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Philips Develops Roadside Drug-Testing Device 647

Al writes "A handheld developed by Philips for law enforcement detects traces of cocaine, heroin, cannabis, and methamphetamine in 90 seconds. The system uses magnetic nanoparticles attached to ligands that bind to traces of these drugs. Once saliva has been placed inside the device, an electromagnet mixes the sample and the nanoparticles. Frustrated total internal reflection (FTIR) — the same phenomenon that underlies fingerprint scanners and multitouch screens — is then used to measure a change to the refractive index. By immobilizing different drug molecules on different parts of a sensor surface, the analyzer is able to identify traces of each different drug. An electronic screen displays instructions and a simple color-coded readout of the results."
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Philips Develops Roadside Drug-Testing Device

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  • Legalization (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Delwin ( 599872 ) * on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @01:14PM (#28943805)
    This could go a long way towards treating other drugs like alcohol for driving purposes. One of the major roadblocks in legalization was no field test for driving while impaired.
  • by Maximum Prophet ( 716608 ) on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @01:19PM (#28943867)
    Requesting the source code worked in one breathalyzer case.
  • False Positives? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Banichi ( 1255242 ) on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @01:20PM (#28943899)
    Do they return false positives for people who eat poppy seed cake? []
  • Re:Legalization (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Delwin ( 599872 ) * on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @01:26PM (#28944015)
    The technology appears to be able to be tuned to detect specific molecules (by the large variety of things they can make it detect). So long as there's a molecular difference between active cannabis and the metabolites then you shouldn't end up with false positives for weeks after.
  • Re:Legalization (Score:5, Interesting)

    by eln ( 21727 ) on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @01:46PM (#28944309)

    MADD has morphed over the years from an organization with a laudable enough goal (reduce drunk driving deaths) into a neo-prohibitionist organization that is waging a war on all drinking. If they had their way, booze would be taxed at a higher rate than tobbaco and every car sold in the US would have an ignition interlock system. The Founder of the organization left it sometime ago in disgust at what it has become.

    This is a problem with interest groups in general. Most are formed with a specific goal in mind. However, they also employ people and generally give a lot of people a sense of belonging that they don't want to give up. So, once the goal they were created for is reached, they don't disband like they should. Instead, they just set new, generally more extreme goals, until they eventually degenerate into a fringe group of wackos. Unfortunately, the disproportionate political influence they gained from fighting for their earlier, more generally supported, cause is often maintained far longer than it ought to be, so many of their extremist garbage ends up being discussed, and even acted on by Congress, more than most people would like.

  • by dhermann ( 648219 ) on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @01:55PM (#28944467)

    It ain't nobody's business what drugs/substances I use, drink, smoke or eat if if it doesn't harm anyone else.

    So driving while lit up on three tabs of meth shouldn't be illegal unless you actually get into an accident?

  • Re:Legalization (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @02:05PM (#28944651)
    But for the most part the visuals are closed eye, and only then when very very stoned and only then on certain strains. I've never had a problem smoking while driving. Friends have commented that i'm a better driver while stoned and i've done some double blind video tape tests of myself doing things stoned showing I am actually more coordinated. My doctor told me this happens with quite a few people. I'm also one of those people who is not paranoid while stoned (i was when I started... not anymore). I have no problem talking to those who know me or even cops. The way I see it is that it allows you to think in a slightly different manner and I don't think people shoudl be judged for that as "different" does not necessarily mean "impaired". For some things, it vastly improves ability.
  • Re:Legalization (Score:5, Interesting)

    by networkBoy ( 774728 ) on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @02:07PM (#28944683) Journal

    last time I came up on a DUI checkpoint I was completely sober, and was on my way to my brothers house for an all-nighter of Halo and booze (great combo BTW).

    Looking for some entertainment I made an obvious end-run around the checkpoint by turning into an adjacent shopping center just before the check, and back onto the road just after the check.
    I was lit up and pulled over within 30 seconds.
    I was asked "do you know why I pulled you over?" to which I responded truthfully: "I avoided the checkpoint".

    several minutes later I was released because I had nothing on my person, nothing in plain sight to give probable cause to search my vehicle, and I passed the field sobriety check by blowing a 0.02. What's scary about that number is that I had *nothing* to drink in the last 3 hours, and no booze at all that entire day... So where did the .02 come from?

