Soon marijuana and cocaine use will be detectable
A team of scientists from Sweden’s Karolinska Institute have announced that they are working towards technology that will be able to detect drugs such as marijuana and cocaine on a person’s breath, much in the same way that police routinely breathalyze drivers they suspect are operating their vehicle under the influence of alcohol.
Using 47 test subjects from a local drug rehabilitation clinic and collected blood, plasma, and urine samples as a control test. Then the scientists had each subject blow into a SensAbues, a relatively inexpensive drug monitoring system that is commercially available to the average consumer. A wide variety of drugs, ranging from marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamines, various opiates and prescription drugs, invoked a positive recognition from the SensAbues.
The scientists found that drugs attach themselves to airway lining fluid contained in the lungs. When a subject blows into the SensAbues (which is very similar in form and function to a police officer’s breathalyzer), the exhale dislodges particles in the airway fluid containing varying concentrations of whatever drug the subject ingested. Proponents of drug detection via breathalyzer (whether it be a SensAbues or other similar device) claim that the method of detection is less intrusive and offensive to a subject than blood and urine analysis, and provides law enforcement with a quick and hopefully accurate way to detect and detain drivers under the influence of illicit and non-alcoholic drugs.
While initial tests were deemed somewhat successful, the technology still needs much improvement before it can implemented on the street and, more importantly, in the courtroom. The team reported approximately 23% false-positive results, as well as acknowledged the fact that the mere presence of a substance in airway fluid does not mean a subject is necessarily impaired or under its influence.
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