Checking the level of opioid drugs in a person’s bloodstream would require a blood sample to be taken, in the current time at least. Scientists have now developed a breath test for opioid drugs, however, and this could mean that things would be much less invasive.
The system was developed by a team at the University of California-Davis, led by postdoctoral researcher Eva Borras and Prof. Cristina Davis.
People who are being tested start by breathing normally, into a collection device. Droplets of their breath condense within it, and are then frozen until they can be placed in a mass spectrometer within a lab. That machine is capable of detecting both the original drug and metabolites (compounds produced by the body as it breaks down the drug) within the droplets.
In a test of the technology, six chronic pain patients were initially given infusions of medications such as morphine and hydromorphone, along with oral doses of oxycodone. When their opioid metabolite levels were subsequently checked via both blood samples and the breath test, figures for the two techniques were very similar.
This process is less painful and less stressful for the patients.
(Image Credit: Cristina Davis/ UC Davis)