Driving while addicted to drugs is unlawful in California under California
Vehicle Code 23152(c), regardless of impairment. There is an exception
for those participating in an approved drug treatment program.
An individual does not need to be under the influence of a particular drug
at the time to be in violation of the law. Driving and being addicted
to a drug at that time, are sufficient to prove the violation. The law
identifies “drugs” as any substance or combination of substances
that could so impair the nervous system, brain, or muscles of a driver
that it would impair the individual’s ability to drive. This definition
obviously would include illegal drugs such as cocaine and heroin, but
legal drugs are also included. For example, let’s say an individual
becomes addicted to prescription painkillers. Section 23152(c) makes it
illegal for that person to drive, whether or not the driver is under the
influence while driving.
“Addiction” to is defined by the law as a physical dependency
on the drug resulting in withdrawal symptoms if doses are missed, a tolerance
to the substance has been developed which requires a larger dose for it
to be effective, and the individual has developed an emotional dependence
on the drug and is compelled to continue using it. Provided all 3 of these
criteria are met, the individual is addicted to a drug, as far as the
law is concerned.