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Smartphone swabs as an emerging tool for toxicology testing: a proof-of-concept study in a nightclub.

OBJECTIVES: Smartphones have become everyday objects on which the accumulation of fingerprints is significant. In addition, a large proportion of the population regularly uses a smartphone, especially younger people. The objective of this study was to evaluate smartphones as a new matrix for toxico-epidemiology.

METHODS: This study was conducted during two separate events (techno and trance) at an electronic music nightclub in Grenoble, France. Data on reported drug use and whether drugs were snorted directly from the surface of the smartphone were collected using an anonymous questionnaire completed voluntarily by drug users. Then, a dry swab was rubbed for 20 s on all sides of the smartphone. The extract was analyzed by liquid chromatography coupled to tandem mass spectrometry on a Xevo TQ-XS system (Waters).

RESULTS: In total, 122 swabs from 122 drug users were collected. The three main drugs identified were MDMA (n=83), cocaine (n=59), and THC (n=51). Based on declarative data, sensitivity ranged from 73 to 97.2 % and specificity from 71.8 to 88.1 % for MDMA, cocaine, and THC. Other substances were identified such as cocaine adulterants, ketamine, amphetamine, LSD, methamphetamine, CBD, DMT, heroin, mescaline, and several NPS. Numerous medications were also identified, such as antidepressants, anxiolytics, hypnotics, and painkillers. Different use patterns were identified between the two events.

CONCLUSIONS: This proof-of-concept study on 122 subjects shows that smartphone swab analysis could provide a useful and complementary tool for drug testing, especially for harm-reduction programs and toxico-epidemiolgy studies, with acceptable test performance, despite declarative data.

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