The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) originated the program in the early 1970s when LAPD officers noticed that many of the individuals arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) had very low or zero alcohol concentrations. The officers reasonably suspected that the arrestees were under the influence of drugs, but lacked the knowledge and skills to support their suspicions. In response, two LAPD sergeants collaborated with various medical doctors, research psychologists and other medical professionals to develop a simple, standardized procedure for recognizing drug influence and impairment. Their efforts culminated in the development of a multi-step protocol and the first drug recognition expert(DRE) program. The LAPD formally recognized the program in 1979.
The LAPD DRE program attracted the attention of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in the early 1980s. The two agencies collaborated to construct a standardized DRE protocol that led to the development of the Drug Evaluation and Classification (DEC) Program. During the ensuing years, NHTSA, and various other agencies and research groups examined the DEC Program. These various studies demonstrated that a properly trained DRE can successfully identify drug impairment and accurately determine the category of drugs causing such impairment.
In 1987, NHTSA initiated DEC pilot programs in Arizona, Colorado, New York and Virginia. The states of Utah, California, and Indiana were added in 1988. In 1989, IACP and NHTSA began to expand the DEC Program across the country. Currently 50 states, the District of Columbia, Canada, and the United Kingdom participate in the DEC Program.