Fingerprint Test Can Identify Drug Use With Striking Accuracy

By Kelly Burch 10/16/18

The testing device is already being used in some morgues and at treatment centers in the UK to detect drug use.

Man holding up index finger

Drug testing is important, whether to determine how someone died or to show that someone was under the influence of drugs while behind the wheel.

However, current drug-testing methods that use samples of blood, saliva or hair are slow, invasive and expensive. Now, a fingerprint drug-testing system has been proven to detect the presence of drugs in sweat with up to 99% accuracy. 

A study, published in the Journal of Analytical Toxicology, found that the Reader 1000, manufactured by UK firm Intelligent Fingerprinting, can detect cannabis, amphetamines, opiates, and cocaine.

The device works by analyzing sweat from the fingerprints of people, alive or dead. The sweat contains metabolites that show that the body was excreting certain illicit substances. Using the device speeds up the process of drug testing. 

“This new research highlights how our [device] can screen rapidly for drug use in individuals using a fingerprint sample with a sample collection time of only five seconds, and a total analysis time of ten minutes,” said David Russell, Emeritus Professor at the University of East Anglia, who is co-author of the research and founder of the manufacturer, according to The Daily Mail.

For the study, researchers used the Reader 1000 on 75 dead bodies, as well as testing those individuals with traditional blood and urine drug screenings.

Comparing the readings, researchers found that the Reader 1000 was up to 99% effective at detecting cannabis, 95% for cocaine, 96% for opiates and 93% for amphetamines.

“We matched the coroners' drug test results obtained using our fingerprint drug screen with a second sample tested in laboratory conditions, achieving excellent correlation in terms of accuracy,” Russell explained.

The research proved the concept of analyzing sweat collected through fingerprints, Intelligent Fingerprinting argued.

“This important research demonstrates how there is sufficient sweat present in a subject’s fingerprint, regardless of whether the person is alive or dead, to enable our fingertip-based drug screening system to detect the presence of four major drugs of abuse at the same time,” Intelligent Fingerprinting’s Dr. Paul Yates said in a news release.

The device is already being used in some morgues and at treatment centers in the UK to detect drug use. Testing is underway to make it available at prisons and in other law enforcement settings. Although the device was able to detect the presence of opioids and other drugs, its ability to measure the amount of the substances was not studied.

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.