Breathalyzers that officers use after a person is pulled over on suspicion of driving under the influence currently tests for alcohol and only alcohol. Often called a PAS (Preliminary Alcohol Screening) test, breathalyzers are supposed to measure the approximate percentage of alcohol in a person’s blood after they have been drinking. But of course you guys already know that.
So, aside from the ever-faithful field sobriety tests, how does an officer determine if a person has recently smoked or ingested other intoxicating substances other than alcohol without having to wait for a later blood test? Well, right now they can’t. But that might be changing soon thanks to some Swedish researchers.
Olof Beck of Sweden’s Karolinska Institutet recently published a study in the Journal of Breath Research in which a new device was able to detect 12 different controlled substances. Using the new device, Beck was able to detect drugs including methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, morphine and marijuana on 47 patients at a drug addiction emergency clinic in Stockholm.
The study notes the practicality of having a readily available test for the myriad of substances that can impair driving ability. “There is a possibility that exhaled breath will develop into a new matrix for routine drug testing and present an alternative to already used matrices like urine, blood, oral fluid, sweat and hair,” the study said. “Since exhaled breath may be as easy to collect as in alcohol breath testing it may present a new more accessible matric than blood at the roadside.”
It may not be long before officers have the new device, called SensAbues DrugTrap, readily available to detect more than just alcohol on the site of a DUI investigation.
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