Medical misdiagnosis

Drug Driving: Cocaine vs Benzoylecgonine

Our experts lawyers take a look at the difference in Drug Driving and the effects of Cocaine vs Benzoylecgonine

Many people charged with Drug Driving often get confused between Benzoylecgonine and Cocaine. Most people believe these two substances to be the same drug, however this is not the case.

The legal limit for Cocaine is 10 micrograms per litre of blood. As this is a zero tolerance limit, even the consuming only a small amount of cocaine could put you over the limit. You may only feel side effects from consuming a higher amount of Cocaine; meaning you may exceed the legal limit for Cocaine without feeling as if you’re driving was adversely affected. Cocaine can be eliminated from your blood within four to six hours. The time frame between consumption of the drug and the time you were asked to provide a sample; could massively impact the level of the drug found within your system. This is because in as little as an hour, 50% of the consumed cocaine could be eliminated from your body by metabolization. This does however mean you can test positive for Benzoylecgonine.

Cocaine is metabolised rapidly by the human body; this rate varies dependant on the concentration of the substance you have consumed. If cocaine is broken down by ‘De-methylation’, the liver produces Benzoylecgonine, which is a unique substance alike no other. In fact, 40% of all Cocaine is metabolised into Benzoylecgonine. The legal limit for Benzoylecgonine is 50 micrograms per litre of blood.

However, any result showing Benzoylecgonine can be a false positive.

An interesting fact about Benzoylecgonine is that it does not cause any impairment at all, even if you test positive for high levels of the drug. Benzoylecgonine is included within the prescribed limits as a way to prosecute individuals who may have used cocaine; but are not testing positive for cocaine as too much time has passed (due to police procedure and blood testing). If Cocaine use has happened, it often the case that Benzoylecgonine is present as it remains in your system for up to six days. After consuming cocaine Benzoylecgonine can be found within your blood within 30 minutes and the amount will continue to rise over the next couple of hours before stabilizing.

As Benzoylecgonine is only found in minute amounts, testing blood samples for the substance is very difficult and is not always accurate. There are a few different options when it comes to defending a charge of Benzoylecgonine. It may be that you have Benzoylecgonine in your blood without have consumed anything illegal. Recent studies have found traces of Benzoylecgonine in items such as energy drinks. The Drinking Water Inspectorate even found high levels of Benzoylecgonine in drinking water supplies.

As Benzoylecgonine is metabolised from Cocaine this process cannot be stopped. This means you may have been under the legal limit when your blood sample was taken but, as the cocaine has continued to metabolise, the levels of Benzoylecgonine have increased putting you over the limit. As some blood samples remain in storage for up to five months before being analysed; this would mean your results could be that of a false positive. This is vastly different from Cocaine as this declines by around 30% in just a few weeks; however, as the cocaine Is converting into Benzoylecgonine this only increases. Given the amount of time the sample is kept in storage it is has the opportunity to increase vastly from the initial sample.

It Is also important the lab carrying out the blood analysis of your sample has followed the correct procedure.

If a laboratory was to not enforce strict quality control and protective procedures, mistakes could be made.

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