If you’ve been arrested for driving under the influence (DUI), you’re not alone: over 1.1 million Americans were arrested in 2014 alone for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.1
Your DUI probably taught you that driving while impaired carries serious financial and legal implications. However, you might also be wondering what this arrest might be telling you about your own health and well-being. Was this incident a sign that you have a substance abuse problem? What should you do next? In this article, we’ll talk in greater detail about this issue and discuss the next steps.
Getting Evaluated After a DUI
In 45 states and the District of Columbia, it’s not necessarily up to you to decide whether you have a substance abuse problem. These states require an evaluation for substance abuse after a person’s first DUI arrest. If a problem is found, the offender may be required to undergo treatment.2
Most people who are arrested for DUI are also required to complete classes on the hazards of driving under the influence—if you’re found to have a problem with drugs or alcohol, the number of these mandatory education classes will be increased.
After dealing with the consequences of a DUI arrest, you’re likely to modify your drinking and driving behavior; however, not everyone will be motivated to change. About a third of DUI arrests are of repeat offenders.2 While this doesn’t always mean you have an addiction, it should be taken as a warning sign. Continuing to drink or use drugs despite the negative consequences associated with a DUI can be a sign of a substance abuse problem.
Recognizing a Problem
If you were arrested for drinking and driving, it’s possible that you abuse alcohol, even if you don’t have alcoholism. Alcohol abuse can be defined as a pattern of drinking behavior that negatively impacts your relationships, health or ability to work. Alcoholism, on the other hand, is a chronic disease marked by a physical dependence on alcohol.
When you’re abusing alcohol, you’re on a slippery slope—it’s wise to get help before a dependence forms. While it’s possible for a person abusing alcohol to curtail their drinking or quit it completely, the resources and support offered by treatment programs significantly increase the odds of long-term success.
Getting arrested for driving under the influence is a serious wake-up call. Even if you don’t have a substance abuse problem, it’s a harsh reminder that even a small amount of drugs or alcohol is unsafe when you plan to be driving. However, if you’re struggling with substance abuse, the arrest can be an unexpected blessing. In spite of the difficult consequences, a DUI can motivate you to take the important first steps toward beginning a new, sober life.