Journal of analytical toxicology

Detection of drugs of abuse in exhaled breath from users following recovery from intoxication.

PMID 23045289


It has recently been demonstrated that amphetamine, methadone and tetrahydrocannabinol are detectable in exhaled breath following intake. Exhaled breath, therefore, constitutes a new possible matrix for drugs-of-abuse testing. The present work aims to further explore this possibility by a study on patients treated for acute intoxication with abused drugs. Fifty-nine patients (44 males, age range 24-74) were included in the study, and breath, plasma and urine samples were collected following recovery, together with interview data. Analyses of breath and plasma samples were conducted with liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry methods. Urine was screened using immunochemical reagents and positive findings confirmed with liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry methods. The following analytes were investigated: methadone, amphetamine, methamphetamine, 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, codeine, 6-acetylmorphine, diazepam, oxazepam, morphine, benzoylecgonine, cocaine, buprenorphine and tetrahydrocannabinol. In 53 of the studied cases, recent intake of an abused substance prior to admission was reported. In 35 of these (66%), the breath analysis gave a positive finding. Identifications were based on correct chromatographic retention time and product ion ratios obtained in selected reaction monitoring mode. Generally, data from breath, plasma, urine and self-report were in agreement. Detected substances in breath included amphetamine, methamphetamine, buprenorphine, 6-acetylmorphine, morphine, codeine, methadone, tetrahydrocannabinol, diazepam, oxazepam and cocaine. Problem analytes with low detection rates were benzodiazepines and tetrahydrocannabinol. This study gives further support to the possibility of developing exhaled breath into a new matrix for drugs-of-abuse testing by extending the number of analytes that are documented to be detectable in breath.