How do you know if someone has taken cocaine? Sometimes it can be obvious through the person’s actions and behavior, but sometimes it might not. Typically speaking, testing for drugs can be conducted by taking hair, blood, urine, or sweat samples, but it seems that researchers at the University of Surrey in the UK have come up with another method: fingerprints.


Developed by Melanie Bailey and her colleagues, this new test will be able to test for cocaine use or handling simply through the person’s fingerprints. The fingerprint sensor basically attempts to pick up a molecule known as benzoylecgonine, which is typically excreted through a person’s skin if they have ingested cocaine.

To test for cocaine use, all the person needs to do is press their finger against a special piece of paper for 10 seconds, after which the paper is then scanned using the mass spectrometry technique in order to detect the presence of benzoylecgonine. So far based on their testing, they have found that in the 86 samples they’ve taken, it has proven to be 95% accurate.

They also found that their test was capable of detecting the drug up to 48 hours after contact or ingestion. Bailey’s research has since been commercialized and is available for use, meaning that in the future, testing people for use of the drug can be done on the spot and have the results in a matter of minutes, versus more traditional methods that might take longer.

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