Friday, November 21, 2008

Drug driving tests would punish people unfairly

If, as is being reported it is true that the Government plans to introduce roadside drug testing with saliva and the police will merely have to prove that you have taken drugs at some point to fine you then it is wholly, and completely the wrong approach to dealing with potheads and pillheads that stupidly get in their cars.

The reason is because if someone were to have a joint tonight then the saliva test would remain postive in days to come up to almost a week and potentially more. Clearly though they are not under the influence of the drug anymore. As such there has to be additional tests that can be done, just like with booze.

Currently, for booze, it makes sense to have a hangover time for being under its influence. If I get steaming drunk tonight and then get up at 6am tomorrow morning I may feel fine but the effects will still be there in my system impaairing me. However, if I got stoned and then didn't drive again until next Wednesday they would not be, that is a fact.

Illegal substances mainatin a presence in the body for a long period of time but do not influence the user for the time they mainatin their presence. That is a simple fact. Tetra Hydra Cannabinol can remain present in the system for up to a month after it's taken, but the idea that person is stoned under its influence for that time is nuts.

The obvious solution I would say is to have the ability for someone failing a saliva test to have a blood test and urine test as well that can determine the level of a given drugf and make an assessment according. Simply having the black and white of "is present/is not present" at the roadside will end up punishing people when they have not been dangerously driving.

Please note before anyone says that people should be breaking the law and taking illegal drugs anyway. Taking controlled substance is not illegal, it is the possession of them outside the person (in a pocket etc) that is. The presence of drugs in someones system does not mean that they must have been guilty of possession as well (they could have been spiked).


Blue Eyes said...

Actually, cannabis does have "residual" effects. Studies have shown that users' reactions remain slower than normal for days and weeks after taking it. Regular users are often slow-witted the whole time. The bar should be set at a level where it can be shown to be having an effect on the concentration and reactions of the driver, just as it is with alcohol.

unseen said...

Yes, they could have been spiked. Or, in the case of cannibis, they could have been passive smokers.

I think that drug driving is already illegal. I understand the new proposals are to set legal driving limits for drugs.

Last time this came up, the media called it decriminalisation. This time, by tying it up with the speeding stuff, it's slipped in.

dizzy said...

which studies.

Blue Eyes said...

Admittedly I can't be bothered to look them up, but I am certain that I have read reports of studies to back up my assertions.

I think many "pro drugs" people completely underestimate the effect that cannabis has on intellect, alertness and mental health. I suspect that this is because it is difficult for cannabis users to objectively see the effects in the same way that drinkers often do not realise how drunk they are.

unseen said...

I agree. Anecdotally, cannabis affects me for about 3-4 days after use. I am more sluggish, an in particular find it harder to get up in the mornings.

dizzy said...

Blue Eyes, have you ever taken drugs?

dizzy said...

Incidnetally, pot does not have an impadct on your for a month after taking it, that's bollocks.

John Pickworth said...

Difficult one this isn't it?

As an armchair scientist - like a bar room scientist but slightly more qualified - it seems perfectly valid to assume that some drugs stay in the system long after they've been taken. However, drugs are composed of multiple compounds and while a test might reveal evidence the drug was/had been present, the test might not necessarily reveal the actual presence of those compounds that affect/impair your driving ability. I understand a great many drug tests actually look for a 'marker' or the presence of an associated compound. And that's not the same thing.

Whatever the Government proposes, it would sensible that we check they are going to test for the right thing, not just the presence of the drug in itself.

And... there's always an and... what about all those legal drugs? You know, the OTC cold remedies that have warnings about not driving or operating machinery etc? Are the police intending to check for those too? Will they also be checking for the presence of prescribed tranqualisers and sedatives?

What strikes me about this is its just so typically New Labour. There is already a perfectly usuable law on the books of "Driving whilst unfit through drink or drugs". Wouldn't it make sense that the police use this law before adding another great lump of roadside complications to annoy the innocent drivers?

Gareth said...

A bit off topic but...

I don't agree with the idea of random checks for drink and drug driving. That removes the need for Police to have a good reason to stop you. Just as with rolling 28-day terror stop and search authorisations it has the capacity to be abused.

The article states that the consultation implies people could be convicted of a new offence. There are surely already enough laws to prosecute drugged drivers.

I wonder if the saliva samples will be used to populate the DNA database.

Blue Eyes said...

Dizzy are you seriously saying that cannabis does not affect anybody for more than a few hours? Have you never met any regular users? Have you never seen anyone become psychotic by it? I have. Anyone who thinks it is just a nice harmless thing which goes away by 9am the next day is in denial, I'm afraid.

Of course it is entirely up to people whether they make themselves stupid. But to say that cannabis does not affect one's ability to drive safely is ridiculous. As I said, the test level should be set at a scientifically justifiable level where it is known that such a level is detrimental to one's driving skill - as with alcohol and mobile phone use.

dizzy said...

