New devices approved for drug driving testing by Nick Boley
May 27, 2015, 16:05
Filed under: Drugs, Forensics, UK Government Information | Tags: , ,

The Home Office have approved two further devices for carrying out roadside testing in cases of suspected driving whilst under the influence of illegal drugs.

The two devices are:

  • Draeger DrugTest 5000, previously approved for preliminary drug testing in 2012, and now for mobile preliminary drug testing from March 2015 for cannabis and cocaine
  • Securetec DrugWipe 3S S303G, approved for mobile preliminary drug testing from December 2014 for cannabis and cocaine

These are welcome developments in having validated and reliable testing devices available to police forces for the detection of drug driving. Devices for the detection of other illegal drugs are not yet available and, as we posted previously, no certified reference materials (CRMs) are available as yet to support these devices and their use. This distinguishes them from the roadside testing regime in place for drink driving cases.


5 Legal Highs banned by Nick Boley
April 9, 2015, 08:42
Filed under: Drugs, Forensics, UK Legislation | Tags: ,

The Government have moved to introduce a ban on five further so-called Legal Highs from 10 April 2015. This has been done by means of a Temporary Class Drug Order (TCDO), following recommendations from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD). The ACMD were concerned about the psychoactive nature of the substances.

The 5 drugs which are covered by this ban are:

  • 3,4-Dichloromethylphenidate (3,4-DCMP);
  • Ethylphenidate;
  • Isopropylphenidate (IPP or IPPD);
  • Methylnaphthidate (HDMP-28);
  • Propylphenidate;
  • Any stereoisomeric form of any of these substances and any preparation or other product containing any of these substances.

Forensic laboratories will need robust, validated analytical methods to identify and measure these substances, and will need to extend their scope of ISO/IEC 17025 accreditation to take account of this.

New Class A Drugs listed under Misuse of Drugs Act by Nick Boley
February 24, 2015, 09:11
Filed under: Drugs, Forensics, UK Legislation | Tags: ,

Two new substances have been listed as Class A drugs under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (Amendment) Order 2015 (SI 215) brings under the permanent control of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 a potent opioid known as MT-45 and a synthetic stimulant known as 4,4’-DMAR as Class A drugs under the Act. This legislation is enacted in Northern Ireland by The Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2015 (SR 53).

MT-45 has the systematic IUPAC name of 1-Cyclohexyl-4-(1,2-diphenylethyl)piperazine, and almost all its opioid activity resides in the (S) enantiomer. It is associated with hearing loss and unconsciousness.

MT-45 svg.svg   Structure of MT-45

4,4’-DMAR, or 4,4′-Dimethylaminorex, has the systematic IUPAC name of 4,5-Dihydro-4-methyl-5-(4-methylphenyl)-2-oxazolamine.

44dimethylaminorex structure.png  Structure of 4,4’-DMAR

This so-called “designer drug” is believed to have been responsible for many deaths in the EU over the last few years.

Analytical methods to detect and quantify these two substances must be added to the toolkit of the forensic science laboratories in the UK to properly enforce his new regulation. A reference material of 4,4’-DMAR is available from LGC Standards to help the forensic scientist in this regard. No reference material for MT-45 appears to be available as yet.

New Drug Drive legislation for March 2015 by Nick Boley

New legislation which covers the subject of drug driving come into force in the UK on 2 March 2015. This legislation, published by the Department of Transport, aim to improve road safety by setting limits for the levels of 8 illicit drugs and 8 prescriptions drugs in the bloodstream. These are set so that levels above are associated with impairment to drive. The levels for the illicit drugs are very low, but those for the prescription drugs (clonazepam, diazepam, flunitrazepam, lorazepam, oxazepam, temazepam, methadone and morphine) are much higher to reflect average to above-average prescription use so that those drivers keeping to any prescribed dose would be safely below the legal limits.

There is also a proposal to add amphetamine at a level of 250 µg/L to the new legislation – this level is sufficiently high not to catch legitimate users of amphetamine for medical purposes (e.g. those suffering with ADHD).

The Government Chemist responded to a consultation issued in 2014 by the Department of Transport and the response can be accessed here. One of our major concerns is that for legislation like this to be fully effective, measures need to be in place similar to those for drink-driving such as validated roadside tests and certified reference materials (CRMs) to underpin laboratory measurements for drugs in blood. The measurement uncertainties associated with many of these measurements are significantly higher than those associated with alcohol in blood measurements, and these can, in turn, lead to higher uncertainty in the interpretation of results. This is an issue which does, in our opinion, need to be properly resolved for the legislation to have the effect for which it was designed.

NAO Concern over Forensic Science Oversight by Nick Boley
January 21, 2015, 11:01
Filed under: Forensics, UK Government Information | Tags: ,

The National Audit Office (NAO) have published a report, in the form of a briefing for the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, about the Home Office oversight of forensic science in the UK.

