don't charge a bargain Fee for my expertise, but I have always said that there are no shortcuts to doing a License Restoration the right way. These cases take a lot of commitment and work from both the Client and me. Anyone who sees this process as something at which you can simply throw money, no matter how much money they have and are willing to throw at it, will never be a Client of mine, and will likely never win their License back, either.

Whatever else, anyone who uses, or has used any kind of potentially addictive or mind and/or mood altering medication must understand that such use complicates their License Appeal, and needs to make sure they have the proper expert guidance to navigate the path to getting their License back.