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XXXV TIAFT Annual Meeting Drugs of Abuse and Testing

Kidwell D.A.*, Holland J.C.**, Blanco M.A.**

*U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, Code 6170, Washington DC, 20375, USA
**GeoCenters, Inc., 10903 Indian Head Hwy., Fort Washington, MD 20744, USA

Urine has been the favored testing medium for detecting and deterring drug use. However, the short window of detection for many drugs in urine coupled with the personal inconvenience in collection has led to the search for alternative matrices for analysis. Testing for drugs of abuse can be accomplished in a number of other matrices, such as hair, saliva, and sweat, which have advantages over urine in ease of collection, window of detection, and resistance to adulteration.

We have shown (1,2) that sweat, collected by a simple forehead wipe, can detect cocaine use/exposure at approximately twice the rate of hair analysis and much better than urinalysis for individuals in a drug treatment program. Likewise, in a randomly selected university population, sweat testing showed twice the rate for cocaine use/exposure than did hair analysis. Sweat is thought to measure both use and exposure. However, even though it is not an absolute indication of use, sweat testing could be employed in driving under the influence cases. A positive sweat result, coupled with subjective observations of driving behavior and personnel demeanor, will provide powerful evidence to arrest a driver, impound the car, and conduct more extensive testing back at the station. Technology is commercially available that could be applied to field sweat testing and provide a quick answer to: "Has this individual probably taken drugs?". A roadside sobriety program, with sweat testing as a component, would reduce DUID -a major cause of traffic fatalities in the US.

Work is also in progress on the design of a wrist-watch sized, drug-in-sweat monitoring system which will continually and remotely provide both drug use and global positioning information. Scenarios for the application of this developing technology include drug- rehabilitation monitoring, bail monitoring, or parolee monitoring. This paper will discuss the advantages and limitations of sweat testing and some unique developments for future, non- invasive drug testing based on a continuous sweat monitor.


  1. Smith F.P. and Kidwell D.A., Forensic Sciences International, 1996, 83, 179-189.
  2. Kidwell D.A., Blanco M.A., Smith F.P., Forensic Sciences International, 1997, 84, 75- 86.

Oral Presentations Abstract 011

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