Driving under the influence of cocaine and MDMA: Relationship between blood concentrations and results from clinical test of impairment

J Anal Toxicol. 2024 Mar 29:bkae024. doi: 10.1093/jat/bkae024. Online ahead of print.


The general use of cocaine is increasing in recent years, while the trend for 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) is less clear. The relationship between blood concentrations and impairment is poorly understood, which complicates interpretation. The aims of this study were to report prevalence and blood concentrations of cocaine and MDMA in drugged drivers, and to investigate the relationship between blood concentrations and impairment. Samples of whole blood were collected from apprehended drivers in the period 2000-2022, and a clinical test of impairment (CTI) was simultaneously performed. The samples were initially analyzed for cocaine and MDMA using gas chromatography mass spectrometry (until 2009 and 2012, respectively), and later using ultra-high-performance liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry. Overall, cocaine was detected in 2,331 cases and MDMA in 2,569 cases. There were 377 and 85 mono cases of cocaine and MDMA, respectively. In the mono cases, the median cocaine concentration was 0.09 mg/L (range: 0.02-1.15 mg/L), and 54% of the drivers were clinically impaired. The median MDMA concentration was 0.19 mg/L (range: 0.04-1.36 mg/L), and 38% were clinically impaired. There was a statistically significant difference in the median cocaine concentration between drivers assessed as not impaired (0.07 mg/L) and drivers assessed as impaired (0.10 mg/L) (P = 0.009). There was also a significant effect of the blood concentration of cocaine (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] = 6.42, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.13-36.53, P = 0.036) and driving during the evening/night-time (aOR = 2.17, 95% CI = 1.34-3.51, P = 0.002) on the probability of being assessed as impaired on the CTI. No significant differences were found for MDMA. Many drivers are not assessed as impaired on a CTI following cocaine or especially MDMA use. For cocaine, a relationship between blood concentrations and impairment was demonstrated, but this could not be shown for MDMA.