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Cocaine Use Can Now Be Tested In Fingerprints Using Ambient Mass Spectrometry 143

hypnosec writes: A novel technique of detecting cocaine abuse through a simple fingerprint has been developed by researchers from the UK and the Netherlands, paving the way for a secure, non-invasive drug detection method. The research, led by University of Surrey and published in the journal Analyst, demonstrates for the first time that cocaine can be detected by the excreted metabolites – benzoylecgonine and methylecgonine – resulting from abuse of the drug. These chemicals are found in fingerprint residue, which the researchers detect using analytical chemistry technique known as ambient mass spectrometry.
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Cocaine Use Can Now Be Tested In Fingerprints Using Ambient Mass Spectrometry

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  • by ganjadude ( 952775 ) on Sunday May 17, 2015 @06:15PM (#49713873) Homepage
    lets spend billions upon billions to stop people from doing things to themselves, not even taking the 4th amendment into consideration

    Im not condoning abuse, but im also not condoning the absurd spending that we as a planet have done "for the children"
    • by pitchpipe ( 708843 ) on Sunday May 17, 2015 @06:20PM (#49713911)
      You just don't understand. This is the breakthrough we've been looking for to finally win this war on drugs.

      It's only a matter of time now before 'Drugs' throws up the white flag.

    • Do they even have a 4th amendment there?
    • by Shakrai ( 717556 )

      not even taking the 4th amendment into consideration

      The 4th amendment regulates the behavior of Government. It has nothing whatsoever to do with your relationship with a private employer. Drug testing is a crock of shit for a lot of reasons but the 4th Amendment is not one of them.

      • Yes, this will be used by private employers. However, it will also be abused by the police until a supreme court decision comes out of it one way or the other.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Shakrai ( 717556 )

          Your comment is highly misleading; with very few exceptions the police can't test you for drug metabolites without a warrant. Implied consent laws for driving and people on probation are the two scenarios that are most common. In the case of the former they may well need a court order, depending on the State. In NYS they can't ask for such an order unless you're involved in an accident involving personal injury. Mundane DWI and you refuse the chemical test? They can't do a damn thing about it. Run som

          • I'm not sure that we should rely on economic motivations to constrain abuses, for two reasons:

            1- While a dragnet search might be impractical, an individual can still be targeted. For example: a corrupt authority has a cocaine-using informant hold a glass, which is then given to their target in a restaurant and taken as evidence afterwards. Bam, their target is on coke, liable for some of the most egregious penalities in our legal system.
            2- While today a test might be beyond the reach of budgets, technology

            • by Shakrai ( 717556 )

              I didn't say we should rely on it; I simply stated that's how it works in the real world.

              Hypothetical Anecdote: I threw a McDonald's cup out of my car of my today. My fingerprints are in the system. I have no expectation of privacy with something that I willingly discarded. Fingerprint dusting and testing is comparatively cheap, thanks to advancements in technology. Is there going to be a knock on my door in a few days? Not bloody likely.

              Drug testing costs significantly more than fingerprint dusting

              • "I threw a McDonald's cup out of my car of my today. My fingerprints are in the system."

                Let me guess: for littering?

                • by Shakrai ( 717556 )

                  It was a hypothetical, I don't litter, though my prints are actually on file in Albany and presumably in Washington. Firearms licenses....

            • by Shakrai ( 717556 )

              Bam, their target is on coke, liable for some of the most egregious penalities in our legal system.

              Incidentally, it's not illegal to have drug metabolites in your system. It's not even illegal to use drugs. It's illegal to possess them, in certain jurisdictions, but unless you're on probation or hold certain licenses (a CDL or firearms license) the legal consequences of a positive drug test are non-existent. There may be private consequences, like termination of employment, but you don't go to jail for a positive drug test.

              • by Bengie ( 1121981 )
                If you took the drugs, then it's proof that you were in position of the drug at one point.
                • Its not proof that you were knowingly in possession of them. I believe that is the standards to meet too. For instance, i could slip something into your drink or food or have residue on something you are supposed to handle (money, car seat, whatever).

                  Testing positive is proof of nothing other than you tested positive for some reason.

