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J Anal Toxicol. 2012 Jun;36(5):353-6. doi: 10.1093/jat/bks037.

The mirage of impairing drug concentration thresholds: a rationale for zero tolerance per se driving under the influence of drugs laws.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of Florida College of Medicine, Gainesville, FL, USA.


Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in the United States. Drivers with measurable quantities of potentially impairing illicit or prescription drugs in their body fluids are multiple times more likely to be involved in motor vehicle crashes than those without such drugs in their bodies. Drug-related impairment, however, cannot be inferred solely on the basis of the presence of drugs in biological fluids. Thus, for more than a quarter century, there has been a search for drug blood concentrations that are the equivalent of the 0.08 g/dL threshold for alcohol-impaired driving in the United States. We suggest that such equivalents are a mirage, and cannot be determined due to variable drug tolerance, lack of consistent relationships between drug blood concentrations and impairment, innumerable drug combinations and multiple other factors. Thus, while the idea of determining impairing drug concentrations is attractive, it is ultimately unattainable, and withholding drugged driving legislation pending the acquisition of such data is tantamount to a plan for inaction with regard to an important and growing public health and safety problem. We propose specific legislation to address alcohol- and drug-impaired driving in the United States.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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