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With the festive season upon us and the Christmas roadside drink-drive checks in full swing, the use of a breathalyser is a common tool for today’s police force to check motorists who have overindulged on alcohol. This year, the alcohol-detection tool reached 50 years of age. However, drug-driving is also a huge problem. It is an offence to drive with any of 17 controlled drugs above a specified level in your blood, including illegal, over-the-counter and prescription drugs. However, the current drug testing methods rely on urine or blood samples, making them more invasive and complex to carry out.

Swedish scientists now claim to have simplified drugs testing by developing new technology that detects tiny quantities of drugs in a person’s breath. The study published in the Journal of Breath Research, showed that the researchers were able to quantify substances in exhaled breath, including drugs, using two different methods [1].

The team from the University of Gothenburg consider exhaled particles to be a new and promising matrix for the analysis of biomarkers. The collection procedure is non-invasive, can be repeated within a short time span and is convenient. The hope is that as well as helping law enforcement authorities, the technology could be used to detect a range of diseases.

AlphaBiolabs supplies two types of breathalysers and offers a range of drug and alcohol testing methods. For information, please call 0333 600 1300 or email

1. Göran Ljungkvist et al. J Breath Res 2018;12:016011

Scientists elsewhere in Sweden have previously shown how breath samples can be used to detect a range of different substances in the body.

The development raises the prospect of police officers being able to use a simple, readily-available breathalyser to detect whether someone has committed a crime such as driving under the influence of drugs.

To begin with, blood samples are likely to be taken as well so that the two different tests can be compared to ensure the breath test is accurate. In time, however, the new method could see breathalysers used as the main way of detecting drugs in the body.