A cheap and quick drugs test which allows parents to check whether their children have been using cocaine or cannabis has been developed by British scientists.
Researchers have unveiled the £1.50 test, which takes five minutes and detects other illegal substances.
The disposable drugs test analyses a droplet of saliva for any trace of drugs in a person's system.
Scientists say it has been proven to highlight the smallest amount of a drug such as a metabolite (small molecules) of cocaine.
Suspicious parents can screen their children for the drugs by taking a swab of their saliva and placing it into a machine.
The Vantix biosensor technology, developed by Universal Sensors Ltd, could also be used by police officers to test motorists for drugs by the roadside.
Kevin Auton, Commercial Director of Universal Sensors, admitted the tests could have ''huge implications for society''.
"It is controversial but the test can be used in the home for worried parents to test if their children are taking drugs," he said.
''We are very focused on getting the test out of the laboratory and onto other platforms. It is as simple to use as a pregnancy test.
''We can produce 30 million biosensors each year, which means it is very cheap to sell.''
The tests, developed at Universal Sensors' base in Ickleton, Cambs., are designed to be used in the home.
But they could also be rolled out across the country to aid police investigating suspected drug drivers.
Currently, officers perform Field Impairment Tests, which look at pupil dilation, balance and coordination.
These are not solid proof of illegal driving and police are often reluctant to carry out time consuming blood tests.
The breakthrough means officers would be able to identify drugs by taking a swab from a driver's mouth.
They would then place the sample into a machine and the result would be returned just five minutes later.
Drugs are considered a contributing factor is three percent of death on British roads - but this is likely to be underestimated due to the difficulty in detecting substances.
A spokesman for Universal Sensors Ltd said police did often not go on to test for drugs in drink drivers as the procedure was so time consuming.
''Drugs and alcohol are often consumed simultaneously, but once the police have detected alcohol they are unlikely to go to the effort of drug testing," he said.
''The VantixTM biosensor has the potential to provide police with a straightforward, unambiguous test result, which would help identify drug drivers and secure convictions.
''Such a sensitive technology would make a zero tolerance approach to drug drivers possible for the first time."
He added: "'A test which can be performed on untreated saliva by a member of the police force would save police time and resources, and increase the proportion of drug driver convictions, making the roads safer for all.''
By Andrew Hough
Published: 7:30AM BST 22 Sep 2010
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