Butalbital and Driving Impairment

Jillian K. Yeakel, M.S. and Barry K. Logan, Ph.D.

The article Butalbital and Driving Impairment appears in the Journal of Forensic Sciences (J Forensic Sci, 2013). Abstract is included below.

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ABSTRACT:  Butalbital (Fiorinal®), used in the treatment of migraines and muscle pain, is the most commonly encountered barbiturate in impaired driving cases. It has central nervous system (CNS) depressant properties, including sedation, drowsiness, and feelings of intoxication, which can contribute to driving impairment. Twenty-six driving under the influence cases are reviewed including results from field sobriety tests and toxicology testing. Blood samples were screened using enzyme multiplied immunoassay technique immunoassay, and the presence of butalbital was confirmed and quantified using gas chromatography/mass spectrometry, gas chromatography with flame ionization detection, or gas chromatography nitrogen/phosphorus detection. Butalbital concentrations ranged from 1.0 to 30.2 mg/L, with a mean and median of 16.0 mg/L. General impairment indicators in these cases included horizontal and vertical nystagmus, lack of convergence, poor motor coordination, and balance and speech problems, which are common to CNS depressant intoxication, similar to that associated with alcohol. These findings indicate the importance of toxicological testing for butalbital in cases where CNS depressants are indicated.

NMS Labs is the only independent forensic facility in the nation to be certified by both the ABFT (American Board of Forensic Toxicology) and ANAB-ASCLD/LAB-International (ANSI/ASQ National Accreditation Board-American Society of Crime Lab Directors/Lab Accreditation Board ISO 17025). ISO 17025 accreditation covers the disciplines of Toxicology, DNA, serology and controlled substances. We diligently maintain and exceed the high standards set by these organizations, so that you can have the utmost confidence in your testing results.