Breathing Test Device Used to Detect 12 Controlled Substances

Swedish researchers have found a commercially available breathing test device can be used to detect 12 controlled substances, including marijuana, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine, US News reports.

The device was tested on 47 people who had taken drugs in the previous 24 hours and were recovering at a drug addiction emergency clinic, the researchers report in the Journal of Breath Research. The test correctly detected drug use in 87 percent of cases, and was as accurate as blood and urine tests.

Currently, police do not have a simple way to test drivers for drugs when they are suspected of driving under the influence (DUI), the article notes. Lead researcher Olof Beck of the Karolinska Institutet noted in a news release, “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.” Dr. Beck said police could use the test at the scene when DUI is suspected, and later confirm the findings with a blood test.

The researchers collected breath samples using a currently available breath test called SensAbues, which consists of a mouthpiece and micro-particle filter. When a person breathes into the mouthpiece, the device separates saliva and larger particles from the tiny particles that are measured. The micro-particles pass through and deposit onto a filter, which is sealed and stored. The particles are then analyzed using lab tests known as liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry.

    User Picture


    April 30, 2013 at 10:22 PM

    Oops, looks like I made a minor error — that should be LC/MS not GC/MS. Still a very accurate testing method . . . and still a laboratory test, not an instant, roadside result.

    User Picture


    April 30, 2013 at 10:19 PM

    If the device is merely a method of specimen collection, and the filter inside must be tested via GC/MS, it is not in fact useful for roadside tests. For those who aren’t aware, GC/MS is a large, expensive piece of laboratory equipment. It is considered the “gold standard” in terms of accuracy, but not likely to fit in a patrol offer’s trunk. I applaud this new approach, and I hope the folks behind this concept continue to make progress. But they are not there yet.

Leave a Comment

Please leave a comment below to contribute to the discussion. If you have a specific question, please contact a Parent Specialist, who will provide you with one-on-one help.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *