Researchers Have Developed A THC-Detecting Breathalyzer


Stats reveal that 66% of US citizens want marijuana to be legalized. Of the people who use weed, some do so for medical purposes while others use it recreationally. The recreational use of THC-rich cannabis is not legal in most states. Tetrahydrocannabinol or THC has psychoactive properties which means its use makes one high.

This induced state of euphoria of the user isn’t deemed fit for driving. Now that recreational use of marijuana is increasing, the concern of the police in enforcing DUI laws is too. While there is a breathalyzer to detect alcohol, there is no device for checking whether a driver is under weed’s effects. This is sure to change now that a breathalyzer for detecting THC has been developed.

A New Device For Detecting THC

A team from the University of Pittsburgh has created a breathalyzer device. This device can trace levels of tetrahydrocannabinol in a person’s breath. Researchers developed it through the use of carbon nanotubes. These are miniscule tubes of carbon 100,000x tinier than a human hair.

The nanotechnology sensors of this breathalyzer can detect THC comparably or better than mass spectrometry which is the gold standard for THC measurement. There are many instances in which authorities test if someone is under the influence of drugs. For instance, a person going for a job interview must expect that he would be checked for THC content.

This breathalyzer can make it convenient for police to enforce DUI laws. The currently available methods for checking THC in the body include testing the blood, urine or hair samples of a person. However, these techniques only show whether a person does weed. They do not reveal whether he is under any influence in the moment.

Development Of The Breathalyzer

Scientists developed the THC-detecting breathalyzer using carbon nanotubes. The cannabinoid THC as well as other molecules in the breath bind to the nanotubes’ surface and alter their electrical properties. The breathalyzer then signals the presence of tetrahydrocannabinol.

Dr. Ervin Sejdic who was involved in the development of the device said, “Creating a prototype that would work in the field was a crucial step in making this technology applicable.” This protype breathalyzer looks similar to that which is used for detecting alcohol. It has a plastic casing, a mouthpiece, and a digital display.

The lab test showed that apart from THC, the sample also showed components like carbon dioxide, water, methanol, ethanol, and acetone. Researchers plan to continue studying this new device. Hopefully, it will be pushed to the manufacturing stage soon and be ready for use. This device would also ensure that people don’t do weed and drive.

Key Takeaway

Driving under the influence of weed is not uncommon. In fact, since marijuana’s recreational use is increasing, it has become crucial for the police to have a device for THC testing. In this regard, a team of researchers has created a breathalyzer device, akin to the one which is used for checking alcohol. This device can help detect THC markers in a user and better enforce DUI laws.


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