Breathalyzer May Soon Test for Multiple Drugs at Roadside Checks

Posted on May 28th, 2013
Posted in Drunk Driving

The roadside breathalyzer test marked a turning point for monitoring drivers who were operating a vehicle under the influence. With its ability to provide quick results and limit tampering, law enforcement was able to accurately measure whether a person required further detaining following a roadside check.

A new study by researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden provides evidence that breathalyzer tests may soon screen for more than alcohol content. The findings, published in a recent issue of the Journal of Breath Research, illustrate the effective use of breathalyzer to test a range of substances.

The researchers used a commercially available breathalyzer to identify 12 substances in the breath samples of 40 individuals. The participants were recruited through an emergency clinic for drug-related health problems in Stockholm.

While there are several methods for measuring the presence of alcohol or illegal drugs, such as urine and blood testing, breathalyzer tests are often preferred because collection is simple and non-invasive. It is also relatively easy to incorporate into a roadside check.

The breathalyzer works by separating the saliva and air in the exhaled breath from the small particles that contain substances from the airway lining fluid. The fluid can carry particles from any compound that is present in the bloodstream or that has been inhaled.

The researchers took blood, urine and breath samples from 47 participants consisting of 38 males and 9 females. Each of the participants had used drugs within the last 24 hours and was being treated at a drug addiction clinic. The researchers also conducted interviews with the participants to gather information about their history with drugs.

The breathalyzer test was conducted using SensAbues breathalyzers, followed by an analysis involving liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry. The breathalyzer is formed by a mouth piece section and a filter. The filter separates larger particles as well as saliva from the micro-particles.

The micro-particles are sealed onto a filter, which is then stored for later analysis. The samples taken for the study were examined for 12 substances.

The researchers were able to detect two substances that had not been previously identified in a breathalyzer test: alprazolam and benzolecgonine. In addition, the tests identified amphetamine, cocaine, methamphetamine and methadone, as well as several other drugs that have been identified in previous studies.

The researchers, led by Professor Olof Beck, noted that the samples were taken 24 hours after the last use of drugs. The team was surprised that the breathalyzer could clearly identify the drugs.

The authors note that future research should focus on the comparison of concentration levels observed in breathalyzer results versus those exhibited in blood samples. This information could soon be used to identify quickly and accurately those drivers who are under the influence of drugs.

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