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Scientists develop test detecting cocaine use from fingerprints

New Jersey residents may be interested to learn about the creation of a new drug test that can determine whether a person has taken cocaine by analyzing chemicals in their fingerprints. Details of the breakthrough were recently published in a scientific journal.

The sophisticated test was developed by scientists from the Netherlands and Britain. They believe their technique could provide a practical alternative to current methods for cocaine testing, which require blood, saliva or urine samples. The fingerprint test uses a process known as mass spectrometry to detect chemicals the body excretes after an individual metabolizes cocaine. According to the researchers, the technique is sensitive enough to discern whether someone has actually consumed the drug or merely touched it. They said the body excretes trace amounts of methylecgonine and benzoylecgonine after someone takes cocaine, and these chemicals are left behind in fingerprint residue.

The researchers stress that their invention is simple, non-invasive and more hygienic than current testing methods. Further, the test results cannot be faked because the subject's identity is also captured via the fingerprint itself. The test could be used to create a portable cocaine test for use by law enforcement agencies worldwide within the next 10 years.

While this new technique may cut down on false-positives and lab mix-ups in the future, current drug testing methods are not infallible. Anyone facing a drug charge associated with the use of cocaine or any other drug may benefit by retaining a criminal defense attorney. After reviewing the details of the case, a lawyer could recommend legal defense strategies appropriate for the situation. It may be possible to question the accuracy of any drug tests performed. It may also be possible to contest whether police acted within their authority when the test was given.

Source: CBS News, "Fingerprint test could detect cocaine use," Paula Cohen, May 15, 2015

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