Roadside Breath Test for Drugs Could Be on Horizon04/26/13
FRIDAY, April 26 (HealthDay News) -- A roadside breathalyzer
test for marijuana, cocaine and other illegal drugs could be a step
closer to reality, thanks to new research.
Using a commercially available breath sampler, Swedish
scientists were able to identify 12 substances in the breath of at
least 40 patients who had taken drugs in the previous 24 hours and
were recovering at a drug-addiction emergency clinic.
The findings appear in the April 26 issue of the
Journal of Breath Research.
The study is the first to detect alprazolam (the active
ingredient in Xanax and other anti-anxiety drugs) and
benzoylecgonine (a cocaine byproduct) in exhaled breath, according
to a journal news release.
The study also confirmed previous findings that methadone,
amphetamine, methamphetamine, cocaine, morphine, 6-acetylmorphine,
tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, the active ingredient in marijuana),
buprenorphine (a synthetic narcotic), diazepam (Valium is one
brand) and oxazepam (a sedative) can be detected in a person's
"Considering the samples were taken 24 hours after the intake of drugs, we were surprised to find that there was still high detectability for most drugs," study author Olof Beck, a professor at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, said in the news release.
"In cases of suspected driving under the influence of drugs, blood samples could be taken in parallel with breath when back at a police station," Beck said. "Future studies should therefore test the correlation between blood concentration of drugs of abuse and the concentrations in exhaled breath."
Currently, analysis of blood, urine and saliva samples is the
most common method for detecting illegal drug use and is used by
police in many countries. However, a breathalyzer test for drugs
would be simpler, less invasive and easier to use in many
locations, including roadside checks.
Exhaled breath contains micro-particles that carry certain
substances picked up from the fluid lining the airway, according to
the news release. Any compound that has been inhaled or is present
in the body can contaminate this fluid and pass into the breath,
where it can be detected.
In this study, the researchers used a Swedish-made device called
SensAbues, which consists of a mouthpiece and a micro-particle
filter. When a person breathes into the mouthpiece, saliva and
large particles are separated from the micro-particles that need to
The micro-particles are deposited on a filter, which can then be
sealed and stored until analysis is conducted using lab tests known
as liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry.
The U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse offers an overview of
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