U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Extending the Period for Detecting Illicit Drugs in the Bloodstream

NCJ Number
Date Published
July 2019
3 pages

This article reports on research funded by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) that examined whether adaptation of a method used to detect human exposure to environmental and occupational chemicals can significantly extend the limited time period during which currently used tests can identify evidence of certain illicit drugs in the body.


A research team led by chemist Anthony DeCaprio at Florida International University demonstrated that measuring changes in reactive metabolites of 16 drugs resulted in the detection of those metabolites in the body over a much longer time period that is currently possible. They measured the products of covalent modification of free thiol moleties of blood proteins, such as hemoglobin and serum albumin, by reactive metabolites of drugs. Researchers determined that the modifications, referred to as adducts, typically persist for the life of the protein, which enables the longer period for detection of exposure to a drug. All of the drugs tested have the potential to form adducts, which qualifies them to be detected based on blood protein modification. The research team notes that the longer detection time is useful in toxicology investigations that involve drug-facilitated sexual assault and the measurement of drug compliance or abstinence in pain drug management, rehabilitation programs, and probation/parole compliance monitoring.

Date Published: July 1, 2019