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Spanish researchers unveil new method for detecting drugs in saliva sample

Researchers from the Spanish University of Santiago de Compostela’s Institute of Legal Medicine recently developed a new method that can be used to detect the presence of illicit drugs and prescription medication in saliva samples. The said technique is already in use in Spain’s by the country’s traffic regulation body as part of study of the level of drug and alcohol consumption of drivers in Europe. Details of the method were published by the Analytical and Bioanalytical journal.

The method can be used to identify at least 23 types of illicit drugs including cannabis and cocaine as well as medical drugs such as morphine, codeine, and methadone.

Manuel Lopez Rivadulla, one of the method’s creators and a researcher at USC explained the process being their drug-testing technique.

Under the new method, saliva is collected by means of putting a piece of cotton on a special device that is to placed under the tongue. The said device includes an indicator which turns blue once the cotton absorbed. When the indicator becomes blue, the cotton is placed inside a tube for analysis.

For the current use of the method among traffic police, Rivadulla explained that the samples taken from drivers, the tubes are stored in special containers which are refrigerated and transported to a laboratory.

Inside the laboratory, the saliva sample is analyzed using a combination of two systems namely liquid chromatography and tandem mass spectrometry. According to Rivadulla, liquid chromatography is used to separate the molecules within the saliva while tandem mass spectrometry enables the actual identification of the chemical compounds in the saliva.

Rivadulla also commented on the significance of their new method saying that it is non-intrusive as compared to urine and blood analysis. “The individual can also be observed directly while taking the samples,” he added.

The DGT study

The saliva-sample method is currently being used by Spain’s Directorate General of Traffic as part of its survey of how many drivers drive while under the influence of psychoactive substances.

“Two samples will be taken during the controls: one will be analysed in situ, using rapid antigen-antibody immunological techniques, and another sent to the USC’s laboratory in Galicia, “ DGT’s medical adviser, Juan Carlos González Luque, explained of how they use the method. DGT started using the method in September 2008 and is currently practice in 32 points around the country.

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