Fingerprint tests for drug use could be the most efficient and accurate technology to date for detecting a variety of substances present in sweat in the body.

Intelligent fingerprinting may be a valuable new way to detect drug use. A fingerprint drug test uses small amounts of sweat on the tip of a person’s finger to measure drug content in their body. The finger is pressed against a tamper-proof cartridge and results appear on a screen. The sample can be collected in as little as five seconds. If drugs have been used, a screen will report the kind of drug present within ten minutes. Tests have been used to cross-analyze results of these tests with fluid collected from saliva and found them to be just as accurate.

Fingerprint drug tests have been used on a trial basis in the United Kingdom as part of family care services, which helps families who are struggling with drug addiction. Many kinds of drugs can be screened for using this process, including opioids and marijuana. This technology is proving to be useful and effective for quickly and easily detecting drug use. Its potential extends to public health personnel, such as law enforcement and family services workers.

Why Fingerprint Drug Tests?

Drug test methods have historically required urine or blood samples to determine the presence and concentration of drugs. Multiple cultural factors underlie the need for an updated method of determining if a person has used drugs. Now that many states have legalized marijuana use, it could be important for law enforcement officials to be able to collect information at traffic stops or other settings quickly and efficiently.

For families or individuals in recovery, creating non-invasive drug testing options can help build trust and preserve dignity.

While conflicting opinions exist on whether or not workplaces should drug test, many workplaces do have mandatory drug testing. Typically, employers tend to administer saliva tests, as it has been the most efficient and reliable approach.

Fingerprint drug testing could replace and even outperform saliva testing in all of these environments.

The new method of drug testing has multiple advantages because it is:

  • Efficient
  • Non-invasive
  • Low cost
  • Accurate
  • Portable
  • Hygienic

Fingerprint testing can be done immediately and in-person without any restrooms or outsourcing to a laboratory for results. Urine or blood samples create a biohazard waste issue, as those samples have to be disposed of according to specific guidelines. The portable fingerprint detection device has a cartridge that can easily be disposed of with regular waste. The device itself costs a few thousand dollars, and each cartridge is priced affordably. However, the only fingerprint drug screen system that is currently available for purchase is made for forensic use only.

The Technology

After ingestion, the body processes whatever substance it has taken in and secretes metabolites into the blood, saliva, sweat, and urine. Because these secretions are specific enough to identify the chemical or drug ingested, identifying them through fingerprint analysis is fairly easy. The sweat that is present on the tip of someone’s finger has enough material to accurately determine what drugs a person has recently ingested.

It can identify the antibodies that are associated with certain kinds of drugs. When a fingerprint is scanned and detects these antibodies, it signals the reader and reports the results. The currently available devices use touchscreen technology and display results on a screen within a few minutes of testing.

The unit itself is currently about the size of a small printer. Individual cartridges are used for each test. Additional accessories are currently available, including a printer to provide a physical record of the performed tests.

An important caveat of the current fingerprint drug screening technology is that, even in the case of a positive result, additional evidence is required to verify that the person tested has indeed used the drugs they tested positive for. This means that in its current state, this technology still requires confirmation from laboratory services.

The Uses

Historically, only blood and urine were trusted to provide reliable drug use information. The current system of collecting and analyzing saliva samples is an improvement, as it can be done by a police officer and in multiple environments. Saliva tests vary in complexity and may or may not test for a wide variety of drugs. Saliva tests can be purchased in any number of consumer-facing stores and used by employers or other people to test alcohol and a variety of drugs.

Drug test and fingerprints may be a vastly superior alternative to saliva testing for many reasons. Gleaning accurate reports from saliva require testing within an optimal window of time after drugs have been consumed. Saliva tests can also be prepared for and maybe even cheated with mouthwash or other hygiene practices.

Fingerprint testing for drug use is reliable, simple and non-invasive. This practice can be performed roadside, in a clinic or in a home. The variety of applications is a meaningful aspect of the usefulness of this device. The more ways that testing can be reliably and efficiently performed, the better. Fingerprint testing has been proven effective in detecting many drugs, including the following:

Having the right information is a vital component of enforcing the law as well as supporting recovery.

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Editor – Megan Hull
Megan Hull is a content specialist who edits, writes and ideates content to help people find recovery. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Joy Youell
Joy Youell is a writer and content developer with a background in educational research. Using sound pedagogical approaches and expert-backed methods, Joy has designed and delivered adult learning content, professional development, and company training materials for organizations. Read more

Drummer, Olaf H. “Drug Testing in Oral Fluid.” Clinical Biochemist Reviews, August 27, 2006. Accessed July 20, 2019.

Hudson, Mark et al. “Drug screening using the sweat of a fing[…]ates and amphetamine.” Journal of Analytical Toxicology, October 1, 2018. Accessed July 20, 2019.

Koczula, Katarzyna M. et al. “Lateral flow assays.” Essays in Biochemistry, June 30, 2016. Accessed July 20, 2019. “Products.” Accessed July 20, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.