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New study suggests marijuana breathalyzers aren’t the answer for measuring impairment

Jan 11, 2022 | Media Partners, The GrowthOp

This post is presented by our media partner The Growth Op
View the original article here.

Researchers found that the connection between driving performance and concentrations of THC in blood and saliva was inconsistent.

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Marijuana breathalyzers have been in development for years. The hope is that these tools will help to solve a major issue associated with legalizing cannabis: accurately measuring THC impairment in drivers.

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But a new study out of Australia suggests that current breathalyzers are nowhere near to achieving that goal.

Conducted by researchers at the University of Sydney, the study found that marijuana breathalyzers were inconsistent in measuring impairment from THC.


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Researchers analyzed 28 studies on driving performance and concentrations of THC in blood and saliva. What they found was that the connection between the two factors was inconsistent.

The idea of cannabis breathalyzers is based on alcohol breathalyzers, which are administered on the road and provide an accurate measure of people’s blood alcohol levels. This has been efficient over the years in providing a relatively accurate guide on a person’s level of intoxication and how that may affect driving skills. This, however, doesn’t appear to be the case with THC.

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The new study analyzed a variety of older studies that focused on how THC affected people’s reaction time and divided attention, skills that are necessary for driving safely. While the study found some strong connections between THC levels and impairment in inexperienced cannabis users, once cannabis users were seasoned (using the drug several times a week), these connections disappeared.

“Higher blood THC concentrations were only weakly associated with increased impairment in occasional cannabis users, while no significant relationship was detected in regular cannabis users,” said the study’s lead author, Danielle McCartney. “This suggests that blood and oral fluid THC concentrations are relatively poor indicators of cannabis-THC-induced impairment,” McCartney noted.

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While THC intoxication can impair people’s driving skills, it presents itself very differently depending on the person consuming the compound. Someone who’s experienced with cannabis might show the same levels of THC in their blood as someone who’s inexperienced with it. The thought is that these two people will likely have completely different responses to the drug and how impaired they are.

While the initial thinking was that marijuana breathalyzers could be the go-to response for solving driving while under the influence of THC, it now appears that these devices should measure a different biomarker for success. This should reflect not only that someone consumed THC recently, but that he or she is impaired by it.

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