Fingerprint Test Could Determine Cocaine Use


By Paula Cohen

A sophisticated new type of drug test can tell whether a person has taken cocaine by analyzing chemical traces left behind in their fingerprint, scientists say.

Researchers from Britain and the Netherlands developed the technique, which they say could offer a useful alternative to current methods of blood, saliva or urine testing. Their findings are published in one scientific journal.

The test uses a technique called mass spectrometry to detect chemicals produced by the body after a person consumes the drug. The scientists say it can tell the difference between a person who's actually taken cocaine and someone who just happened to touch it.

"When someone has taken cocaine, they excrete traces of benzoylecgonine and methylecgonine as they metabolize the drug, and these chemical indicators are present in fingerprint residue," the lead author of the study, Dr. Melanie Bailey said in a press release.

The researchers hope their discovery could be used to create simple, portable drug tests for law enforcement agencies to use within the next decade.

"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," Bailey said. "By the very nature of the test, the identity of the subject is captured within the fingerprint ridge detail itself."


Articles in this issue:

Journal of Medicine Sign Up

Get the Journal of Medicine delivered to your inbox.

Thank you for subscribing.

No membership required*


  • Editor-in Chief:
    Theodore Massey

    Editorial Staff:
    Roberta Ness
    Bob Thompson
    Arthur Staturo
    Renaldo Aturo
    Michael Friendly

    Creative Oversight:


    Design Director:
    Agency San Francisco, Inc.

    Design Firm:
    Agency San Francisco, Inc.

    Sandra Bowing
    Toby Garcia
    Irene Suvlano
    Willam Crawley
    Jon Young


Leave a Comment

Please keep in mind that all comments are moderated. Please do not use a spam keyword or a domain as your name, or else it will be deleted. Let's have a personal and meaningful conversation instead. Thanks for your comments!

*This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.