New Device Could Quickly Test for Cannabis, Cocaine, and Other Substance Use

Posted on September 22nd, 2010

A new and affordable handheld drug-testing device developed by British company Universal Sensors Ltd could soon become available to the UK market. Within just five minutes, parents could be able to test their children for cannabis, cocaine, and other substances by a simple scan of a saliva sample. The laboratory company also expects the nation’s law enforcement to incorporate the cheap drug-testing device into their standard roadside drug tests.

The device, called Vantix, contains biosensor technology that uses a cartridge with a disposable 5mm-wide chip and a saliva sample. The chip itself contains several antibodies embedded on its surface. When a saliva sample that is carrying metabolites from certain drugs—such as the THC molecule from cannabis—comes into contact with the chip, a chemical reaction will occur on the chip’s surface, spurring a small electric current that is amplified through the device and triggers a responding warning light. The small, pocket-sized device is simple to use and its biosensor technology can be mass-produced (as many as 30 billion devices produced per year), making the product easily accessible and affordable for the public. Its laboratory manufacturer estimates the Vantix to cost as little as £1.50 per device (around $2.30 US dollars) when it is predicted to hit the market within two years.

The new device, although convenient and helpful, may be perceived as intrusive upon one’s privacy, making trust between adolescents and their parents seem threatened. However, for some parents, the device may enable them to make crucial decisions regarding their children’s suspected drug use almost instantly. Compared to other methods of drug testing that are currently available—which require samples of urine or blood to be sent away for laboratory testing and several days to lapse before results are found—the biosensor could make a grave impact on protecting adolescents from drug use and related consequences. Similarly, parents in the U.S. have already been utilizing drug-testing resources that help them detect drug use among their children by sending samples of their child’s hair or saliva to laboratory testing. With the introduction of the Vantix device on the market, safety precautions regarding drug use could be significantly revolutionized.

In terms of law enforcement, police officers who suspect drivers of being under the influence of a substance other than alcohol can for the first time test drivers at the roadside scene. Although breathalyzer tests can detect the presence of alcohol in apprehended drivers, there is currently no similar test for the detection of drugs. Traditionally, if an officer suspects substance use by an apprehended driver, the officer would have to obtain a blood sample for later laboratory testing—which in the case of safety is rather insufficient. Besides standard field impairment tests and property search, the officer currently has no tangible evidence of drugged driving. By incorporating the biosensor device into the officer’s standard field test, drugged drivers can be identified and apprehended within five minutes based on the results of a simple mouth swab. Law enforcement would be capable of making more advantageous, no-tolerance drugged driving arrests by removing intoxicated drivers from the road and protecting the public.

Source: Medical News Today, Quick Cheap Drug Test Will Enable Parents To Check If Their Kids Are Using Cannabis, Cocaine, September 22, 2010

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