New Drug Test Can Detect Cocaine Use From Your Fingerprint

Thumbs up for science, thumbs down for doing cocaine

Tony Montana will not be pleased. Researchers have pioneered a non-invasive drug test previously used for forensic purposes to determine if you have ingested cocaine, and it's quicker than listening to you speed-talk about Iggy Pop for three hours. All they have to do is take your fingerprint. 

Previous drug tests determined only whether subjects had merely touched any Bolivian marching powder. Now, killjoy researchers have used a chemistry technique known as mass spectrometry — a fancy procedure that identifies specific chemicals in a given sample — to analyze secretions through the skin that are linked to the drug. By testing fingerprints against samples of common bodily secretions such as saliva, the researchers were able to identify and match traces of benzoylecgonine and methylecgonine, the chemical indicators unique to cocaine.

To identify the drug's chemicals Dr. Melanie Bailey, one of the University of Surrey scientists who conducted the tests, explained that researchers "sprayed a beam of solvent onto the fingerprint slide to determine if these substances were present," which sounds as simple as it is complicated. 

Bailey and her cohort say their procedure could potentially be used for a wide range of purposes, such as prisons and law enforcement agencies. “The beauty of this method,” she went on to say, “is that not only is it non-invasive and more hygienic than blood testing or saliva, it can’t be faked.”

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