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Blood alcohol analysis alone versus comprehensive toxicological analysis – Systematic investigation of missed co-ingested other drugs in suspected alcohol-impaired drivers


Steuer, Andrea E; Eisenbeiss, Lisa; Kraemer, Thomas (2016). Blood alcohol analysis alone versus comprehensive toxicological analysis – Systematic investigation of missed co-ingested other drugs in suspected alcohol-impaired drivers. Forensic Science International, 267:52-59.

Abstract

Driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs (DUID) is a safety issue of increasing public concern. When a police officer has reasonable grounds to classify a driver as impaired, he may arrange for a blood sample to be taken. In many countries, alcohol analysis only is ordered if impairment is suspected to be exclusively due to alcohol while comprehensive toxicological screening will be performed if additional suspicion for other illegal drugs of abuse (DoA) or medicinal drugs is on hand. The aim of the present study was firstly to evaluate whether signs of impairment can be differentiated to be caused by alcohol alone or a combination of alcohol and other driving-impairing drugs and secondly to which extent additional drugs are missed in suspected alcohol-impaired drivers. A total of 293 DUID cases (negative n = 41; alcohol positive only, n = 131; alcohol + active drug positive, n = 121) analyzed in 2015 in the Canton of Zurich were evaluated for their documented impairment symptoms by translating these into a severity score and comparing them applying principle component analysis (PCA). Additional 500 cases suspected for alcohol-impaired driving only were reanalyzed using comprehensive LC-MS/MS screening methods covering about 1500 compounds. Drugs detected were classified for severity of driving impairment using the classification system established in the DRUID study of the European Commission. As partly expected from the pharmacological and toxicological point of view, PCA analysis revealed no differences between signs of impairment caused by alcohol alone and those caused by alcohol plus at least one active drug. Breaking it down to different blood alcohol concentration ranges, only between 0.3 and 0.5 g/kg trends could be observed in terms of more severe impairment for combined alcohol and drug intake. In the 500 blood samples retrospectively analyzed in this study, a total of 330 additional drugs could be detected; in some cases up to 9 co-ingested ones. In total, 37% of all cases were positive for additional drugs, thereby 15% of classic DoAs and further 9% of prescription drugs with a severe risk to cause driving impairment based on the DRUID classification system. A decision whether signs of impairment are related to alcohol alone or to the combination of alcohol and other drugs is impossible. Taking into consideration the high rate of missed drugs in DUI cases, police should think about increasing the number of DUID cases in countries were sanctioning differs between alcohol and alcohol plus drug impaired driving.

Abstract

Driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs (DUID) is a safety issue of increasing public concern. When a police officer has reasonable grounds to classify a driver as impaired, he may arrange for a blood sample to be taken. In many countries, alcohol analysis only is ordered if impairment is suspected to be exclusively due to alcohol while comprehensive toxicological screening will be performed if additional suspicion for other illegal drugs of abuse (DoA) or medicinal drugs is on hand. The aim of the present study was firstly to evaluate whether signs of impairment can be differentiated to be caused by alcohol alone or a combination of alcohol and other driving-impairing drugs and secondly to which extent additional drugs are missed in suspected alcohol-impaired drivers. A total of 293 DUID cases (negative n = 41; alcohol positive only, n = 131; alcohol + active drug positive, n = 121) analyzed in 2015 in the Canton of Zurich were evaluated for their documented impairment symptoms by translating these into a severity score and comparing them applying principle component analysis (PCA). Additional 500 cases suspected for alcohol-impaired driving only were reanalyzed using comprehensive LC-MS/MS screening methods covering about 1500 compounds. Drugs detected were classified for severity of driving impairment using the classification system established in the DRUID study of the European Commission. As partly expected from the pharmacological and toxicological point of view, PCA analysis revealed no differences between signs of impairment caused by alcohol alone and those caused by alcohol plus at least one active drug. Breaking it down to different blood alcohol concentration ranges, only between 0.3 and 0.5 g/kg trends could be observed in terms of more severe impairment for combined alcohol and drug intake. In the 500 blood samples retrospectively analyzed in this study, a total of 330 additional drugs could be detected; in some cases up to 9 co-ingested ones. In total, 37% of all cases were positive for additional drugs, thereby 15% of classic DoAs and further 9% of prescription drugs with a severe risk to cause driving impairment based on the DRUID classification system. A decision whether signs of impairment are related to alcohol alone or to the combination of alcohol and other drugs is impossible. Taking into consideration the high rate of missed drugs in DUI cases, police should think about increasing the number of DUID cases in countries were sanctioning differs between alcohol and alcohol plus drug impaired driving.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Institute of Legal Medicine
Dewey Decimal Classification:340 Law
610 Medicine & health
Language:English
Date:2016
Deposited On:27 Sep 2016 12:20
Last Modified:27 Sep 2016 12:20
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:0379-0738
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.forsciint.2016.08.009

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