A Drug Test that Uses a Fingerprint Instead of Urine or Blood

 In Naturopathic News

Node Smith, ND

A recent article in the AACC’s Clinical Chemistry Journal, showcases a new fingerprint test that can tell if someone has used cocaine or heroin.1 The test can accurately differentiate between the drug residue when someone has used these substances and that from being exposed to environmental residue. The intention of the test is to provide a drug testing method that is both simple and virtually impossible to trick.

Tools for identifying individuals in need of treatment is critical

Heroin and cocaine use and abuse are the cause of incredible suffering in the United States. Tools for identifying individuals in need of treatment support is critical. Currently, blood, urine and saliva are all used for detection of recent drug use. These methods have their shortcomings – blood for example is invasive and requires trained staff to collect samples, urine samples are relatively easy to adulterate, and saliva tests have a narrow window of detection.

Research team has developed a way to detect cocaine and heroin use from a fingerprint

The research team of this new fingerprint test has developed a way to detect cocaine and heroin use from a fingerprint, using liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS). LC-MS is the gold standard in drug testing methodology, and enables the test to be sensitive enough to not be impacted by environmental contamination.

Analysis of the fingerprints with LC-MS was 100% in identifying drug users even after hand-washing

For the development of the test, the research team took fingerprints before and after hand-washing from 50 non-drug users and from 25 participants who reported to be currently taking either cocaine (13) or heroin (12), and had used within the last 24 hours. Saliva samples were utilized for comparison. To account for environmental contamination, a third set of prints was collected from the non-drug users after shaking hands with the drug users. The analysis of the fingerprints with LC-MS for both heroin and the heroin metabolite 6-monoacetylmorphine was 100% in identifying drug users even after hand-washing. It only gave one false positive for a non-drug user who shook hands with a drug user. The results for cocaine were not as impressive, identifying only 85% of cocaine users after hand-washing. There were no false positives for cocaine use. The fingerprint test did, however, identify more drug users than the saliva test.


  1. Ismail M, Stevenson D, Costa C, Webb R, et al. Noninvasive Detection of Cocaine and Heroin Use with Single Fingerprints: Determination of an Environmental Cutoff. Clin Chem. 2018 Mar 22. pii: clinchem.2017.281469. doi: 10.1373/clinchem.2017.281469.
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Node Smith, ND, is a naturopathic physician in Portland, OR and associate editor for NDNR. He has been instrumental in maintaining a firm connection to the philosophy and heritage of naturopathic medicine among the next generation of docs. He helped found the first multi-generational experiential retreat, which brings elders, alumni, and students together for a weekend camp-out where naturopathic medicine and medical philosophy are experienced in nature. Four years ago he helped found the non-profit, Association for Naturopathic ReVitalization (ANR), for which he serves as the board chairman. ANR has a mission to inspire health practitioners to embody the naturopathic principles through experiential education. Node also has a firm belief that the next era of naturopathic medicine will see a resurgence of in-patient facilities which use fasting, earthing, hydrotherapy and homeopathy to bring people back from chronic diseases of modern living; he is involved in numerous conversations and projects to bring about this vision.

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