, Volume 180, Issue 1, pp 107-114
Date: 24 Dec 2004

An evaluation of the sensitivity of the Standardised Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs) to detect impairment due to marijuana intoxication

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Abstract

The Standardised Field Sobriety Tests (SFST) were developed to test for alcohol intoxication but are currently being used by the State Police of Victoria (Australia) to test for driving impairment associated with drugs other than alcohol. The aim of the present study was to assess whether the SFSTs provide a sensitive measure of impairment following the consumption of a drug other than alcohol: delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC or cannabis). In a repeated-measures design, 40 participants consumed cigarettes that contained either 0% THC (placebo), 1.74% THC (low dose) or 2.93% THC (high dose). For each condition, after smoking a cigarette, participants performed the SFSTs on three occasions: 5 min (Time 1), 55 min (Time 2) and 105 min (Time 3) after the smoking procedure had been completed. The results revealed that there was a positive relationship between the dose of THC administered and the number of participants classified as impaired based on the SFSTs. Results also revealed that the percentage of participants classified as impaired decreased from Time 1 to Time 3 and that the addition of a new sign, head movements or jerks (HMJ), increased the percentage of participants classified as impaired in both the low and high THC conditions. These findings suggest that impaired performance on the SFSTs is positively related to the dose of THC administered and that the inclusion of HMJ as a scored sign in the SFSTs improves their predictive validity when testing for THC intoxication.