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New Test Detects Drugs Using Fingerprints

Thanks to Surrey University in England, The Netherlands Forensic Institute, and Intelligent Fingerprinting, a private company based in Cambridge, testing someone for drug use just got a whole lot easier. Using fingerprints to test for drugs in the system may sound a little mind boggling to some, but it’s here! Moreover, researchers report that the results are 99% accurate.

However, there isn’t enough actual data gathered yet to prove that statement beyond the shadow of doubt. Until there is, the court systems won’t allow fingerprint drug testing results to be submitted as evidence in court. That makes using this breakthrough technology a bit risky unless you consider the fact that the majority of people in the workforce don’t use drugs.

What’s that got to do with it?

Whether or not this technology is allowed as admissible evidence in court shouldn’t keep employers from considering using this groundbreaking technology in their own companies. As stated above, the majority of people living in the United States don’t use drugs. Moreover, it’s common knowledge that when you have drug-free policies in place, they act as a deterrent for drug abusers. Most of them won’t even consider applying for a job with a company that does drug tests.

Therefore, there are far more negative results than positive, right? Of course, in this day and age, employers have to be careful or they’ll find themselves drug—no pun intended—into court over a disputed result. Legal fees alone could wreak havoc on the overall operating budget in a hurry, not to mention the negative publicity that might ensue.

The solution to that particular problem is an easy fix, really. Your drug-free policies should reflect that because fingerprint testing isn’t admissible in court, should someone test positive for drugs using the fingerprint method, they will report for a second drug test using a method that is admissible. Such as the urine test, for example, it’s the most widely used test in the industry.

Fingerprint testing may become a contender

When employee drug testing came on the scene, the urine test was the only method available. It’s been around for decades now. In fact, it’s become so commonplace that when someone hears that a company drug tests, they assume that they’ll be expected to provide a urine specimen before getting the job. Imagine how awesome it would be to merely scan someone’s fingerprint and receive the result in minutes rather than having your possible new hires report to a drug testing site and, then, waiting for results to come in before proceeding with onboarding!

The fingerprint drug test has other advantages to consider as well. It is the most non-invasive drug testing method available because all it requires is pressing your finger against a screen. Besides the ease of administration and 99% accuracy rate, it’s efficient—think no waiting for results—and economical. Because it’s portable, the test can be administered literally anywhere. Lastly, in this post pandemic world, it’s important to mention the fact that it’s hygienic too.

How does it work exactly?

Everything ingested into the body goes through the metabolization process turning it into metabolites. The metabolites disperse themselves throughout the body waiting to be excreted in various ways, such as in saliva, urine, and hair. Metabolites are excreted through sweat too. Drug tests detect the drug metabolites in the system to render a positive result.

It’s important to note that this drug testing method doesn’t reflect current impairment because it detects drug metabolites rather than the actual drug. The only test available for current impairment is the blood test. It’s really expensive though. Employers who operate a drug-free program normally reserve this test for post accident drug testing scenarios. Frankly, that’s because if it’s determined that someone is high on drugs at the time an accident occurs, it could help determine who is responsible.

When administering the fingerprint test, the technician has the test subject press their finger against the reader. The fingerprint is scanned into the system and is analyzed. If the sweat on the fingerprint contains drug metabolites, a positive result is obtained in less than eight minutes. It shows up right on the screen! There is absolutely no way to cheat on this drug test.

It’s easy to see how this technology could revolutionize the drug testing industry—just the thought of time saved waiting for the results of the drug test for potential new hires alone should cause many employers to consider switching. However, employers that are regulated by the Department of Transportation (DOT) must continue to use the federally mandated urine drug test until further notice.

What drugs does it detect?

Currently the fingerprint test is limited to detecting four major groups of drugs within hours of ingesting them.

They are:

  • Amphetamines and methamphetamine—detected within two hours after ingestion up to a week
  • Cocaine—detected within two hours after ingestion up to two days
  • Cannabis—detected almost immediately and for up to a week after discontinuing use
  • Opiates, including morphine and heroin—detected within two hours after ingestion up to a week


Further breakthroughs in technology are expected allowing other drugs to be added to the list of testable drugs.

Will you make the switch?

Unless mandated to use the urine test by the DOT or other federal entity, fingerprint drug testing is something many employers may consider. The ease of administration and the ability to obtain immediate results will save time and money during the hiring process. Because most people live their lives drug free, it’s just as economical to use for all other drug testing requirements, as well—with the exception of post accident testing, of course.

Using the fingerprint method during traffic stops or at the scene of an accident could greatly benefit police departments, parole officers, and emergency technicians responding to a call. We can expect this technology to flourish as it becomes more refined. After decades being number one, the urine drug test may have met its match at last.


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