Correlation between Blood and Oral Fluid Psychoactive Drug Concentrations and Cognitive Impairment in Driving under the Influence of Drugs

Curr Neuropharmacol. 2018;16(1):84-96. doi: 10.2174/1570159X15666170828162057.


Background: The effects of drugs on driving performance should be checked with drug concentration in the brain and at the same time with the evaluation of both the behavioural and neurophysiological effects. The best accessible indicator of this information is the concentration of the drug and/or metabolites in blood and, to a certain extent, oral fluid. We sought to review international studies on correlation between blood and oral fluid drug concentrations, neurological correlates and cognitive impairment in driving under the influence of drugs.

Methods: Relevant scientific articles were identified from PubMed, Cochrane Central, Scopus, Web of Science, Science Direct, EMBASE up to April 2017.

Results: Up to 2010, no epidemiological studies were available on this matter and International scientists suggested that even minimal amounts of parent drugs in blood and oral fluid could affect driving impairment. More recently, epidemiological data, systematic reviews and meta-analysis on drugged drivers allowed the suggestion of impairment concentration limits for the most common illicit drugs. These values were obtained comparing driving disability induced by psychotropic drugs with that of established blood alcohol limits. Differently from ethyl alcohol where both detection methods and concentration limits have been well established even with inhomogeneity of ranges within different countries, in case of drugs of abuse no official cut-offs have yet been established, nor any standardized analytical protocols.

Conclusion: Multiple aspects of driving performance can be differently affected by illicit drugs, and even if for few of them some dose/concentration dependent impairment has been reported, a wider knowledge on concentration/impairment relationship is still missing.

Keywords: Cognitive impairment; blood; cut-off; driving under the influence of drugs (DUID); oral fluid.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cognitive Dysfunction / metabolism*
  • Databases, Bibliographic / statistics & numerical data
  • Driving Under the Influence*
  • Humans
  • Psychotropic Drugs / metabolism*
  • Saliva / chemistry*


  • Psychotropic Drugs