LC-MS

  • Chromatography Detects Opioids in Exhaled Breath

Chromatography Detects Opioids in Exhaled Breath

Aug 14 2019

Most people are aware of breathalyser tests to measure the concentration of alcohol in exhaled breath. The test is simple to administer at the roadside and provides a quick result for the law enforcement agencies as to the blood alcohol concentration of an individual. Researchers are working to develop a similar system for the analysis of drugs in the body. And this is not always for law enforcement agencies.

There is a growing worldwide health crisis around the use of opioids for pain management. The current tests are invasive, relatively expensive and do not provide a quick result. So, researchers are attempting to develop a breathalyser system for opioids. A recent paper published in the Journal of Breath Research - Detecting opioid metabolites in exhaled breath condensate (EBC) - describes how researchers in the US have detected opioid metabolites in exhaled breath and the role of chromatography in such research.

Invasive testing for pain medication

Pain management is a topic that is widespread in all services. Chronic pain is debilitating and can lead to other serious health issues including mental illness. One of the commonly prescribed pain relief medicines - for people suffering moderate to severe pain - are opioids. Opioids are relatively low cost and work for many patients. Unfortunately, intentional and unintentional overuse or abuse of opioids has led to a worldwide health crisis.

The ability of medical professionals to be able to identify which opioids patients have used or taken is important for them to make the correct medical decisions. Opioids can react with other drugs to give unpleasant side effects, or there can be drug-drug interactions. Currently, the standard method to test for opioid use is using a urine and/or blood test. But both of these methods can present difficulties in obtaining samples and the results are not readily available to inform clinical decisions.

Metabolites on exhaled breath

The team behind the work referenced above were interested not just in detecting opioids, but their metabolites too. Some opioids can be metabolized into other commercially available opioids or can be present as impurities. With that fact in mind, they set out to determine a method of detecting opioids and their metabolites on exhaled breath or exhaled breath condensate, and them confirming that the results can be correlated to the blood concentrations of opioids.

They collected samples from patients under a pain management programme and healthy volunteers. They were given a range of opioids and both blood/serum and exhaled breath samples were collected. The samples were analysed using liquid chromatography to detect any opioids or metabolites present. Analysis using liquid chromatography is the topic in this article, Using Narrow Bore Columns to Enhance Sensitivity for LC-UV and LC-MS Analyses.

The team report that they were able to detect, quantify and identify several opioid metabolites in exhaled breath condensate. The findings confirm that opioid drugs are in exhaled breath and that there was a correlation between breath and blood concentrations for some opioids.


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