Law enforcement officers can detect the presence of illegal drugs in a person's blood, urine and saliva. But those methods require time and lab tests. A breath test, such as those used to detect alcohol levels, could be cheaper and non-invasive.

A group of researchers from Karolinska Institute in Stockholm have shown that micro-particles from substances including cocaine, amphetamines and cannabis are present in the breath and that could open the door to roadside breathalyzers that detect drugs.

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In the study, the scientists used a commercially available breathalyzer to collect breath, blood plasma and urine samples from 47 patients from a drug addiction clinic. The breath samples were analyzed for twelve substances, two of which — alprazolam and benzoylecgonine — had never been detected in the breath before.

“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," said professor Olof Beck. “Future studies should therefore test the correlation between blood concentration of drugs of abuse and the concentrations in exhaled breath."

The findings were published in IOP Publishing's Journal of Breath Research.

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