Scientists may have discovered a more effective way to detect cocaine use among people. Currently, the most common methods of drug testing are urine analysis (UA) and blood tests. These measure substances by parts per million and are very sensitive, yet UAs can sometimes be unreliable and blood tests are inconvenient and invasive as well.
There are other ways of conducting drug tests, such as breathalyzers for alcohol and even marijuana use, as well as saliva and hair testing. The discovery that drug use, specifically cocaine, can be determined by analyzing the fingerprint may allow for quicker results and a less invasive approach to testing.
“The beauty of this method is that, not only is it non-invasive and more hygienic than testing blood or saliva, it can’t be faked. By the very nature of the test, the identity of the subject is captured within the fingerprint ridge detail itself,” explained Dr. Melanie Bailey, a chemistry professor who worked on the project.
The cocaine fingerprint test works by spraying the individual’s fingerprint with a chemical that reacts with benzoylecgonine and methylecgonine, both are secreted after a person has ingested cocaine. Scientists were able to determine if a person had cocaine in their system because the spray would indicate the presence of the metabolized residue that is secreted. The results of their work were published in the journal Analyst.
There is a definite need for tests that can measure illicit drug use that are portable, accurate and easy to use. The applications include law enforcement use during traffic stops to schools, work, at home and at drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs as well.
Several decades ago, heroin and other street drugs were most common among war veterans, the homeless, minority men and those that lived in the inner city. However, the population that is becoming more affected by drug abuse may be somewhat surprising to some. More and more people in the workforce are succumbing to opiate dependency in startling numbers.
While most businesses require prospective employees to pass a drug test prior to hire, this practice is posing some problems for employers. Some businesses are finding it hard to staff their business because people just cannot pass the drug test. Regarding the drug problem in the United States, the main focus appears to be on teens and young adults, but other adults need just as much attention when it comes to prevention, education and treatment of a drug problem.
While the number of workers failing drug tests nationally has dropped according to reports, the amount of workers abusing prescription painkillers is rising. Some people wonder if this discrepancy is due to employers giving up on drug testing their employees because they cannot afford to continue hiring more workers. If this is the case, the plan is backfiring. Workers that are under the influence of illegal drugs have a higher rate of accidents, mistakes, theft and are absent more often than workers who are not abusing drugs. The U.S. Department of Labor had worked with business throughout the country on setting up drug-free workplace programs, often through their local chambers of commerce. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) now oversees this program.
Some businesses are taking other measures to prevent drug abuse in the workplace. One company that has had problems with employees abusing drugs has brought in law enforcement to train management on the signs that someone is under the influence of drugs. Other companies have instituted a no tolerance policy and more strict drug testing requirements. Increasing the number of drug tests and randomizing them helps to prevent employees from getting away with using drugs while employed.
It will continue to take a concentrated effort by employers to ensure that the work environment is safe and drug-free. Part of a drug-free workplace program includes polices on what do to when someone does test positive, including providing information and referrals to treatment programs.