Scientists develop cocaine test based on fingerprint analysis

Illinois residents may be aware that drug tests performed on saliva, blood or urine samples have been criticized because they are invasive and those who submit to these tests are sometimes able to conceal their drug use. Scientists from the Netherlands and United Kingdom have developed a method of detecting cocaine use by analyzing fingerprints, and they say that this new form of drug test is more reliable than traditional methods because the results cannot be faked.

The new drug test detects the presence of benzoylecgonine and methylecgonine in a fingerprint using a process called mass spectrometry. The researchers say that these chemicals are produced by the body after cocaine has been ingested, and they cannot be detected in the fingerprints of those who have merely touched the drug. The research was published in May 2015 in the journal Analyst.

The scientists behind the research believe that the new test will be straightforward for police officers to perform, and they say that portable kits will likely be available to law enforcement agencies within 10 years. They add that the hygienic and noninvasive nature of fingerprint testing makes it appropriate for use in the field.

Scientific evidence is usually given a great deal of credence, and this can be a problem if the methods being used are not completely accurate. Benzoylecgonine can be found in topical solutions used to treat muscle pain, and research indicates that those who have used such solutions may test positive for cocaine use. Scientific research designed to make drug testing simpler and more accurate should be welcomed, but criminal defense attorneys may question the widespread implementation of new testing methods to substantiate a drug charge until more research is performed.

Source: Medical Laboratory Observer, False-positive DOA testing results due to prescription medications, Amitava Dasgupta, October 2009

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