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Predicting categories of drugs used by suspected drug-impaired drivers using the Drug Evaluation and Classification Program tests

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journal contribution
posted on 26.11.2019 by Amy J. Porath, Douglas J. Beirness

Objective: The purpose of this study was to statistically determine which combination(s) of drug-related signs and symptoms from the Drug Evaluation and Classification (DEC) protocol best predict the drug category used by the suspected drug-impaired driver.

Methods: Data from 1,512 completed DEC evaluations of suspected impaired drivers subsequently found to have ingested central nervous system (CNS) depressants, CNS stimulants, narcotic analgesics, and cannabis were analyzed using a multinomial logistic regression procedure. A set of evaluations completed on drug-free subjects was also included. The relative importance of clinical, behavioral, and observational measures in predicting drug categories responsible for impairment was also examined.

Results: Thirteen drug-related indicators were found to significantly contribute to the prediction of drug category, including being under the care of a doctor or dentist, condition of the eyes, condition of the eyelids, mean pulse rate, assessment of horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN), convergence, performance on the One Leg Stand (OLS) Test, eyelid tremors, pupil size in darkness, reaction to light, presence of visible injection sites, systolic blood pressure, and muscle tone. Indicators related to the appearance and physiological response of the eye contributed the most to the prediction of drug category, followed closely by clinical indicators and performance on the psychophysical tests.

Conclusions: The findings from this study suggest that drug recognition experts (DREs) should be careful to review a set of key signs and symptoms when determining the category of drug used by suspected drug-impaired drivers. Drug use indicators related to the appearance and physiological response of the eye were found to contribute the most to the prediction of the drug category responsible for the impairment. These results could help form the basis of a core set of indicators that DREs could initially consult to form their opinion of drug influence. This in turn may enhance the validity, effectiveness, and efficiency of drug detection and identification by DREs and lead to a more effective and efficient DEC program, improved enforcement of drug-impaired driving, and greater acceptance of the DEC program by the courts.

Funding

This research was funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The opinions, findings, and conclusions expressed in this publication are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the Department of Transportation or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The United States Government assumes no liability for its contents or use thereof.

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