Josh Covert

In The News

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A New Device Using Breath Samples To Detect Drugs May Be On The Horizon But The Question Remains Is It Reliable?

By Michael Nichols
Categories: Josh Covert

Olof Beck a professor in analytic toxicology and pharmacology at the department of medicine at the Karolinska Institue has recently announced that he has developed a device to detect several recreational drugs using a breath sample.  The device is a micro-particle filter called SensAbues which uses a polymer filter to collect analytes commonly associated with illegal drug use.  The SensAbues requires a suspected drug user to blow into the device for two minutes so that it can collect the micro-particles.  Once the micro-particles are collected the device   is then sealed and sent to a forensic lab for extraction and is then analyzed using gas chromatography and mass spectrometry (GC/MS). 

The Journal of Breath Research recently published a study that attempted to validate the scientific reliability of the SensAbues.  The study analyzed 47 patients who self-reported illegal drug use.  The SensAbues combined with GC/MS was able to detect illegal drugs in 40 of the 47 patients.  The SenAbues combined with GC/MS also detected illegal drugs in 23% of the patients where use was not reported which suggests that the SensAbues GC/MS combination is subject to false positives.  A false positive is where a test detects a substance when the substance is not present. 

The data used in the study is based on a small sample size and relies on self-reporting which are both cause for concern.  “I analyzed the study’s data in regards to detecting THC carboxy  which is what the human body converts the active ingredient in marihuana into.  Of the study’s 47 patients only 20 of samples involved marihuana.  The data shows that the methods used to detect THC carboxy detected the substance 11 times when there was no use reported by the patient.  This could suggest that the patients were not being truthful about their marihuana use but that is unlikely since the patients reported other drugs of abuse.  The most likely conclusion is that the SensAbues detected the substance when it wasn’t present” says Attorney Joshua Covert.

If you are charged with drugged driving call the Nichols Law Firm and speak with attorneys who stay current on drug testing procedures and studies. Call 517-432-9000.

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Mike Nichols is a national leader in drunk driving defense. He is a member of the Forensic Committee and Michigan delegate to the National College for DUI Defense. He is also a Sustaining Member of the College. Nichols is also a founding member of the Michigan Association of OWI Attorneys; a member of the American Chemical Society; an associate member of he American Academy of Forensic Science, Adjunct Professor of Forensic Evidence in Criminal Law and OWI Law and Practice at Cooley Law School. He is also author of the West OWI Practice book and several chapters in other books on science and the law.

Mike Nichols is recognized by his peers in Michigan as a “SuperLawyer” in DUI/Criminal Defense. Nichols has also been asked to speak at conferences by groups such as the NCDD; Various Bar Associations in other states.