Swedish researchers report they have developed a breath test that could be used as an alternative to urine drug testing.
The test detects many drugs including marijuana, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine, according to HealthDay.
Urine analysis, which is the most commonly used drug test, has been criticized as being inconvenient and a violation of privacy, the researchers note. The new breath test uses a highly sensitive method called liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry. It uses aerosol particles formed during breathing.
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 liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry.
"These aerosol particles may become contaminated with drugs present in the body, which enables drugs to be highlighted," lead researcher Olof Beck of the Karolinska Institute in Sweden said in a news release. The breath test could be used for roadside checks, accident scenes, in the workplace and in the criminal justice system, Beck said.
The study appears in Journal of Chromatography B.
In 2013, Dr. Beck published a study that found SensAbues can be used to detect 12 controlled substances, including marijuana, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine. 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 test correctly detected drug use in 87 percent of cases, and was as accurate as blood and urine tests.