There’s no doubt that drug abuse and addiction are national problems in the U.S. Last year, President Donald J. Trump went so far as declaring the opioid crisis a public health emergency. And the issue of drug reform isn’t limited to one side of the political aisle.
Even the President’s left-leaning critics at the Washington Post are calling for accountability, a bipartisan move I hope we can all agree on.
Exclusive: The largest U.S. drug companies flooded the country with 76 billion oxycodone and hydrocodone pain pills, according to previously undisclosed company data released as part of the largest civil action in U.S. history https://t.co/KaDUHlAacA
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) July 17, 2019
The reason America has a drug problem is pretty simple: drugs are everywhere. Just look at the stats. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, more than 27 million Americans over the age of 12 reported using illicit drugs in 2014 alone. It seems like everybody, young and old, has a serious substance abuse problem. And, it gets worse. Surveys are showing that more people than ever are showing up to work drunk or high; and, others are admitting to driving under the influence in record-breaking numbers. Compound this with the fact that the National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that substance abuse is costing the country more than $740 billion annually, and you have yourself a good ol’ fashioned problem. Just how big’s the problem? In the words of our Commander-in-Chief, it’s…
As you can tell, our nation’s toxicology results are pretty grim. Unfortunately, the one deterrent we have to combat addiction is slowly being gamed.
Case in point: the drug test.
Despite living in an age of technological advancement, drug tests are stuck in the past. Dealers and users, alike, are quickly learning how to beat the system. With products like fake urine, body bags, and other adulterants flooding the market, it’s hard for professionals to determine whether a specimen is real or fake.
This inability to adapt to the ever-changing drug industry means dealers will continue to deal, and users will continue to use, knowing they can get high and get away with it.
So, is there anything we can do as addiction treatment professionals to stop it? Recent findings say YES!
New fingerprint drug tests may provide us with a glimmer of hope in the drug-infested wasteland our nation is headed towards. Fingerprint drug testing brings the promise of swift, accurate, non-invasive results that help technicians determine whether or not you’re sober.
No more peeing in the cup nonsense.
With this promise, it may now be possible to control substance abuse in America – or at least put a dent in it.
The following article investigates that promise as well as how it may deliver. Before talking about this new fingerprint testing though, you first need to understand what is wrong with the current system.
Evolution of Drug Testing
Workplace drug testing was first introduced on the national level by President Reagan in 1986, thanks to Executive Order 12564. He wanted to ensure that workplaces, specifically in the public sector, were safe and drug-free – all in effort to protect the public from drug-related accidents.
Since then, workplace drug testing has spread like crazy. Law enforcement agencies, hospitals, and even private Fortune 500 companies have implemented programs aimed to curb employee abuse.
In one way, drug testing, or drug screening, is all about control. The rationale is that by requiring employees to take part in such programs upper management can control the rate of drug use and abuse amongst their employees. This will help limit absenteeism, turnover, and on-the-job injuries – all of which enhance company profits.
While it may not directly stop people from abusing drugs, it can at least prevent them from using in situations that will endanger themselves or others.
Up ‘til now, the traditional means of drug testing were done by urine, hair, saliva, blood, perspiration and breath. Each of these methods yield different results (e.g. efficacy, accuracy, and detection windows) and are subject to inconsistencies.
Take urine tests for instance. Urine drug tests are carried out using (a) qualitative and (b) quantitative methods.
Qualitative urinalysis indicates whether a drug, or a drug’s metabolite, is in your system. This is what you see when you pee into a take-home test, or Point-of-Care (POC) cup. The results are either positive or negative.
Quantitative urinalysis, on the other hand, is performed by expensive machines called Liquid Chromatograph Mass Spectrometers (LC/MS). Users trying to cheat a drug test should be wary of these behemoths as they can pinpoint just how much of the drug is in your system to a high-degree of certainty. Typically measured in nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL), these tests are often used to confirm the results of your Point-of-Care (POC) cup.
The main drawback with urine drug tests is that they cannot tell you if someone is high right now because (a) quantitative testing takes a few hours and (b) it can only detect drugs you took, say last night or longer, not within the past couple of minutes. It’s also easy to adulterate.
The other tests have their problems as well. Hair testing can detect drug use as far back as weeks or even months but is not a reliable resource for on-the-spot testing. Saliva and sweat testing are often used for field tests but tend to be inconsistent. Possibilities of tampering and unintentional contamination also make them suspect.
Moreover, blood testing may no longer be on the agenda as far as this Supreme Court ruling is concerned, and breath testing has only been proven effective for alcohol and, experimentally, for marijuana use.
