Detecting alcohol and illicit drugs in oral fluid samples collected from truck drivers in the state of São Paulo, Brazil

Traffic Inj Prev. 2013;14(2):127-31. doi: 10.1080/15389588.2012.696222.


Objective: Alcohol and drug use by truck drivers is a current problem in Brazil. Though there is evidence that alcohol consumption is occurring in higher proportions, the use of stimulant drugs to avoid fatigue and to maintain the work schedule has also been reported. The purpose of this study was to estimate the incidence of alcohol and illicit drug use among truck drivers on São Paulo state roads. São Paulo is the most populous state in Brazil and has the largest industrial park and economic production in the country.

Methods: Data were assessed not only using a questionnaire but also, and more reliably, through toxicological analysis of oral fluid samples. Between the years 2002 and 2008, 1250 oral fluid samples were collected from truck drivers on the roads during morning hours. The samples were tested for the presence of alcohol, cocaine, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and amphetamine/methamphetamine. A previously published, validated gas chromatographic (gas chromatography-flame ionization detection and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry) method was applied to the samples for alcohol and drug detection.

Results: Of the total analyzed samples, 3.1 percent (n = 39) were positive: 1.44 percent (n = 18) were positive for alcohol, 0.64 percent (n = 8) for amphetamines, 0.56 percent (n = 7) for cocaine, and 0.40 percent (n = 5) for THC. In one case, cocaine and THC were detected. The results are indicative of the extent of alcohol and drug use by truck drivers in the state of São Paulo, Brazil.

Conclusions: This research provides evidence that not only alcohol but also illicit drug use is a real problem among professional drivers. The use of these substances should be controlled to better promote safe driving conditions on Brazilian roads.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Automobile Driving / statistics & numerical data*
  • Brazil / epidemiology
  • Ethanol / analysis*
  • Humans
  • Illicit Drugs / analysis*
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Motor Vehicles*
  • Saliva / chemistry*
  • Substance Abuse Detection / methods*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Illicit Drugs
  • Ethanol