                • If someone lays out a couple of lines of coke and someone else snorts them, was the person snorting the coke in possession of it?
            • Keep in mind that your targeted individual can't be tested without a warrant, no matter what the coke-using informant does to the cup. They could probably get a warrant if the coke-using informant says the target is a junkie, but the test isn't actually proof of anything illegal (remember: using drugs is technically legal, it's possessing them before you've taken them that's the problem). They might be able to use to get a warrant for the target's house, and plant some drugs or something in the toilet; but

              • by mbone ( 558574 )

                If you think this is only going to be used with warrants you sure haven't been paying attention. Maybe, if we are lucky, in 10 or 15 years the US Supreme Court would set up sensible rules about warrant requirements for fingerprints, but I sure wouldn't bet on it.

                • You're getting ahead of yourself.

                  The Courts currently require warrants for this kind of testing. They may in future change their minds, and say it's an extension of non-warrant-requiring fingerprint tests, but that ruling has not happened.

                  Moreover, as I pointed out (and you completely ignored), if the cops have a coke-using informant whose willing to fake evidence against you they really truly have no need for this test. They can get their warrant, plant their evidence, and fuck you over just based on the g

          • These apartments are


            You seems to misunderstand how police budgets work. They don't have the money to go after every crime, and they especially don't have money for crimes that no one cares about (black on black crime for example), But, if you somehow catch the attention of someone higher up in the department and they think they could get a career promotion from busting you, then you better believe they have hundreds of thousands at their disposal to catch you with.

            • by Shakrai ( 717556 )

              Your link discusses what private individuals are doing, not law enforcement, so it's kind of irrelevant here.

              Regarding your red herring, cops don't get "career promotions" for busting people for drug possession. And if you're going around pissing the cops off for no particular reason you should probably take care to mind your Ps and Qs.

              Example: In New York State marijuana possession is a violation (i.e., less than a misdemeanor) punishable by no more than a $100 fine. It actually costs less than a speed

              • actually its 100$ first offense, 250 second offense. Been there, done that.
          • You're forgetting the for-profit civil forfeiture power they have.

            I guarantee you someone is working a spreadsheet figuring out if they buy a bunch of high tech scanners and can get more people with positive results they can seize a lot more stuff to pay for it.

            Test positive? We'll take everything you have on you, your car and possibly your house and we can do it all now without any court approving it. You have to prove to us that it's not ill-gotten gains.

            • by Shakrai ( 717556 )

              Please give me a single citation of someone facing civil asset forfeiture for a positive drug test. Just one.

              The authorities can't compel drug testing, outside of the few exceptions (suspected drugged driving, probation, or CDL holders), so how exactly are they going to use it as a basis for asset forfeiture?

              • by swb ( 14022 )

                I can't, but I can give you plenty of citations of civil asset forfeiture for even less illegal activity -- like driving on the highway and having a large amount of cash or just making a wrong turn. Many areas have been extremely aggressive to the point of insanity with civil forfeiture.

                Existing drug tests now require more extensive court orders, but if you have basically a fingerprint scanner which can provide prima facie evidence of involvement in the cocaine business it's naive to believe this won't be

                • by Reziac ( 43301 ) *

                  That, and the other question I had -- are these metabolites *unique* to cocaine? Cuz if not, cue the false positives.

    • by amiga3D ( 567632 )

      The war on drugs is pointless. We went through this stupid shit with prohibition so why must we do it again?

    • Companies that employ drivers now have a new test they can perform on their employees, I don't know about you but I have no problem with companies testing their drivers for drug use.
  • by Greyfox ( 87712 )
    Not impressed, and won't be until they can also provide the name of the male stripper whose cock you snorted it off of.

    Congress will likely forbid this technology in the USA, lest it interfere with their favorite past time.

  • How sensitive is this test? From what I understand, a tremendous percentage of currency is 'tainted' with the residue of one illicit substance or another. This may wind up just being a test to see if someone has handled money recently.
    • by Greyfox ( 87712 )
      Well since they're testing for the metabolites of the stuff, probably not unless you're in the habit of eating $100 bills.
      • by lq_x_pl ( 822011 )
        Thank you. I probably should have RTFM before posting that one. :-)
      • Re:Sensitivity (Score:4, Informative)

        by Khyber ( 864651 ) <> on Sunday May 17, 2015 @06:42PM (#49714055) Homepage Journal

        The metabolites are stable for a long time. They can transfer from paper money to your oil/sweat-laden fingerprints.

