11:29pm Monday 11 December 2017

New legal limits in traffic for drugs other than alcohol

Illustration photoNorway is the first country to define both impairment-based legislative limits and limits for graded sanctions for drugs other than alcohol. The Norwegian Institute of Public Health participated to provide the scientific basis for the new limits.

It is a criminal offence to drive a car or other motorised vehicle (mopeds, motorcycles, tractors, etc.) under the influence of alcohol, illegal drugs and medicines in Norway. Since 1936, there have been statutory limits on driving under the influence of alcohol, where the law “in all cases” assumes that driving skills are impaired. Since 2001, this limit has been 0.2 grams/litre. Punishment (fines, loss of driver’s licence and / or imprisonment) is closely linked to alcohol levels in blood samples from the suspect.

20 substances covered by the new rules

There have not been similar limits for illegal drugs and medicines with an abuse potential (such as sedatives and painkillers). In such cases, the degree of impairment has been assessed by medical experts in each case. This assessment was made based on the concentration of intoxicants in blood samples, results from the standard medical examination, and any other relevant information.

With effect from February 1st 2012, the government introduced fixed concentration limits for 20 substances with an abuse potential. This will result in more equal laws for alcohol and other intoxicants and the judiciary will use significantly fewer resources to pass judgment. It is also an important signal that influence by non-alcohol drugs is not compatible with safe driving.

The table below shows the limits that will apply from February 1st 2012:

Drugs

Impairment
limits (ng/ml in whole blood)

Limits for graded sanctions comparable to 0.05 % (ng/ml in whole blood)

Limits for graded sanctions comparable to 0.12 % (ng/ml in whole blood)

Benzodiazepines and benzo-like

 

 

 

Alprazolam

3

6

15

Clonazepam

1.3

3

8

Diazepam

57

143

342

Fenazepam

1.8

5

10

Flunitrazepam

1.6

3

8

Nitrazepam

17

42

98

Oxazepam

172

430

860

Zolpidem

31

77

184

Zopiclone

12

23

58

Cannabis

 

 

 

THC

1.3

3

9

Central stimulants

 

 

 

Amphetamine

41

 *

 *

Cocaine

24

 *

 *

MDMA

48

 *

 *

Methamphetamine

45

 *

 *

GHB

 

 

 

GHB

10 300

30 900

123 600

Hallucinogens

 

 

 

Ketamine

55

137

329

LSD

1

 *

Opioids

 

 

 

Buprenorphine

0.9

*

*

Methadone

25

*

*

Morphine

9

24

61

* Legal limits cannot be defined because the relationships between blood concentration and accident / driving skills are highly variable, or little documented. For example, pronounced effects may be seen at low concentrations sometime after a large intake of amphetamine / methamphetamine.

Exception for prescribed medicines

The system does not apply to therapeutic use of medicines with an abuse potential prescribed by a doctor. In such cases, the current system of individual evaluation will be used. This is partly because the accident risk is considered to be less for therapeutic use than for sporadic, illegal use because of tolerance development and the beneficial effect of treatment.

No rapid tests yet

There are currently no reliable rapid tests that can be used to indicate the influence of drugs other than alcohol at the roadside. The police will still have to evaluate impairment by means of field sobriety tests. In cases where the police suspect driving under the influence of drugs, a blood sample is sent for analysis by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, and in recent years the number of positive samples has remained well above 90 per cent.

Norwegian Institute of Public Health


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