Saliva tests could be used to gauge cannabis impairment in the field

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Texas researchers have reportedly figured out how to test for THC in saliva

Drinking alcohol has been a legally-regulated activity since the beginning of modern civilization; therefore, it is known for its dangerous effects when combined with other activities. Police officers often conduct tests, like breathalyzers, when there is suspicion of intoxications, which can lead to expensive penalties. For cannabis, the scenario is different as there are no such tests to measure cannabis intoxication that could impair driving. A group of scientists announced to be one step closer to having a convenient saliva test to help the officers that work on the road.

This new device comes as a result of an investigation in which results were presented through the American Chemical Society’s (ACS) SciMeetings online platform. “People have the perception that driving after smoking marijuana is safer than driving drunk, but both substances can have similar effects, such as slowed reaction time, diminished alertness and reduced self-awareness,” says Shalini Prasad, Ph.D., who led the study.

Even after this affirmation, there hasn’t been a well-characterized blood level of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) that constitutes impairment. “This is an emerging field, but preliminary clinical reports suggest that anywhere above 1 to 15 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood are considered a level of impairment,” Prasad says.

Since more states are adding cannabis legislation, there has been a rising concern about how to make sure the roads are safe from people driving while they are high. The biggest challenge has been to develop a device that can actually sense the levels of cannabis – THC levels in breath are lower – therefore creating a device that tests saliva is better as it correlates with blood much closer.