Testing for drugs of abuse in saliva and sweat

J Chromatogr B Biomed Sci Appl. 1998 Aug 21;713(1):111-35. doi: 10.1016/s0378-4347(97)00572-0.


The detection of marijuana, cocaine, opiates, amphetamines, benzodiazepines, barbiturates, PCP, alcohol and nicotine in saliva and sweat is reviewed, with emphasis on forensic applications. The short window of detection and lower levels of drugs present compared to levels found in urine limits the applications of sweat and saliva screening for drug use determination. However, these matrices may be applicable for use in driving while intoxicated and surveying populations for illicit drug use. Although not an illicit drug, the detection of ethanol is reviewed because of its importance in driving under the influence. Only with alcohol may saliva be used to estimate blood levels and the degree of impairment because of the problems with oral contamination and drug concentrations varying depending upon how the saliva is obtained. The detection of nicotine and cotinine (from smoking tobacco) is also covered because of its use in life insurance screening and surveying for passive exposure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biological Transport
  • Drug Stability
  • Forensic Medicine / methods
  • Humans
  • Illicit Drugs / analysis*
  • Illicit Drugs / metabolism
  • Saliva / chemistry*
  • Saliva / metabolism
  • Specimen Handling
  • Substance Abuse Detection / methods*
  • Sweat / chemistry*
  • Sweat / physiology


  • Illicit Drugs