(HealthDay News) – Illicit drug use can be detected from breath samples, according to a study published in the June issue of the Journal of Breath Research.

Olof Beck, PhD, from the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, and colleagues collected breath, plasma, and urine samples from 47 patients (38 males; age range, 25–74 years) along with interview data. Liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry methods were used to analyze breath and plasma samples, while immunochemical reagents were used to assess urine samples for 12 analytes. Intake of an abused substance prior to admission was reported in all 47 cases.

In 40 of the 46 cases (87%), the researchers found that breath analysis gave a positive finding for any of the substances that were part of the analytical investigation. There was generally good agreement between data from breath, plasma and urine samples, and self-report, but in 23% of the cases, substances were detected that had not been self-reported. The detection rate was high for breath samples for most substances considering that samples were taken about 24 hours after intake. Benzodiazepines had low detection rates.

“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,” Beck said in a statement. “In cases of suspected driving under the influence of drugs, blood samples could be taken in parallel with breath when back at a police station. Future studies should therefore test the correlation between blood concentration of drugs of abuse and the concentrations in exhaled breath.”

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