A group of researchers from Sweden have provided further evidence that illegal drugs can be detected in the breath, opening up the possibility of a roadside breathalyzer test to detect substances such as cocaine, amphetamines and cannabis.
Using a simple, commercially available breath sampler, the researchers have successfully identified a range of 12 substances in the breath of 40 patients recruited from a drug emergency clinic in Stockholm.
Their findings have been published today, 26 April, in IOP Publishing's Journal of Breath Research.
Blood, urine and saliva are the most popular methods for detecting illegal drugs and are already used by law enforcement in a number of countries; however, exhaled breath is seen as a promising alternative as it's easier to collect, non-invasive, less prone to adulteration and advantageous when location becomes an obstacle, such as at the roadside.
Exhaled breath contains very small particles that carry non-volatile substances from the airway lining fluid. Any compound that has been inhaled, or is present in the blood, may contaminate this fluid and pass into the breath when the airways open. The compounds will then be exhaled and can subsequently be detected.
In this study, researchers from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm collected breath, blood plasma and urine samples from 47 patients (38 males, 9 females) who had taken drugs in the previous 24 hours and were recovering at a drug addiction emergency clinic.
Interviews were also undertaken with each patient to assess their history of drug use.
The breath samples were taken using a commercially available sampling device - SensAbues - and then analysed using liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry.
The portable sampling device consists of a mouth piece and a micro-particle filter. When a patient breathes into the mouth piece, saliva and larger particles are separated from the micro-particles that need to be measured.
The micro-particles are able to pass through and deposit onto a filter, which can then be sealed and stored ready for analysis. Breath samples were analysed for twelve substances.
Alprazolam and benzoylecgonine were detected in exhaled breath for the first time, whereas for methadone, amphetamine, methamphetamine, cocaine, morphine, 6-acetylmorphine, tetrahydrocannabinol, buprenorphine, diazepam and oxazepam, the results confirmed previous observations.
"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," said lead author of the study Professor Olof Beck.
"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. Future studies should therefore test the correlation between blood concentration of drugs of abuse and the concentrations in exhaled breath."
From Friday 26 April, this paper can be downloaded from http://iopscience.
Notes to Editors
1. For further information, a full draft of the journal paper or contact with one of the researchers, contact IOP Press Officer, Michael Bishop: Tel: +44 (0) 1179 301032
IOP Publishing Journalist Area
2. The IOP Publishing Journalist Area gives journalists access to embargoed press releases, advanced copies of papers, supplementary images and videos. In addition to this, a weekly news digest is uploaded into the Journalist Area every Friday, highlighting a selection of newsworthy papers set to be published in the following week.
Login details also give free access to IOPscience, IOP Publishing's journal platform.
To apply for a free subscription to this service, please email Michael Bishop, IOP Press Officer, firstname.lastname@example.org, with your name, organisation, address and a preferred username.
Detection of drugs of abuse in exhaled breath using a device for rapid collection: comparison with plasma, urine and self-reporting in 47 drug users
3. The published version of the paper "Detection of drugs of abuse in exhaled breath using a device for rapid collection: comparison with plasma, urine and self-reporting in 47 drug users" (J. Breath Res. 7 026006) will be freely available online from Friday 26 April. It will be available at http://iopscience.
Journal of Breath Research
4. This journal is dedicated to all aspects of breath science, with the major focus on analysis of exhaled breath in physiology and medicine, and the diagnosis and treatment of breath odours.
5. IOP Publishing provides publications through which leading-edge scientific research is distributed worldwide. IOP Publishing is central to the Institute of Physics (IOP), a not-for-profit society. Any financial surplus earned by IOP Publishing goes to support science through the activities of IOP. Beyond our traditional journals programme, we make high-value scientific information easily accessible through an ever-evolving portfolio of community websites, magazines, conference proceedings and a multitude of electronic services. Focused on making the most of new technologies, we're continually improving our electronic interfaces to make it easier for researchers to find exactly what they need, when they need it, in the format that suits them best. Go to http://ioppublishing.
The Institute of Physics
6. The Institute of Physics is a leading scientific society. We are a charitable organisation with a worldwide membership of more than 50,000, working together to advance physics education, research and application. We engage with policymakers and the general public to develop awareness and understanding of the value of physics and, through IOP Publishing, we are world leaders in professional scientific communications. Go to http://www.