        And it's usually $1s and $5s that test positive for cocaine metabolites, and cocaine itself.

        • The metabolites are stable for a long time. They can transfer from paper money to your oil/sweat-laden fingerprints.

          And it's usually $1s and $5s that test positive for cocaine metabolites, and cocaine itself.

          So remember kids: Always wash your hands before and after handling paper money.

      • Well since they're testing for the metabolites of the stuff, probably not unless you're in the habit of eating $100 bills.

        Either that, or it would be easy enough for someone to frame you by making sure you touch those metabolites before getting tested.

  • So are we to assume consumption that's not abusive won't leave detectable metabolites? Or, are the researchers assuming all use is abuse? And, can you imagine how much this test costs?

  • Abuse cocaine? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SpankiMonki ( 3493987 ) on Sunday May 17, 2015 @06:26PM (#49713965)

    ...cocaine can be detected by the excreted metabolites...resulting from abuse of the drug.

    What about those that don't abuse cocaine, but use it responsibly? []

  • by JM ( 18663 ) on Sunday May 17, 2015 @06:43PM (#49714061) Homepage

    So, when do we start testing every politician?

    • by Livius ( 318358 )

      We don't need to test the politicians, we need to test their money.

      And once the money is laundered (in both senses of the word) you won't know.

  • You keep using that word abuse of the drug.
    Somewhat interesting is the joint effort between a British and Dutch university team.
    As it is legal in their country the Dutch had to do the sniffing and the Brits did the detection of the resulting metabolites?

    It is good science, for sure.
    For forensic evidence it is really good as this cannot come from just touching some US Dollar notes, you got to at least eat and digest them.
    But this will only be interesting once it can detect if a person is under the infl
  • What kind of abuse does this new method detect? Talkum substitute? Scrubbing powder? Disinfectant? Or rather its intended, designated illegal-but-certainly-non-abusive employment as the psychoactive, addictive drug it happens to be.

    You can abuse a screwdriver to kill somebody; using a gun for the same purpose is still illegal in most circumstances, but it would not be "gun abuse".


  • Note that this method does NOT work with a printed copy of the fingerprint, only the original fingerprint itself. That is because it detects chemicals which are sweated out onto the skin. and when the finger is pressed to the paper, the sweat is pressed onto the paper. The cocaine does NOT change the shape of the swirls; it only adds invisible chemicals to the sweat and ink on the paper.

    Almost everything you tthink of as a fingerprint is actually a photographic copy of a fingerprint, and the method does

    • Biometric scanners. Next time you're required identify yourself, you might get arrested instead for doing some nose candy.

      • I wonder what the effect is if the guy in front of you at the biometric scanner has been doing cocaine? Will his sweat show up on your scan?
        • I'm sure it will, and the TSA and border control goons still won't give a fuck. But yeah, good question.

  • ok...don't excrete. inhale.
  • Don't sweat it. Seriously, don't. Nowadays they can tell all kinds of stuff from your sweat.

  • What a waste of time and money, jailing people $40,000/yr.
    Do you want to pay for that?

  • I see no reason why these researchers shouldn't be pilloried. Taking state money to improve methods of spying on the citizenry is not a positive act.

  • Current detection systems already have enough false positives, eating some poppie seed muffins/bread, taking some ibuprofen, etc will trip some tests. This test sounds like it uses much smaller samples so I would imagine it would be far more susceptible. And as others have noted most money has trace amounts of various drugs (cocaine, heroin, morphine, etc) adding a completely innocent vector for false positives. The entire concept of trace drug testing is flawed, testing for significant recent usage MIGH

  • Almost all people that I know never touch coke any more. Also here seems to be out of favour with the current going to clubs generation/younger generation.

  • I can listen to JJ Cale and detect cocaine use just from the lyrics of the song! How cool is that?
  • How does the test distinguish between use and abuse? A certainly level of cocaine usage is arguably not abuse.

  • Almost all money has had contact with Cocaine and many other street drugs. Since the drugs are already on the money, detecting them in fingerprints may not indicate a user, just a money handler which is NOT a crime anywhere.

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