Late last year, Popular Science magazine named the SoToxa mobile testing system one of the top innovations in of the year in the health category.

The SoToxa system is a roadside drug-screening device that is designed to be used by police officers and others. If the system, or other emerging technologies like it, are adopted by Arizona law enforcement agencies, it could mean an increase in drugged driving arrests.

According to Abbott, the maker of SoToxa, the device uses an oral fluid swab that is inserted into a handheld analyzer. The company claims the analyzer requires only five minutes to alert police whether the “driver has recently used marijuana or other drugs.”

The company also states that because the SoToxa “collects only a small amount of oral fluid,” it is easier for law enforcement agencies to use than blood or urine tests. It says the device can be used roadside or in a police cruiser.

SoToxa can test for THC (the active ingredient in cannabis), opioids, cocaine, amphetamines, meth and benzodiazepines (Xanax and Valium, among others).

A recent news article on the device quoted an Abbott spokesperson who said police officers are “almost…blind now when they walk up to a car.” The spokesperson compared the new device to Breathalyzers (used to test blood alcohol content): “We have a tool for breath alcohol tests, it’s been used, it’s been proven…SoToxa is a tool that can be used for drug testing on the roadways.”

It should be noted that the device cannot determine if a person is high – or how high a person might be. It can only determine if there is a presence in the person’s system of particular substances. That inability is obviously a major sticking point for law enforcement agencies that hope to use SoToxa evidence to prove that a person was driving while drugged.