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Drug Driving – The Use of the Roadside Saliva Test- FAQs

What is the saliva test for drug use?

It is a straight forward technique used for the detection of THC (cannabis), MDMA (ecstasy) and methylamphetamine (speed) in drivers. A saliva test strip is placed on the driver’s tongue and any driver who tests positive is required to give a further oral fluid sample. If this shows up positive then additional analysis will be performed in a laboratory.

Why are samples of saliva used?

They have been found to be a reliable screening method for drug detection.

How long does it take to perform a saliva test at the roadside?

It only takes five minutes, unless drugs are found. Further testing will then be necessary, adding up to a total of about 30 minutes.

Who has to submit to a random saliva test on the roadside?

The law states that any person who is driving or trying to drive a motor vehicle or is being carried as a passenger qualified for the purpose of supervising someone who is learning to drive, as described in the Motor Vehicle’s Act 1959, may be asked to take part in a saliva test at a random roadside stop.

Where does a saliva test that is taken at random take place?

As with the testing for alcohol presence in South Australia, a person can be stopped at anytime and anywhere and asked to undertake a saliva test for the 3 designated drugs.

Who is given the authority to supervise saliva tests taken at the roadside?

Police officers who have taken part in specific training for the procedures and use of saliva testing equipment can only undertake these types of saliva tests.

Which drugs can be detected by saliva tests conducted on the roadside?

Random roadside saliva tests are able to determine if MDMA, which is also commonly referred to as ecstasy, methylamphetamine, known by the name speed and THC, the active ingredient in cannabis are present in drivers. These drugs, in particular, are most often found in drivers and motorcyclists who have died in road accidents.

What effects does THC have?

THC affects mental co ordination which lowers attention and concentration when driving. This increases the chance of crashing even when the driver doesn’t appear to be outwardly impaired. When combined with alcohol severe impairment takes place, which can be dangerous when out driving.

What affect do MDMA and methylamphetamine have on drivers?

These two drugs decrease coordination and also affect a driver’s ability to judge speed and distance. It has also been shown that a driver thinks that he or she is more confident and is likely to take more risks while driving.

Once these three illegal drugs have been consumed how long after can they still be detected?

The detection devices can detect THC for a number of hours following cannabis use. This is dependent on how potent the cannabis is and how much has been consumed. It is unlikely to be detected after a day or more since consumption took place. The individual’s metabolism will be a determinant, too. Methylamphetamine and MDMA can be detected for up to 24 hours following use depending on the dosage and if any other drugs have been taken at the same time.

Can THC be detected in the saliva samples of passive smokers?

No, as anything that may have been inhaled through passive smoker are such small doses that they are undetectable.

Can THC, MDMA or methylamphetamine be concealed by the presence of other substances?

Testing the saliva drug can reveal the presence of THC, methylamphetamine or MDMA, even if other substances are present.

Can saliva tests taken at the roadside detect the presence of other illegal drugs?

No, saliva testing at the roadside is only used to reveal the presence of THC, methylamphetamine and MDMA.

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