Catch the breath to catch drug abuse

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Amsterdam, March 8 (IANS) Scientists have developed the first fully validated and robust method to check drug abuse in exhaled breath.

The procedure involves a simple method of sample collection and preparation, which is followed by a highly sensitive analytical technique known as LC-MS (Liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry).

“The underlying mechanism in exhaled breath drug testing is believed to be the formation of aerosol particles from the airway lining fluid by the breathing process.

“These aerosol particles may become contaminated with drugs present in the body, which enables drugs to be highlighted,” explained lead researcher professor Olof Beck of Karolinska Institute in Sweden.

A simple collection device is currently available which selectively collects the micrometer aerosol particles on a filter and enables further laboratory investigation of possible drug content, informed Beck.

Drug testing is most commonly performed using urine samples.

However, the methodology of sample collection is often perceived as inconvenient and privacy-overriding by those undergoing the test.

The drug groups which are identifiable following the technique include amphetamines, methamphetamines, cannabis, cocaine and heroin.

The researchers are hopeful that their method of drug testing can be used routinely in roadside tests relating to DUID (Driving Under the Influence of Drugs).

“Yes, I see many possible applications of breath drug testing, DUID is only one. Workplace, criminal justice, accidents and compliance monitoring of patients are others,” Beck said.

“For DUID, the short detection time is relevant since the state of influence is in focus, and this combined with the convenient sampling procedure makes it an attractive solution for roadside testing,” he added.

The findings were published in the Journal of Chomatography B.

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