New breath test for opioids may benefit people with chronic pain

In a new study, researchers report that a new test can detect opioids in a person’s breath.

They say the breath test could be useful in caring for chronic pain patients as well as for checking for illegal drug use.

The research was conducted by a team from UC Davis.

Doctors and nurses treating chronic pain may need to monitor patients to make sure they are taking their drugs correctly, that their prescribed drugs are being metabolized properly, and that they are not taking additional medications.

Blood tests are the gold standard: a reliable, noninvasive test would be a useful alternative.

In the new study, the team showed people breathe normally into a specialized collection device.

The device holds condensed droplets from breath for storage in a freezer until testing. The team used mass spectrometry to identify compounds in the samples.

The researchers tested the technique in a small group of patients receiving infusions of pain medications including morphine and hydromorphone, or oral doses of oxycodone.

They were, therefore, able to compare opioid metabolites in breath with both blood samples and the doses given to patients.

The researchers could see both the original drug and metabolites in exhaled breath.

They say fully validating the breath test will require more data from larger groups of patients. Now the team is working toward real-time, bedside testing.

The lead author of the study is Cristina Davis.

The study is published in the Journal of Breath Research.

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