One of my earlier posts commented on drug driving, the recent law changes in New Zealand and the new ad campaign in England & Wales. The answer that everyone would like (apart from the people who actually take the drugs) is a roadside device that can screen, say, saliva for the presence of drugs – the drug equivalent of a handheld breath alcohol testing device.
It is important to understand that one of the reasons it is so hard to produce a device like a breath tester but for drugs is that the blood alcohol level is prescribed in law and can be so prescribed because of the way alcohol behaves once it enters the body. Although the effects of alcohol vary within and between individuals, there is still a general level upon which the experts agree that people become impaired through alcohol consumption. The rate at which alcohol is eliminated from the body is also relatively constant. The same cannot be said for other drugs, particularly if more than one drug is taken at a time. Concentrations of drugs and metabolites in saliva and blood also are not directly comparable. It is not always possible for science to provide a perfect answer to a problem within society. Be assured that the companies developing the technology for roadside drug testing are flat out developing a workable unit for use at the roadside by Police Officers – I’ve seen some of the prototype work and I’m sure they’ll get there in the end. In the meantime, the new changes to the New Zealand law should, I hope, be successful.