Driving under the influence of drugs

From the 21st October 2019, Police Scotland has new powers to carry out immediate roadside testing for any driver they suspect of drug driving. Drive Smart – don’t drive under the influence of drugs.

Drug driving is a criminal offence, and police authorities will have the ability to test for the following illegal drugs:

  • cannabis/cannabinol
  • cocaine
  • benzoylexgonine (found in cocaine)
  • heroin/diamorphine
  • ketamine
  • LSD
  • MDMA/ecstasy
  • methylamphetamine (found in crystal meth)

Even drivers that pass the test can still be arrested if police think their driving is impaired.

The test

Police in Scotland will be able to carry out immediate roadside testing using ‘drugalyser’ mouth swabs.

Drivers found to be under the influence of drugs will be arrested and taken to a nearby police station for a confirmatory blood test.



Drive Smart. Drug driving is a criminal offence. It’s just as dangerous as drink driving and you face equally tough penalties – even if it’s your first offence:

  • A minimum 12-month driving ban
  • 3-11 penalty points on your driving licence
  • Up to 6 months in prison
  • An unlimited fine
  • An offence which stays on your licence for 11 years.
  • A criminal record for a lengthy period of time.
  • Potential loss of your vehicle.
  • Causing death by dangerous driving whilst under the influence of drugs will result in a maximum 14-year jail sentence and a minimum driving ban of two years

Reporting drug driving

If you see someone getting into their car to drive after taking drugs, you should take action.

Suggest that they choose an alternative way of getting where they’re going, or if you are in any doubt over their safety to drive, phone the police. Before dialling the police, make sure you have noted:

  • The car registration number
  • A description of the person
  • A description of the vehicle
  • The location

Did you know?

  • Most drugs stay in your system longer than alcohol – traces of some drugs will still show up in blood tests after 4-5 days.
  • Exactly how long a drug remains in your system depends on the type of drug and variables like your age, weight, hydration levels and drug tolerance. Some heavy drug users will always have drugs in their system.
  • Remember that it is an offence to drive with any of the controlled drugs above a specified level in your blood, even if they have been prescribed for you. Prescription AND over-the-counter drugs can affect your ability to drive. There is a medical defence available if you are over the limit for prescription drugs you are taking if you have followed the advice of your healthcare professional. If you’re taking medicine and not sure you should drive, talk to your doctor, pharmacist or healthcare professional.
  • Taking alcohol and drugs together is even worse, as their effects combine and the risk can be multiplied. Even low levels of alcohol mixed with low levels of drugs can cause significant danger. The best approach is none.
  • It’s your responsibility to consider whether you believe your driving is, or might be, impaired on any given occasion, for example if you feel sleepy.


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