Could fingerprints be the next leading method for drug testing?

Drug Testing Thumbprints ImageThe FBI has a fingerprint database for conducting federal criminal background checks, and plenty of organizations and employers require their employees and volunteers to be fingerprinted as a way to ensure the workers do not have criminal records. But can fingerprint background checks be used for anything besides criminal records? A new study shows they can. Researchers at the University of Surrey in the U.K., along with researchers from other U.K. and Netherlands universities, have just found another reason to collect fingerprints: drug tests. A new study shows fingerprints are able to provide indicators that an individual has recently used cocaine, by using a mass spectrometer to detect atom-level benzoylecgonine and methylecgonine excreted in sweat. “When someone has taken cocaine, they excrete traces of benzoylecgonine and methylecgonine as they metabolize the drug, and these chemical indicators are present in fingerprint residue,” said Dr. Melanie Bailey, the lead author of the study. The samples that the researchers tested were from drug-treatment participants in the U.K., and both fingerprint and saliva samples were taken to compare the results. Potentially being able to conduct drug tests through fingerprints would be extremely beneficial to employers: there would be far less risk of individuals faking drug tests by utilizing bodily fluids other than their own, as an individual’s fingerprint stores both the test results and the person’s identity; and the collection process would be easier, more sanitary, and less invasive, since urine or blood would not need collection. In addition, law enforcement could use miniature spectrometers in traffic stops in which driving under the influence is suspected. However, that technology is not yet available to the public, and remains very expensive for the time being. The researchers expect that portable and affordable spectrometers will be available within the next 10 years.]]>

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