New test for cocaine use developed
A new fingerprint test has been developed that can detect cocaine use.
Research led by the University of Surrey has created a new method which can determine whether the drug has been ingested, rather than just touched.
Dr Melanie Bailey said the test used a technique of chemical analysis called mass spectrometry and the results were checked against more commonly used saliva samples.
She said: "When someone has taken cocaine, they excrete traces of benzoylecgonine and methylecgonine as they metabolise the drug, and these chemical indicators are present in fingerprint residue."
"The beauty of this method is that, not only is it non-invasive and more hygienic than testing blood or saliva, it can't be faked.
"By the very nature of the test, the identity of the subject is captured within the fingerprint ridge detail itself."
Dr Bailey said she anticipated the test could see the introduction of portable drug tests for law enforcement agencies within the next decade and could simplify the process of drug testing which is commonly carried out by prisons, courts and probation services.
She added: "We are only bound by the size of the current technology.
"Companies are already working on miniaturised mass spectrometers and, in the future, portable fingerprint drugs tests could be deployed.
"This will help to protect the public and indeed provide a much safer test for drug users."