Whilst much of the report’s findings are well outside the scope of this blog, there are some which are not. The NAO is concerned that there is a lack of transparency regarding the level of forensic work undertaken in internal police laboratories, with particular regard to the volume and cost of services provided, and, more worringly, the accreditation status of these laboratories.

All external providers of forensic services to police forces must hold accreditation to ISO/IEC 17025 for the work they carry out. Internal providers are also meant to hold such accreditation, but not all have achieved it yet. The report notes that the Forensic Science Regulator (FSR) has no powers to monitor this and ensure compliance, in contrast to the Regulator’s powers with regard to external providers. This has implications for the quality of work carried out in some laboratories, where it can not be independently demonstrated to be of the quality demanded. This could be detrimental, potentially, for the Criminal Justice System (CJS).

It is always recommended that analytical measurements should be covered by accreditation to ISO/IEC 17025 so that confidence in the results is higher, and systems in place to check the quality of measurements. The cost of implementing and maintaining accreditation is not insignificant, and the report highlights the lack of a level-playing field in this regard. This could undermine forensic science provision and lead to withdrawals or cost-cutting for external providers, which would also impact negatively on the quality of forensic work and therefore on the CJS.


Drug Driving – Guidance to Healthcare Professionals by Nick Boley

Tough new measures to crack down on the menace of drug driving moved a step closer today after the government issued new guidance to healthcare professionals. The new offence of driving with certain controlled drugs, including some prescription drugs, above specified limits is due to come into force on Monday 2nd March 2015 after the government presented the regulations to Parliament today, Thursday 3rd July. The guidance helps doctors and nurses to start explaining the new rules in advance of the launch and reassure patients who take prescription drugs that they will be able to drive safely without fear of being prosecuted.

The new advice, which has been developed with support from the medical profession, advises general practitioners, doctors, nurses and health advisers on the changes to the drug driving offence and what it means for patients.

Police can already prosecute drivers if they are driving whilst impaired by drugs, including medicinal drugs. The new rules will mean it will be an offence to be over the specified limits for each drug whilst driving, as it is with drink driving. The limits for the majority of medicinal drugs are above the normal doses. Unlike the existing ‘impairment’ offence, the new law provides a medical defence for patients who are taking their medicine in accordance with instructions – either from a healthcare professional or printed in the accompanying leaflet – provided, of course, they are not impaired.

The guidance, therefore, also advises patients who take legitimately supplied medicines to keep evidence with them in case they are stopped by police to help speed up any investigation into the medical defence and reduce the inconvenience to the patient. The new regulations will come into force at the same time as new equipment to test drivers for cannabis and cocaine at the roadside is expected to become available to the police. If a driver is tested positive they will be taken to a police station where a further evidential test will be taken, which, if positive will allow police to prosecute a driver for being over the limit.

The new offence will be introduced alongside major changes to drink-drive laws as part of the Deregulation Bill which will remove the right for drivers who fail a roadside breath test to demand a blood or urine sample at the police station. This test can take place several hours later, which means some drivers who were over the limit when tested at the roadside would have time to sober up. The Deregulation Bill is currently progressing through Parliament and is expected to receive Royal Assent at the end of the year.  New mobile evidential breath testing instruments are also expected to be approved early in 2015 allowing police to take evidential breath tests at the roadside, helping to streamline enforcement and support police officers in making sure our roads are kept safe and free from drink and drug drivers.  2nd March is therefore the most suitable date to bring in all the provisions together. The police support this approach.

The Government Chemist contributed to the consultation process which has resulted in these guidelines and regulations being published. We are particularly interested in the implementation of evidential roadside breath testing devices – which require valid certified reference materials (CRMs) to be used to demonstrate their accuracy –  and of roadside tests for cannabis and cocaine. These will also require CRMs to check their validity and must also be subject to testing to ensure that their performance characteristics are fully understood.

Changes to Misuse of Drugs Act by Nick Boley
May 7, 2014, 07:38
Filed under: Drugs, UK Government Information, UK Legislation | Tags: ,

The Government has published the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (Ketamine, etc) (Amendment) Order 2014 (SI 1104/2014) which  brings certain drugs under the control of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 .

Groups of “NBOMe” compounds, some of which were subject to control under a Temporary Class Drugs Order (SI 2013/1294), now come under permanent control as Class A drugs under the Act. In addition, Ketamine is reclassified as a Class B drug, Lisdexamphetamine becomes a Class B drug  and groups of benzofuran compounds, some of which were subject to control under a Temporary Class Drugs Order (SI 2013/1294), are now brought under permanent control as Class B drugs.

Furthermore,  Tramadol (an opioid analgesic), Zaleplon and Zopiclone  (both used to treat insomnia) are brought under control as Class C drugs under the Act.

This widens the scope of forensic laboratories measurements in order to reliably analyse all these controlled substances.