Using saliva samples from drivers and even some passengers at roadside stops, the devices provide results within a few minutes.

The results are in for a recently completed drug screening pilot project in Canada, and based on the positive findings, Canadian police seem ready to add to their arsenal of tools that can catch drivers who are under the influence of narcotics.

The project, which was led by Public Safety Canada, ran from December 18, 2016 to March 6, 2017, and involved 53 police officers from Vancouver, Halifax, Toronto, Gatineau, the Ontario Provincial Police, North Battleford RCMP, and Yellowknife RCMP. They used two oral fluid devices - the Securetec DrugRead and Alere DDS-2.

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Using saliva samples from drivers and even some passengers at roadside stops, the devices provide results within a few minutes. They can detect multiple types of drugs, including cannabis, cocaine, opioids, methamphetamines, among others.

A total of 1,140 samples were taken from volunteers at random stops and roadblocks (such as the RIDE program) over the course of the nearly three month project, and according to Public Safety Canada, "feedback from officers involved in the pilot project was largely positive."

Because Canada's temperatures are typically all over the map, the devices were tested in numerous situations, including in temperatures that ranged from -50 C to 26 C, and at all times of day and night. According to a survey completed by officers involved in the project, some issues with the devices were related to temperature. The range for the devices is between 5 C and 40 C for the Securetec DrugRead, and -20°C and 45°C for the Alere DDS-2. The study states that "further research on the reliability of devices used outside of standard operating temperatures is merited."

Overall though, the study concluded that officers reported being comfortable and confident with the devices, and noted their ease of use. In 91 percent of samples taken, officers described the devices as being either "Very Easy" or "Easy" to use. Public Safety Canada believes the additional screening method will help improve upon the current ways of identifying drivers on drugs, which includes Drug Recognition Experts (DRE) and Standard Field Sobriety Testing.

In total, approximately 15 percent of people who were tested registered a positive drug reading. Cannabis (61 percent) was the most common drug found, followed by methamphetamines and amphetamines (23 percent each), cocaine (14 percent), and opiates (nine percent). In addition, of the 148 positive tests, 38 were positive for more than one drug. The most common combination? Methamphetamines and amphetamines, which was found together in 15 samples.

This should serve as fair warning to anyone stupid enough to take drugs and then get behind the wheel: it's only a matter of time before Canadian police have even more tools to catch you.

Photo: Béatrix Cardoso Guigue on Flickr

Source: Public Safety Canada

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