Tag Archives: Drug Testing

New test detects drug use from fingerprints

Research published in the journal Analyst has demonstrated a new, non-invasive test that can detect cocaine use through a simple fingerprint. For the first time, this new fingerprint method can determine whether cocaine has been ingested, rather than just touched.

Led by the University of Surrey, a team of researchers from the Netherlands Forensic Institute (NL), the National Physical Laboratory (UK), King’s College London (UK) and Sheffield Hallam University (UK), used different types of an analytical chemistry technique known as mass spectrometry to analyse the fingerprints of patients attending drug treatment services. They tested these prints against more commonly used saliva samples to determine whether the two tests correlated. While previous fingerprint tests have employed similar methods, they have only been able to show whether a person had touched cocaine, and not whether they have actually taken the drug.

“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,” said lead author Dr Melanie Bailey from the University of Surrey. “For our part of the investigations, we sprayed a beam of solvent onto the fingerprint slide (a technique known as Desorption Electrospray Ionisation, or DESI) to determine if these substances were present. DESI has been used for a number of forensic applications, but no other studies have shown it to demonstrate drug use.”

Researchers believe that the applications for this test could be far-reaching. Drug testing is used routinely by probation services, prisons, courts and other law enforcement agencies. However, traditional testing methods have limitations. For example, blood testing requires trained staff and there are privacy concerns about urine testing. Where bodily fluids are tested, there can be biological hazards and often a requirement for particular storage and disposal methods. Often these tests also require analysis off-site.

“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,” added Dr Bailey. “By the very nature of the test, the identity of the subject is captured within the fingerprint ridge detail itself.”

It is anticipated that this technology could see the introduction of portable drug tests for law enforcement agencies to use within the next decade.

“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,” said Dr Bailey.

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Michigan Senate Approves Drug Testing of Welfare Recipients

Despite the stigmatization of welfare recipients and the failure of testing programs in other states, Michigan went ahead and passed the bill anyway.

Michigan could become the latest state to approve the drug testing of welfare recipients. The state Senate approved the second of two bills which would allocate $500,000 for the Department of Human Services (DHS) to create pilot testing programs in at least three counties.

The proposed plan calls for DHS to use a substance abuse screening tool on select welfare recipients. Those suspected of using illegal substances would then be required to take a drug test. A positive test would result in the recipient being referred to a regional substance abuse agency for intervention, with a second positive test or refusal to participate resulting in the recipient having their benefits taken away for at least six months.

“The vote you are about to take is not a vote against the poor of this state. This vote is for the children,” said Sen. Rick Jones (R-Grand Ledge). “Children are starving. They’re hungry in this state. We have to feed them at school because their parents are abusing drugs at home.”

All eleven Democrats at the hearing opposed the testing out of fear that it stigmatized welfare recipients, whose rate of drug use is no different than that of the general population. “I’m continually frustrated by the priorities of this Legislature, in particular the ongoing attacks on low-income families,” said State Sen. Vincent Gregory (D-Southfield). “Michigan gives businesses nearly 40 billion in tax handouts, yet those companies are not required to be drug tested, let alone to create the jobs they promised.”

Democratic senators did successfully add two amendments to the bill that would allow guardians to receive benefits for children if their parents were kicked off welfare, as well as protecting certified medical marijuana patients from punishment. Nine states currently test welfare recipients for drugs, but current data suggests that the programs actually cost more money than they save since only a small percentage of welfare users end up testing positive.