If you or a loved one has experienced a DUI in Utah you are likely wrestling with the impact this has had on your life. Getting a DUI is a life-altering event that has significant legal and financial implications for the person involved. However, a DUI arrest should also be seen as an opportunity to acknowledge a possible alcohol use disorder that would benefit from appropriate treatment.
Although the rates of drunk driving have decreased significantly since more stringent DUI penalties started being enforced in the 80s, driving under the influence is still a serious societal problem. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control, 29 people die each day in automobile accidents that involve a drunk driver. In 2016 alone, over 10,000 Americans lost their lives in crashes involving an impaired driver. That same year, over a million people were arrested for DUI. In Utah alone, there were 11,000 DUI arrests in 2016.
While it’s natural to attend to the legal ramifications of getting a DUI in Utah, such a suspended driver’s license and the penalties and fines, it is also important to address the factors that might have led to the reckless behavior. Driving under the influence is a serious offense, but alcoholism is a serious disease. The sooner that an alcohol use disorder is treated and managed, the better the recovery outcome will be in the long run.
Recognizing the Signs of Alcohol Use Disorder
Many people are in denial about their drinking problem, choosing to ignore it until something life-changing like a DUI arrest serves as a wake-up call. While not everyone who gets a DUI has an alcohol addiction, many do have the disease. Without professional treatment, the individual will continue to experience the negative consequences associated with alcoholism.
Some of the signs of alcohol use disorder that can signal the need for professional treatment include:
- Increased tolerance to the effects of alcohol, leading to higher alcohol consumption
- Prioritizing drinking over all else in life
- Neglecting work or family responsibilities
- Mood swings, moodiness
- Obsessing about have enough alcohol available, hiding it in the house or office
- Declining performance in work or school
- Financial problems due to job loss or legal problems
- Withdrawing from family and friends, avoiding social events
- Engaging in high risk behaviors, like drunk driving or risky sexual practices
- Alcohol cravings
- Legal problems related to disorderly conduct, disturbing the peace, or aggression
- Unable to decrease or quit alcohol consumption
- Experience withdrawal symptoms when effects of alcohol wear off
The more signs of an alcohol use disorder present, the more severe the disorder. Whether the DUI was related to a one-time binge drinking event or a long history of alcoholism, facing the problem of alcohol abuse is imperative.
What are the DUI Laws in Utah?
Law enforcement will pull over any driver who is exhibiting signs of intoxication while operating a vehicle. Before the officer makes an actual arrest, he or she will require the driver take a breathalyzer test, or may ask them to demonstrate they can walk a straight line, balance on one leg, or follow a beam of light from side to side. When there is evidence of intoxication over and above the state’s threshold, the individual will be arrested.
When facing the repercussions of a DUI in Utah it helps to know the state’s laws for driving under the influence. Each state is free to make its own DUI laws, resulting in a variance between lenient and strict laws depending on the state. Utah’s DUI laws include the following elements:
- Cannot operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of .05% or higher, or…
- While under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Utah has the “not a drop” law that makes it illegal for individuals under the age of 21 to drive with any amount of alcohol in their system
- If the individual refuses the breathalyzer or blood test they will immediately lose their license for 180 days
- If alcohol testing shows intoxication, the individual will be charged with a Class B misdemeanor. If the individuals actions resulted in bodily injury on another person, has a passenger who is under age 16, or is 21 or older with a passenger who is under age 18, this constitutes a Class A misdemeanor. If driver has inflicted serious bodily injury upon another, has two or more DUIs, or has been previously convicted of vehicular homicide or a felony DUI, this constitutes a third degree felony
- Will serve a mandatory 2-day period in jail, unless placed under house arrest
- Will have license suspended for 120 days
- Fines for first-time offenders are $1,310 minimum
- Can arrest someone for DUI even for being in a parked vehicle if seated behind the wheel with access to the key
What is Court-Ordered Treatment?
It may be possible to plea bargain with the court to arrange for substance abuse treatment versus jail time. Some may be ordered to be tested twice a week or to enroll in an addiction awareness program. Others, especially for 2nd DUI offenses, may be court-ordered to enter a rehab program for treatment of the alcohol use disorder.
A court-ordered treatment program can be a medical detox program, an outpatient rehab program, a residential rehab program, or participation in A.A. Although it is always preferable for someone with a drinking problem to willingly enter treatment, studies have shown that outcomes are as good or better when treatment is referred through the legal system. Here is what to expect at the four possible court-ordered programs:
Medical Detox. When the individual charged with a DUI needs to obtain detox services they may enroll in a dedicated detox facility, a residential rehab center if they intend to follow detox with a treatment program, or a hospital. Someone in need of alcohol detox should always be monitored throughout the process. During the detox as withdrawal symptoms emerge, the detox professionals will administer benzodiazepines, such as Ativan, Valium, or Librium, to assist with anxiety, shaking, insomnia and reduce the risk of seizures. In addition, other medications, such as beta-blockers for slowing heart rate or antipsychotics to treat hallucinations, will be provided as needed. Any gastrointestinal distress, fever or headache will be managed with over-the-counter medications. The length of alcohol detox and the severity of symptoms will depend on the length of history consuming excessive alcohol, the individual’s age, and the general health status.
