7 questions on drug testing

Why saliva and not other fluid in the drug tests? Do you have an obligation to submit to them? What happens if you refuse? How are the new drug tests? The DGT plans to multiply the number of drug tests this year including ehrlich reagent. To keep you informed, we answer your questions.

About 9 percent of drivers drive with illegal drugs. For this reason, the DGT is carrying out intensive drug controls, it wants to generalise them, like those for alcohol, for which it has a large financial allocation from the General State Budget. We clear up your doubts.

1. WHY SALIVA IN DRUG CONTROLS?

The objective of the controls is to see recent consumption, the one that most influences driving, which is detected in both saliva and blood. The more recent the consumption, the more you find in the saliva. This fluid is chosen because it is less invasive than a blood test. As the hours pass, the drug is detected in the urine or sweat, several days. The presence in nails and hair would be useful to detect chronic drug use, a more long-term use. 

2. HOW IS THE PROCEDURE OF A CONTROL AFTER AN ACCIDENT?

After an accident we may be required to perform a drug test (as well as an alcohol test). First, they will take a saliva sample and if it is positive for any type of illegal substance, they will take another contrast sample. This sample is sent to the toxicology laboratory with chain of custody to maintain the legal guarantees, that is to say that during the transport it does not suffer any manipulation. It will be the definitive test and the one that will be worth at the time of imposing the sanction. 

3. CAN YOU ASK FOR A BLOOD TEST?

Although it is not obligatory, after an accident you can ask for a blood test as a contrast test. If it is positive, you pay for it. If your blood has been drawn several hours after the accident and no drugs are found in it, the saliva test taken on site is in principle the one that counts.

We confirmed that they are currently working on developing an instruction to limit the time limit after the accident in which the extraction can be carried out, SeguĂ­ speaks of about four hours. In any case, a blood test always shows traces, metabolites, which indicate that drugs have been consumed. In principle, these are legally valid before a judge. 

4. WHEN ARE WE OBLIGED TO SUBMIT TO A DRUG TEST?

In the case of drivers, whenever we are requested by a traffic officer to do so, whether or not we have committed an offence or suffered an accident. 

5. WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU REFUSE WHEN ASKED BY AN OFFICER?

Refusal to submit to drug or alcohol testing is considered a crime and is punishable by imprisonment from six months to one year and deprivation of the right to drive from one to four years. 

6. CRIME OR ADMINISTRATIVE INFRACTION, ON WHAT DOES IT DEPEND?

The Road Safety Act punishes the presence of drugs in the driver’s body. If this presence does not influence driving, it is an administrative offence, 1,000 euros and 6 points on the licence. If, on the contrary, we drive under the influence of toxic drugs it is considered a crime and is punished with imprisonment from three to six months or a fine of six to twelve months or community service from 30 to 90 days and deprivation of the right to drive from one to four years. 

7. AS A PEDESTRIAN ARE YOU OBLIGED TO SUBMIT TO A CONTROL?

If as a pedestrian you are involved in an accident or commit an offence you are obliged to submit to alcohol and/or drug tests. Of the 161 pedestrians killed by the National Institute of Toxicology in 2013, 44.10 percent tested positive for drugs and/or psychotropic drugs and/or alcohol.