You;re talking to someone who used to smoke every day from bongs first thing in the morning to last thing at night for the better part of 10 years.

What you are referring to is exceptions, not norms. Sorry.

dizzy said...

"ut to say that cannabis does not affect one's ability to drive safely is ridiculous."

I didn;t. I said to say that a spliff on Saturday will mean you are unable to drive the followign Saturday is absolute bollocks and the propsoals currently are about presence only, and unfiortunately pot stays in the system much longer than that.

Oh yes, and before you ask what other drugs I have taken better I say what I havn't done. I have never done Crystal meth.

Blue Eyes said...

Not quite sure why you are taking it so personally! I think your point that different people react differently is important. I don't think I was suggesting otherwise. I wasn't suggesting that cannabis users can't function, I was saying that it reduces alertness. Isn't that the point?

Jabba the Cat said...

@ Blue Eyes 10:22:00

"I think many "pro drugs" people completely underestimate the effect that cannabis has on intellect, alertness and mental health. I suspect that this is because it is difficult for cannabis users to objectively see the effects in the same way that drinkers often do not realise how drunk they are."

You obviously speak from deep personal experience, not. This is what happens when you read too much Peter Hitchens drug science fiction.

I can assure you that whilst being stoned(spliff) you are 150% objective about your state of mind and the fact you are under the influence in a way that is completely absent from alcoholic intoxication. ;-))

Dave said...

Dizzy you're sounding paranoid!
Stay off the skunk! It makes you paranoid man!

And yes I do know what I'm talking about. We look after a friend who was a habitual skunk smoker and he lost his job, his wife everything through his mental state

dizzy said...

If someone has a pre-disposition towards mental psychosis then pot is not good for them. Much like if someone has a predisposition to mental psychosis alcohol is not a good for them. We don;t ban the other and we certainly don';t say that because we can prove you have had a drink you are a danger on the road.

Arkangel said...

Hey Dizzy, did you write this when you are stoned or pissed?
Not up to your usual standard I'm afraid. 2/10.

dizzy said...

Is that you're way of saying that I am unsound? Bottom line, smoking a spliff on Saturday should not then bar you from driving for the next 30 days.

All the other crap about how drugs are terribly dangerous are basically social conservatives who don't believe in individual freedom.

Blue Eyes said...

A carefully constructed straw man to dismiss my (badly argued) point. My point was: there probably is a level at which cannabis left in your blood could affect driving ability. The half-life of cannabis in the system is much longer than that of alchohol. There should be a scientifically justified limit set for testing as there is with alcohol.

I am not a social conservative in that way, but I agree that I went off topic.

dizzy said...

which one was the straw man as I may not have actually been responding to the point you think I was.

DiscoveredJoys said...

First question: Is 'driving whilst drugged' a real problem? If it has a minimal effect on the numbers of road deaths and injuries, then I can't see the justification for the cost of testing and further irritation to drivers.

Second Question: A quick check on the internet shows that a number of prescribed medicines, over the counter medecines, poppy seeds, certain diseases such as liver disease, kidney disease and diabetes can all generate false positive results. A common figure quoted is around 5% false positives, depending on the conditions and sensitivity of the test. Curiously, dark skinned people show a greater proportion of false positives due to their bodies' metabolism of melanin. Would you be happy if 1 in 20 people could be found guilty based on faulty results?

Third Question: Even more sophisticated testing (e.g. blood tests) can produce false positives. If you need to drive to earn your living, would you be prepared to give up taking ibuprofen, codeine, certain antibiotics, tonic water, poppy seeds, anti depressants, some cold remedies, vitamin B2, some nasal sprays?

Sounds to me like yet another way to criminalise people for no appreciable benefit to society generally.

Anonymous said...

Blue eyes to me you appear a sad case of someone completely swallowed up by Daily Mail propaganda. Why the total demonising of cannabis users? I smoked every night for two months and drove the next day; I drove a damn site better than I would have had I drank the night before.

The Lancet reported last year a new study listing drugs by potential harm. The findings were as follows:

1. Heroin
2. Cocaine
3. Barbiturates
4. Street methadone
5. Alcohol
6. Ketamine
7. Benzodiazepines
8. Amphetamine
9. Tobacco
10. Buprenorphine
11. Cannabis
12. Solvents
13. 4-MTA
14. LSD
15. Methylphenidate
16. Anabolic steroids
17. GHB
18. Ecstasy
19. Alkyl nitrates
20. Khat.

Don't get me wrong, I fully support a system which would be similar to the breathalyser, which could prove that your driving was impaired. But punishing someone for a joint smoked up to 14 days ago while letting the weekend binge drinking yobs away scot free is a total farce.

prisonguru said...

THC found in the urine samples of prisoners is regarded as proof of illegal drug use. Why isnt this the case for the rest of the population? The rule of law is no rule if it applies selectively.