A recent news article out of California has gotten some attention and raised the question of whether NyQuil could be responsible for someone being charged with drunk driving. While many people think of the cold medicine as relatively harmless given that it is available over the counter, the reality is that, given the right set of circumstances, it can prove quite powerful and potentially destructive. The case at issue involves a U.S. Marine Corps sergeant whose BAC was more than twice the legal limit when he was involved in a deadly accident on a wet roadway. The crash occurred back in February of 2012 in Dana Point, CA and left three of the sergeant’s fellow servicemen dead.
The case is just now going to trial and prosecutors are arguing that the sergeant’s irresponsible behavior and alcohol consumption led to the fatal accident. The defense attorney is instead claiming that the Marine consumed only one alcoholic beverage the night of the crash after taking NyQuil to recover from a bad cold. Rather than agree that intoxication is the basis for the crash, the defense believes that rain-soaked roads are to blame.
Regardless of what may have caused the particular accident in this case, the bigger question is how consuming an over-the-counter medical like NyQuil can impact your blood alcohol concentration. Most people are surprised to learn that something that is so easily purchased actually contains quite powerful ingredients. NyQuil, which helps people sleep to eventually get over symptoms of a cold or flu, works because it contains a variety of ingredients designed to help a person bounce back from illness. These ingredients include cough suppressants, pain relievers and high amounts of alcohol.
Specifically, NyQuil is made up of nearly 25 percent alcohol. This means that consuming NyQuil before driving can cause a person to be arrested for being under the influence even if he or she is not actually drunk. NyQuil can also cause a person to test above the legal limit. Though the alcohol is listed as an inactive ingredient in NyQuil, it can have a powerful impact in the same way that alcoholic beverages can.
Though NyQuil is a medication, the alcohol it contains is just like the alcohol found in beer, wine or cocktails. Given this, it can cause impairment if consumed in large quantities. Alcohol testing equipment such as breathalyzer machines or blood tests do not distinguish between types of alcohol. Instead, they are only meant to measure the concentration of alcohol in a person’s blood. That means that a person who took too much NyQuil could very easily find him or herself arrested and charged with DWI.
Source: “Attorney Mounts Nyquil Defense in Marine’s DUI Trial,” published at Patch.com.