Driving Under the Influence

Why did a driver consume so much alcohol? She alleges she was drugged and didn’t know how much she was drinking.

By Sanjay Adhia, M.D.

I was asked to testify in a DUI case. The defense asserted the driver was given a date rape drug which lead her to drink excessively.

The standard drug testing was negative for all drugs except for alcohol.

Defense also asserted a rape drug had diminished her ability to control her intake of alcohol and appraise her level of intoxication. She was arrested with a DUI charge.

Defendant was evaluated at an ER and admitted after a physician determined that alcohol alone was not responsible for her intoxication and there were concerns for her medical condition due to this unknown substance.

I testified about drug testing and my finding that in this case, drug testing was incomplete and omitted several common drugs used in DFSA. Defendant asserted her clinical presentation at the ER could not be accounted for by alcohol alone.

The prosecutor called a non-physician toxicologist to the stand.[1]  The prosecutor alleged the toxicologist had the greater expertise in discussing the clinical effects of substances. I explained that as a psychiatrist, I am a physician experienced, by qualifications, training and clinical practice, in the psychopharmacology of substances, the effects of combining intoxicants and how alcohol and drugs cause intoxication. I have evaluated and treated patients who were intoxicated with complications in diagnosis and assessment.

I do not know the conclusion of the case, which is usual for an Expert Witness. Once testimony is complete, an Expert’s role is fulfilled and the final decision is left to the trier of fact.

After this case, I was interested in drug testing and chose to pursue Medical Review Officer certification. As an MRO, I have additional training and expertise in drug testing and toxicology above and beyond medical training, which is extensive.

Dr. Adhia writes about Drug Facilitated Sexual Assault (DFSA) in the article “Date Rape Drugs: Weaponized Chemistry.” He describes the drugs that are used by perpetrators and how victims can defend themselves.

[1] Toxicologists are scientists with chemistry and/or biology education, but they do not hold a medical degree.  In fact, a person who has completed a BS in Toxicology can call themselves a ‘Toxicologist.’ In reality, most toxicologists who serve as expert witnesses hold an advanced degree.  Needless to say, the impact of toxins on the body is best addressed by an expert with a medical degree.

Emergency Medicine physicians may specialize by attaining Board-Certification in Medical Toxicology, a subspecialty of Emergency Medicine. American Board of Medical Specialties.


Posted 2020

Sanjay Adhia, M.D., Forensic Psychiatrist