  • Re:Legalization (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jah-Wren Ryel ( 80510 ) on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @02:19PM (#28944893)
  • by billcopc ( 196330 ) <> on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @02:21PM (#28944941) Homepage

    The problem of course is that the police is not necessarily interested in a fair assessment of someone's driving habits. It will greatly reduce "income" since they will no longer be able to arrest anyone anywhere for any drug or alcohol related excuse.

    If the police system cared about the people and not the money, they'd stop trying to control crime with fines.

  • Open Source (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DarthVain ( 724186 ) on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @02:34PM (#28945209)

    Three points to make.

    1) First and most importantly the device's software should (must) be open source. The breathalyzer has been shown in recent years (at least in the USA) to be wildly inaccurate, make false assumptions, and contain horrible rounding errors (when multiplied by ppm is a lot). It took years and court orders to finally look at the software which was protected under the auspices of "Trade Secrets". When opened up it was found that the code looked to be written by retarded drunken squirrels.

    2) One fear as already mentioned is it may only detect remains of drugs and not active drugs. Like the differance if I smoked a join before hoping into the car, or if I smoked some 4 weeks ago in my house. Along with this is detecting drugs that are derivatives of each other. So they might say detect Heroin when really I had some medically percribed morphine at some point.

    3) One easy test is the scientifically proven field test as demonstrated in "Super Troopers". If any of the occupants are "like totally freaked out dude" then they are high and can be arrested.

  • I'm just saying, not everyone who uses a substance is addicted to it, and not every addiction is bad. The way I see it, there is a wide range of possible drug use styles, from non-use through destructive use. Even heavy daily use is not necessarily destructive. The key things to look for are, does the use interfere with other important parts of your life? Is it messing up your job, your friendships, or your family relations? Then it may be a problem. But someone who drinks two glasses of wine a night, or smokes a joint a day, or plays a few hours of video games a day; but still has friends, holds down a job, and has meaningful relations: this person may be an addict but they aren't causing themselves or others any trouble, so their addictive use is not a problem.

  • Re:Legalization (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jkiol ( 1050424 ) on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @03:57PM (#28946535)

    If the police or MADD actually cared about stopping drunk driving, they would go into the bar and give people an optional breathalyzer before they get into a car and before they can be arrested. Of course the punishment for this is to go back inside the bar and order some water until your BAC goes down. But no one makes money that way.

  • by wolf12886 ( 1206182 ) on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @04:40PM (#28947149)

    I'd like some of the anti-nanny state conservatives here to answer something - why are you guys so much in favor of antidrug laws?

    I don't know what gave you this impression.


    The fundamental philosophy of "anti-nanny staters" is that it's not the governments job to protect people from themselves. Your mistaken if you believe that the majority of us take drug use to be an exception to this principle.

  • Re:Legalization (Score:2, Interesting)

    by FMZ ( 1178473 ) <`kj_sonny' `at' `'> on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @05:21PM (#28947779)
    My kingdom for a mod point
  • Re:Legalization (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Shakrai ( 717556 ) on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @06:25PM (#28948609) Journal

    I agree the registries are an affront, because what it says is that we can't protect your kids from the predators, because we can't distinguish between a 15-17 year olds screwing for fun and perverts, because some judge couldn't figure out that 23 year olds shouldn't be fucking 15 year olds.

    My issue with them is that we've abrogated the concept of paying your debt to society. It's my belief that when you get out of prison and off parole (if you were on it) that your civil rights should be restored and you should be treated as a productive member of society. I'm not real thrilled with the concept of a scarlet letter.

    That said, I do recognize that some of these people pose a significant risk to society. To me though that begs the question of why are they getting out of prison in the first place? Lock the perverts in jail and throw away the key -- then this whole discussion about registries becomes moot, doesn't it? Hell, I'd even support the death penalty for the hardcore sickos. If you are handing out candy to the eight year old down the street so you can molest him/her then society ought to put you out of our collective misery.

All laws are simulations of reality. -- John C. Lilly