05 October 2017

New test for Tik takes a few seconds

According to experts a quick test for methamphetamine might reduce violence and accidents caused by the drug.

Tik (methamphetamine) addiction has been an issue in South Africa, especially in the Western Cape for a while and continues to affect thousands of families on a daily basis.

Meth addiction is a world-wide problem, but recently some progress has been made. 

Attempting to speed up drug detection, scientists from Korea say they have developed a portable, rapid urine test for amphetamines.

Detection within seconds

The experimental test features a wireless sensor and smartphone app. It can detect amphetamines, or speed, in a drop of urine within seconds, its developers said.

The prototype device is small enough to be worn as a bracelet, is highly sensitive with a low risk for false-positive results, and costs about $50 (±R682) to produce, according to their proof-of-concept design.

The report was published in the journal Chem.

Better than conventional methods

"Conventional drug detection generally uses techniques that require long operation time, sophisticated experimental procedures, and expensive equipment with well-trained professional operators," said co-senior author Joon Hak Oh. "Moreover, they are not usually portable."

Oh heads an organic electronics laboratory at Pohang University of Science and Technology.

"Our method is a new type of drug sensor that can solve all these problems at once," Oh said in a journal news release.

Preventing crime or accidents

On-site amphetamine testing could potentially prevent additional crimes or accidents caused by drug abuse, said Ilha Hwang, a scientist from the same university who collaborated on the project.

"For example, breathalyzers are effective at catching drunk drivers on the spot, thereby preventing accidents," Hwang said. "We hope that our sensor may have a similar effect with people who abuse amphetamines."

But before the device can be marketed, further testing in clinical settings is needed, the researchers said.

Image credit: iStock