Although the court doesn’t always order an offender to seek substance abuse treatment after a DUI, being convicted of drunk driving may be a sign of a drinking problem.
Drinking and driving is extremely dangerous, no matter how experienced you believe you are behind the wheel. Alcohol impairs judgement, coordination, vision, hearing, and reaction time.
Consider the following statistics:
- Alcohol-related motor vehicle accidents account for nearly 1/3 of all traffic fatalities in the United States.
- About 28 people die each day as the result of a drunk driving accident–one death every 51 minutes.
- Someone is hurt in a drunk driving crash every 120 seconds.
- Many people arrested for a DUI are repeat offenders. Drivers with a BAC of 0.08% or higher after a fatal crash are 4.5 times more likely to have a prior conviction for DWI than sober drivers.
The blood alcohol concentration (BAC) for a DUI charge is 0.08% or higher in all states. If you have a CDL and are driving a commercial motor vehicle, the Federal Motor Safety Carrier Administration (FMSCA) sets the BAC limit at 0.04% regardless of location. For drivers who are under 21, most states set the BAC limit at 0.02%.
Penalties for a DUI
Although penalties for a DUI vary by state, this is considered a very serious charge no matter where you live. Even if you don’t cause an accident, you will face significant fines as well as jail time and a lengthy license suspension. Aggravating circumstances, such as being under age 21, having a minor in the car with you at the time of your arrest, or having a prior offense in the past 10 years, typically result in even harsher penalties.
In some cases, the court will order the offender to undergo a substance abuse treatment program as part of his or her sentence. However, most people who are arrested for a DUI are left wondering if this means they have a drinking problem.
Signs of a Drinking Problem
A DUI is certainly evidence of poor decision-making skills. However, a DUI conviction on its own isn’t necessarily a sign that someone has a problem with alcohol.
Other signs to watch for include:
- Having an increased tolerance for alcohol
- Blacking out while drinking
- Continuing to drink even though you’re experiencing health problems such as liver disease or taking medication that can interact negatively with alcohol
- Giving up other activities so you can spend more time drinking
- Avoiding activities that require you to be sober for long periods of time
- Drinking to help you cope with your emotions
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms, such as shaking, sweating, and erratic heartbeat, when you don’t consume alcohol
- Being unable to stop after just one drink
- Lying or becoming defensive about your drinking when confronted by others
Although there is some evidence to support the idea that alcoholism runs in families, it’s important to note that addiction can affect anyone. Age, race, gender, and socioeconomic status are irrelevant when it comes to struggling with a drinking problem.
Seeking Treatment for Alcohol Addiction
Realizing you may have a problem with alcohol is the first step towards creating a brighter future for yourself. Addiction is a chronic illness that requires medical treatment. It’s not associated with a lack of willpower or a moral failing.
The first step in any addiction treatment plan is a medically supervised detox. The symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can be uncomfortable and potentially dangerous, so 24/7 supervision by trained medical professionals is necessary to ensure your safety. The team will monitor your vital signs, provide emotional support, and use medications to help keep you comfortable during the detox process.
After detox, treatment consists of a combination of group and individual counseling to explore the issues contributing to your drinking problem. Counseling also focuses on helping you to develop constructive coping strategies instead of relying on alcohol to socialize or to deal with unpleasant emotions such as stress and anger.
Under a holistic treatment approach, counseling is often supplemented with experiential therapies such as art therapy, music therapy, and equine therapy. These sessions help reinforce the lessons learned in recovery and provide a chance to apply newly developed coping skills to hands-on experiences.
Once a person is released from inpatient treatment, counseling will continue on an outpatient basis to reduce the risk of relapse. Attending support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous is also recommended as a way to stay on track with one’s commitment to sobriety.