Outpatient Rehab. Outpatient addiction treatment programs provide the core treatment elements necessary for making the fundamental changes to transition out of alcohol addiction-related behaviors. Because the individual in treatment will reside either at their own home or a sober living home, the outpatient option provides more freedom and flexibility. Outpatient rehabs provide several levels of intensity, ranging from weekly therapy sessions to intensive outpatient programs (IOP) to partial hospitalization programs (PHP). The intensity of the program is determined by the severity of the alcohol use disorder and other factors, such as a co-occurring mental health disorder or court-ordered requirements. The IOP will usually involve 3 or 4 months of treatment.
Residential Rehab. Residential treatment programs provide housing for the individual for a specified period of about 1-6 months. Residential programs are the best alcoholism treatment option for the individual with a severe alcohol dependency. Residential programs provide medically supervised detox, followed by continual therapeutic support. The residential rehab offers a daily schedule of individual psychotherapy sessions, group therapy, family therapy, recreational activities, psychosocial education, and holistic therapies such as yoga and meditation. Participation in a recovery support community, such as A.A. or a non-12 step program, is usually integrated into the program. Any co-occurring mental health disorder will also be treated along with the alcohol use disorder.
12-Step Program. The court may order the individual to attend A.A. or a similar organization for participation in regular meetings. This option is appropriate for individuals with a new or milder alcohol use disorder that don’t yet require an intensive treatment program. The idea is that by attending the recovery meetings and listening to the testimonials and struggles, that the individual will be motivated to avoid using alcohol in the future.
If the court does not order the individual to participate in some form of addiction treatment program, it is wise for the person to go ahead and procure that treatment anyway.
Therapy for Alcohol Addiction Recovery
Psychotherapy is central to the treatment of an alcohol use disorder. Therapy helps the individual make fundamental shifts in their behaviors and thought patterns that will help them maintain sobriety. Too often, distorted thought patterns lead to alcohol misuse, so the thought/behavior patterns must be adjusted to enjoy success in recovery. The most effective types of therapy for treating individuals with alcohol addiction include:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: CBT focuses on both the cognitive (thoughts) and behavioral (actions) of the individual by helping them modify thought-behavior patterns that are keeping them trapped in alcoholism. For example, someone may be convinced that they cannot function at a social function or deliver a work presentation without alcohol to calm their anxiety. CBT teaches them to exchange that irrational belief to a positive statement, such as “Of course I can enjoy the event or deliver the presentation without using alcohol. I choose to be clear headed, sharp, and present.”
- Dialectical Behavior Therapy: DBT is focused on shifting negative self-messaging and self-criticism to acceptance while encouraging improvement in four areas. These include mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, emotion regulation, and distress tolerance. DBT can be especially helpful for individuals struggling with a dual diagnosis, such as alcoholism and co-occurring depression or anxiety, as it teaches them learn to regulate emotions and manage mood swings.
- Contingency Management: CM is an incentive-based therapy that provides small rewards in exchange for continued sobriety. A clean breathalyzer test will result in a reward, which helps strengthen the resolve to remain sober and avoid relapse. This is classic behavioral conditioning.
- Motivational Enhancement Therapy: MET is a short-term therapy consisting of four steps. It is often used in conjunction with other types of therapies at the outset of a treatment program, as it deals with the ambivalence that many may feel about sobriety. MET helps persuade the individual to embrace recovery and to become internally motivated to change their life for the better.
Living a Life of Sobriety
Once someone experiences a DUI arrest they should take every precaution to not repeat the offense. Subsequent DUIs will be dealt with much more punitively that a first offense, with very steep fines, loss of driving privileges, jail time, and life-altering consequences.
To ensure that another DUI in Utah does not occur, it is important to embrace a sober lifestyle. The measures mentioned above, such as detox, rehab, and 12-step programming, should provide useful information and treatment to help the individual choose to live a life of sobriety. After a DUI the risks are just too high to live any other way. Some of the actions to take that will help the individual establish new healthy lifestyle habits might include:
- Set fitness goals. Make a concerted effort to get strong and healthy by getting regular exercise and overhauling the diet.
- Set life goals. Set some short and long-term goals that you would like to achieve, along with a list of steps to help accomplish the goals.
- Establish a healthy routine. Set your alarm for the same time each day, and always allow for a minimum of 7 hours of quality sleep.
- Practice self-care. Self-care pertains to emotional wellness and should be part of your routine. These activities include relaxation techniques, yoga, and psychotherapy.
Next Level Recovery Provides Comprehensive Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder
Next Level Recovery is an addiction recovery complex serving the Salt Lake City metropolitan area. At Next Level our comprehensive alcohol treatment program, including both residential and outpatient formats, is based on evidence-based treatment elements. Our expert and compassionate staff deliver high quality end-to-end addiction and recovery treatment, enhanced with alternative therapies and enjoyable activities that round out the program. Next Level offers activities such as hiking, meditative yoga, rock climbing, dancing, and sports to complement the individual or group therapy sessions and 12-step or SMART Recovery meetings. For more information about recovery after a DUI, please contact our team today at (888) 759-5846.