As technologies advance further, more ways to help people are coming forward. A recent development in the field of technology will reportedly help us to detect cocaine consumption by examining fingerprints.
Melanie Bailey from the University of Surrey in the UK has found a way to detect a trace of cocaine on human skin. The reports show that one can conduct the test in less than 2 minutes. This seems to be a more effective way than blood tests.
According to Bailey, with the help of this process, now we can easily say either somebody’s touched the drug or they’ve ingested it. This easy method has potential relevance to forensic science as well as toxicology and clinical testing.
While detecting the presence of cocaine on human skin, scientists always look for its primary metabolite, benzoylecgonine on the person's body. It also reportedly stays as an impurity in some street cocaine. In addition to that, cocaine was found to persist above environmental levels for up to 48 hours after contact. Therefore, it becomes easier to benzoylecgonine in fingerprints of non-drug users after contact with cocaine.
However, there remain chances of washing off the hands after consumption or close contact with cocaine. In Bailey's words,
Benzoylecgonine in street cocaine actually washes off the fingers.
But she ensures that the consumer of cocaine will continue to excrete the molecule through their sweat. Like this, it becomes easier to test if there is the presence of the metabolite or not.
Conducting the test
Bailey and her team carried out some tests on 26 people who touched cocaine in the past 24 hours. The samples of cocaine had the purity of 99 percent as well as less purity like street samples. They collected samples both before and after washing hands and finally tested them.
Through this test, Bailey and her team wanted to compare these with fingerprint samples taken from a cohort of patients attending a drug rehabilitation clinic, as well as non-drug users. She says,
We show that it is possible to distinguish between contact and ingestion of cocaine from a fingerprint, if (and only if) fingerprints are donated after washing hands.
To gather the samples, the subjects pressed their finger onto a piece of specialized paper for almost 10 seconds. The team then tested the samples with the help of mass spectrometry techniques to detect the presence of cocaine or benzoylecgonine.
The results show that the fingerprinting technique was 95 percent accurate among the 85 participants. The presented data show that it is possible to distinguish between the touch and ingestion of cocaine in a drug testing scenario.
The data sets generated and analyzed during the study are now available on request for further studies. The technique is also commercially available to conduct various drug testing methods. This will surely help the people as well as the government to detect the drug intakes in a much faster way without any blood test.