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J Chromatogr B Analyt Technol Biomed Life Sci. 2010 Aug 15;878(24):2255-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jchromb.2010.06.035. Epub 2010 Jul 3.

Method for determination of methadone in exhaled breath collected from subjects undergoing methadone maintenance treatment.

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Department of Medicine, Section of Clinical Pharmacology, Karolinska Institutet, SE-17176 Stockholm, Sweden.


At present drugs of abuse testing using exhaled breath as specimen is only possible for alcohol. However, we recently discovered that using modern liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry technique amphetamine and methamphetamine is detectable in exhaled breath following intake in drug addicts. We therefore undertook to develop a method for determination of methadone in exhaled breath from patients undergoing methadone maintenance treatment. Exhaled breath was collected from 13 patients after intake of the daily methadone dose. The compounds were trapped by filtering the air through a C18 modified silica surface. After elution of any trapped methadone the extract was analysed by a combined liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry method. Recovery of trapped methadone from the filter surface was 96%, no significant matrix effect was observed, and the quantification using methadone-d3 as an internal standard was accurate (<10% bias) and precise (coefficient of variation 1.6-2.0%). Methadone was indisputably identified by means of the mass spectrometry technique in exhaled breath samples from all 13 patients. Identification was based on monitoring two product ions in selected reaction monitoring mode with correct relative ratio (+/-20%) and correct retention time. Excretion rates ranged from 0.39 to 78ng/min. No methadone was detected in 10 control subjects. This finding confirms that breath testing is a new possibility for drugs of abuse testing. Collection of exhaled breath specimen is likely to be more convenient and safe as compared to other matrices presently in use.

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