A disposable drugs test that allows parents to check if their children have been taking cannabis or cocaine by analysing a droplet of saliva has been developed by British scientists.
The handheld device, which resembles a pregnancy testing kit, costs just £1.50 and produces an accurate result within five minutes.Its creators say it could be available within two years.
The Vantix sensor was developed to help police carry out speedy roadside drug-driving tests, but it could just as easily be used by parents who are worried their children are taking drugs.
News of the breakthrough comes just days after the conviction and jailing of singer George Michael for possessing cannabis and drug driving.
Kevin Auton, of Universal Sensors, has admitted that the test would be controversial and could have ‘huge implications for society’.
He said: ‘In America, parents are taking samples of their children’s saliva and hair and sending them off to labs to see if their children are taking drugs. If there is demand for it here, it would be an interesting market.
‘It is controversial but the test can be used in the home for worried parents to test if their children are taking drugs.
‘We are very focused on getting the test out of the laboratory and on to other platforms. It is as simple to use as a pregnancy test.’
The devices are designed to be used at the roadside, in a police station or in the home.
Currently, officers perform ‘field impairment tests’, which look at pupil dilation, balance and coordination.
However, these are not solid proof of illegal driving and police are often reluctant to carry out time consuming blood tests.
The breakthrough means police would be able to identify drugs by taking a swab from a driver’s mouth.
The sensor works by using a disposable 5mm wide chip printed on a piece of plastic.
On the surface of the chip are antibodies that respond to particular chemicals in drugs – such as the THC molecule found in cannabis.
If an antibody on the chip comes into contact with its ‘target’ chemical, a tiny electrical current flows in the chip. The current is amplified by a larger, handheld device which lights up a warning lamp.
The chip can be adapted to detect a range of chemicals – including those only found in drugs or explosives.
Mr Auton added: ‘I’m not sure if parents are ready in this country and the test raises privacy issues.’
– Article from UK Daily Mail.