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Attention Drivers: The LAPD Can Swab Your Mouth For Drugs

(Photo by Zerbor via Shutterstock)
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Starting this weekend, the LAPD will debut an oral swab test to detect drugs and alcohol in people's systems.

The method, which is completely voluntary, is being touted as a possible alternative to the blood test that cops mandate DUI offenders take. The test that takes just eight minutes could eventually be an easier or more efficient way to test whether someone is driving under the influence, prosecutors say.

Sacramento, Fullerton and Bakersfield have already started using the test, and other states Oklahoma, Missouri, Colorado, New York, Michigan, Vermont and North Dakota allow the swab test. The LAPD has been quietly testing it out over the year, and so far only 50 people have consented to the test. But according to KPCC, the swabs have not been used in Los Angeles courtrooms, as all 50 cases pleaded out before it got to that point.

The new system is part of an effort by the LAPD to expand impaired driving offenses into the realm of hard drugs, and they've chosen to unroll it just ahead of the debauchery of New Year's Eve.

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The oral swab test is designed to detect trace amounts of drug use that hide in the person's saliva. The trace amounts last for up to a few days in saliva, depending on the drug: Cocaine and Marijuana last up to 24 hours in your saliva, while meth and Ecstasy remain in your spit for up to three days. Alcohol traces last for 12 hours and is the one substance that takes the shortest time to leave your system. In addition, some drugs "can cause dryness of the mouth," which may make testing harder to do.

The tiny window the test requires to be effective, and its inability to detect chronic drug use, is the main reason why the FDA has not officially signed off on the swab test.

This video, courtesy of KPCC, shows just how the LAPD will conduct the test: