Driving Under the Influence of Central Stimulant Amines: Age and Gender Differences in Concentrations of Amphetamine, Methamphetamine, and Ecstasy in Blood

  • Jones A
  • Holmgren A
  • Kugelberg F
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OBJECTIVE: A zero-tolerance law for driving under the influence of drugs (DUID) was introduced in Sweden in 1999. This change in legislation has led to a 12-fold increase in the number of blood samples sent by the police for toxicological analysis. Here we report the age and gender of offenders, along with the concentrations of amphetamine, methamphetamine, and ecstasy (3,4-methylenedioxymeth-amphetamine) in blood samples analyzed since the institution of the new legislation.

METHOD: A forensic toxicology database (TOXBASE) was used to identify cases of DUID in which central stimulant amines were verified in blood during a 5-year period (2000-2004).

RESULTS: Amphetamine was present in 15,898 of 26,556 cases of DUID (60%) either alone or together with other licit or illicit drugs. In 6,094 cases, amphetamine was the only psychoactive substance in blood at mean (median) and highest concentrations of 1.01 mg/L (0.80 mg/L) and 11.9 mg/L, respectively. The users of amphetamine were mainly men (85% vs 15% women; p < .001), and men tended to be a few years older than the women; the mean (SD) age for men was 37 (9.2) years and for women it was 35 (8.1) years (p < .001). In 644 cases, amphetamine and methamphetamine were present in blood samples at mean (median) concentrations of 0.85 mg/L (0.60 mg/L) and 0.34 mg/L (0.20 mg/L), respectively (p < .001). The mean (median) and highest concentrations of ecstasy in 493 DUID offenders were 0.23 mg/L (0.10 mg/L) and 3.5 mg/L, respectively. The mean age of ecstasy users was 26 (7.2) years, which was about 10 years younger than those using amphetamine (p < .001).

CONCLUSIONS: The high prevalence of amphetamines in blood of apprehended drivers in Sweden verifies widespread use of these stimulants as recreational drugs. The findings from this study suggest that a zero-tolerance DUID law has not deterred offenders, which suggests that more attention should be given to the underlying substance-abuse problem instead of conventional penalties such as monetary fines and/or imprisonment.

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  • Alan Wayne Jones

  • Anita Holmgren

  • Fredrik C. Kugelberg

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