As you can tell, it’s a mess.
The most accurate drug tests take too much time to process and are often criticized for being invasive. That means professionals are forced to trade reliability for speed, which is an extremely slippery slope.
Due to these problems, drug testing needs a makeover. Enter in: the fingerprint drug test.
Fingerprint Drug Testing Changes all that now
Really, fingerprint drug testing is like waving a magic wand and watching all the problems with drug screening melt away.
Developed from research conducted by the University of East Anglia and a host of other universities, fingerprint drug screening technology has emerged as a major player in the drug screening game, and for good reason too.
It does exactly what its name suggests: determine the presence of drugs from a person’s fingerprint. The new technology allays all the fears and complaints about the invasive nature of drug testing, especially blood and hair testing, and can be used in real-time situations where rapid and accurate results are ideal.
The technology is based on research published in the Journal of Analytical Toxicology. The research, which studied the use of fingerprint tests in coronary services to determine cause of death, found that the same fingerprints can tell us if you abused drugs. And the possibilities are not just limited to cadavers as they can also be used on live patients.
One company has emerged as the frontrunner in fingerprint testing technology development. That’s Intelligent Fingerprinting. Incidentally, the founder and CSO of the company, David Russell, was a co-author of the research on which the technology is now based.
How does Fingerprint Drug Screening Work?
The fingerprint test uses a drug screening cartridge that detects specific drugs and their metabolites from sweat that is collected through a fingerprint. Once the fingerprint sweat is collected, the cartridge is placed in a highly sensitive reader that provides a positive or negative result within minutes.
The test uses fluorescently-tagged antibodies that are specific to each drug (i.e. benzodiazepines, opioids, amphetamines). When a drug is present in the sample, the drug will bind to the antibody and dull the fluorescence signal. This “light switch” indicates that the sample is positive for that drug of interest.
Drugs that have been validated for this process include:
- Benzoylecgonine (Cocaine metabolite)
- Cotinine (found in tobacco)
- EDDP (Methadone’s metabolite)
The entire process, from collecting the fingerprint sweat to analyzing the results takes less than 9 minutes. This rivals the speedy results of the POC cup and is a great improvement for those drug testing methods, like hair and blood, that take a day or two before they’re ready.
However, unlike the POC cup, the fingerprint test is tamper proof.
Even if participants furiously scrub or dry their hands, sufficient sweat reappears after 10-15 minutes. And even if you accidentally handle illicit drugs (i.e. law enforcement), the fingerprint test will be able to indicate that you did not ingest those substances, just came in contact with them. That’s because it measures the amount of the drug’s metabolite in your fingerprint sweat, not the parent molecule.
The fingerprint testing solution also features a Fingerprint Collection Kit for Laboratory Analysis in case a laboratory confirmation test is requested. The collection kit is also tamper proof so it’s immediately clear if any attempt is made to contaminate the sample.
So far, the solution has been pretty effective. It was tested in a stint with UK Coroners, and it was found that fingerprint method posted accuracy levels of 98.7% for THC (the active psychoactive element in weed), 94.7% for cocaine, 96% for opiates and 93.3% for amphetamine.
When compared to traditional laboratory blood tests (some of the most accurate around) the accuracies were 96%, 92%, 88% and 97% respectively. So, clearly, Intelligent Fingerprinting is on to something!
Will Fingerprint Drug Tests End Drug Addiction?
Most likely not. But it will make it much more accessible for professionals to conduct on-the-spot testing with accurate results. Fingerprint testing will limit the frequency of false negatives or false positives, and ultimately stymie at-home or workplace abuse.
As someone with a toxicology background, I’m excited for what this new test can do. And it all starts with reliable data collection. By improving our analytics, we’ll be more equipped to deter workplace abuse and promote drug-free living.
Drug abuse and addiction are not easy to deal with. Not for public authorities, employers or the users themselves. But instead of continuing to lament about the situation and get inundated by the stats, just realize we are making progress. One drug test at a time.
If you know someone that is struggling with a substance use disorder, or if you need some help yourself, get in touch with us at (817) 993-9733. Our Admissions Specialists are trained to get you the help you need. In the meantime, if you have any questions about drug tests, shoot me a message in the chat or on our Facebook Page.
John Eckelbarger is a Business Development Representative for Stonegate Center. With a BSA in Chemistry from the University of Texas at Austin, he has an interest in the neurobiology of addiction & pharmacology of drugs. He hopes to bolster Stonegate Center to the forefront of addiction medicine through bold, innovative content. He is currently pursuing his MBA in Finance from Texas Christian University.