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One in 10 non-drug takers have cocaine or heroin on their fingertips

It's not just money that's contaminated

  • Patrick Hinton
  • 23 March 2018
One in 10 non-drug takers have cocaine or heroin on their fingertips

Traces of Class A substances can be found on the fingertips of people who have never taken drugs, a new study has found.

A paper detailing the conclusions has been published in the journal Clinical Chemistry.

It found that 13 per cent of drug-free participants, tested at the University of Surrey, had traces of cocaine or heroin on their fingertips.

The minute quantities were not enough to be visible or have any chemical impact, but there was enough to trigger highly sensitive detection instruments called mass spectrometers.

The study had an aim above revealing that traces of drugs can be found all over. Researchers were looking to establish a baseline for how much heroin or cocaine is likely to show up on a non-drug users fingertips compared to a recent user of the drugs, in the hope of finding a level in which they could say with confidence whether a fingerprint test indicated someone who had recently used drugs.

Along the way, they found that there is a lot of environmental contamination on fingertips that doesn’t come off through hand washing.

Rolf Halden, director of the Biodesign Center for Environmental Health Engineering at Arizona State University, compared it to currency contamination, saying: "Think of cocaine on paper money. We know that a lot of currency is contaminated with cocaine."

Halden added that the fingerprint findings could initiate a new method of speedy drug testing, that doesn’t require blood or hair samples, although warned that it would be far less precise due to environmental factors of things certain people regularly touch leading to higher contamination. For example, people handling a lot of money such as currency exchangers would likely have far greater levels of contamination, which could push them above the baseline.

He said: "If I'm a lawyer and my client tested for drugs this way, this would be an easy way out [of a conviction]. I predict it could be potentially helpful [for drug testing], but it would not very rapidly replace other types of testing, like bodily fluids."

[Via: Live Science]

Patrick Hinton is Mixmag's Digital Staff Writer, follow him on Twitter

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