Research Papers

Assessment of Oral Fluid Drug Screening Devices

Version 1
Date added June 30, 2016
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Category 2016 CARSP XXVI Halifax
Tags Research and Evaluation, Session 5B
Author/Auteur Doug Beirness
Stream/Volet Research and Evaluation

Slidedeck Presentation Only (no paper submitted)

5B - Beirness OF

Abstract

Background/Context: In July 2008, revisions to the Criminal Code of Canada were implemented that provided police with the tools and powers to enhance the enforcement of drug-impaired driving. More recently, there have been calls for an easy-to-use drug screening device that could be employed at roadside in a manner similar to an approved screening device for alcohol. Oral fluid (saliva) provides a potentially viable medium for drug detection.

Aims/Objectives: The specific aims of this project were to:

  • Determine the ability of the selected oral fluid test devices to accurately detect specific drugs of interest – i.e., cannabis, cocaine, amphetamines, opiates, methamphetamine, and benzodiazepines;
  • Determine the ability of the selected devices to detect the drugs of interest at levels consistent with those known or reasonably believed to be associated with driving impairment; and,
  • Determine the accuracy of the selected devices in detecting drugs among human volunteers.

Methods/Target Group: We worked with the Drug Evaluation and Classification (DEC) Program and collected oral fluid sample from a population of "drug consuming" volunteers who participated in the DEC certification sessions. Three oral fluid screening devices were selected for this project: Alere DDS 2, Drager DrugTest 5000, and the Securetec DrugWipe 6S. Volunteers provided a sample on at least one of the oral fluid screening devices and a second sample was collected that was sent to a laboratory for confirmation.

Results/Activities: A total of 646 paired samples were collected. The results from the oral fluid screen were compared with the results from the laboratory. Standard psychometric measures such as sensitivity, specificity and overall accuracy were calculated. Overall, the screening devices performed well with a high degree of sensitivity (0.874) and specificity (0.932) with correspondingly low error rates (miss rate = 0.126 and false alarm rate= 0.068). The best results were found for cannabis, cocaine, methamphetamine and opioids. The results for amphetamine and benzodiazepines were less promising.

Discussion/Deliverables: The approach taken in this study was to collect oral fluid samples from persons who were known or suspected to have ingested drugs in the previous few hours. This ensured a high degree of efficiency in data collection while at the same time provided a considerable degree of environmental validity.

Overall, the oral fluid screening devices used in this study performed very well. With the exception of tests for amphetamine and benzodiazepines, measures of sensitivity and specificity were acceptable, indicating that the devices were able to correctly detect the presence of drugs when the drug was present and to correctly indicate the absence of a drug when no drug was present.

Conclusions: The performance of the oral fluid devices used in this project demonstrated that it is reasonable to consider the use of such devices in the field as a means to enhance the detection of drug-impaired drivers. The next step in this process is the development of standards which devices will have to meet prior to being used in an enforcement context. It will also be necessary to develop policies and procedures to go along with legislation that allows for the use of these devices in Canada.

Doug Beirness