There are three primary methods on the market for employee drug testing. Oral fluid drug testing is gaining in popularity. It normally takes about five minutes or so to complete and simply involves holding a mouth swab in your mouth until it becomes saturated. The hair test is being used more frequently than ever before too. It’s considered the least invasive of all drug testing methods as it just requires a quick snip of the scissors to collect a sample. The urine drug test is most commonly chosen by employers though. It’s become so commonplace that people actually expect to submit a urine specimen upon hearing they must pass a drug test.
All of the above methods accurately detect drugs in someone’s system, however, they’re unable to determine if someone is under the influence of drugs at the moment the test is administered. The blood test, on the other hand, does detect current impairment. It’s expensive though, so most employers reserve its use for post-accident drug testing scenarios.
Have you heard that there is a new drug test hitting the market? It may seem a bit far-fetched to some at first though. It doesn’t require submitting a physical specimen of something or other either. All that is required is a fingerprint.
This new method of drug testing may soon take workplace drug testing by storm because it is:
- Low cost
Let’s see how it works
Our body runs everything that we ingest through the metabolization process. It’s turned to metabolites. The metabolites distribute themselves throughout the body waiting to be excreted. When your finger presses against the reader, it leaves behind drug metabolites found in the sweat on your finger.
Touchscreen technology is used to analyze and read the fingerprint. Your finger presses against the reader’s screen for an instant, it’s scanned, and the results appear on the screen in seconds.
Surrey University in England, The Netherlands Forensic Institute, and Intelligent Fingerprinting, a private company, are responsible for developing this revolutionary technology. Researchers claim that this method of drug testing is 99% accurate. The technology is so new, however, that there isn’t enough data to ensure that these statistics are truly accurate.
Therefore, fingerprint evidence of drug use isn’t admissible in court—yet. Since most people don’t test positive for drugs, employers may use this method of testing for, say, pre-employment testing, but, then, require anyone who tests positive to report for another type of drug test that can be used in court should anyone ever dispute the results.
What drugs will it detect?
The technology currently allows for the detection of amphetamines, cannabis, cocaine, and opiates. The body metabolizes drugs in a variety of ways, but they all create metabolites which then store themselves away throughout the body waiting to make their exit. The length of time they remain in the body is dependent on the type of drug ingested.
Both cocaine and ethyl methyl ecgonine, which is a major metabolite of cocaine that is formed from smoking the drug, are detectable in sweat about two hours after ingestion. These metabolites can be detected in the sweat for about two days. The same goes for amphetamines and methamphetamine. It takes approximately two hours for the drugs to show up. However, cocaine metabolites are completely gone from the system in two days whereas it’s nearly a week before amphetamine and methamphetamine users won’t test dirty on a drug test.
Tetrahydrocannabinol, otherwise known as THC, is the component in cannabis that causes the psychoactive reaction. It’s detected in sweat for up to a week after discontinuing use. Opiates and heroin are detectable in sweat within two hours and up to a week following consumption as well.
Further breakthroughs in the technology are expected allowing other drugs to be added to the test in the not too distant future.
Is fingerprint testing the wave of the future?
This test doesn’t detect current impairment and, therefore, won’t be an adequate choice for post accident drug testing. Having the ability to know whether or not someone is impaired from using drugs at the time an accident occurs can help determine responsibility. The blood test is still the number one choice in that case.
However, the fingerprint drug test could easily take the place of other employee drug testing methods. Unless, of course, the employer is regulated by the Department of Transportation (DOT). If that is the case, employers must adhere to regulation and use the test approved by the department. Currently, that applies to only the urine test.
Some employers of the general workforce, though, may soon be changing their drug testing policies and procedures to incorporate the fingerprint test. And why shouldn’t they? It can be performed virtually anywhere, is affordable, and because the person is using their fingerprint as the specimen, there’s no way to fake a false negative report. The person’s identity and test sample are one and the same.
Moreover, the test is accurate and extremely non-invasive. You merely place your finger on the reader’s screen and in seconds the result is in front of you. And, in this post covid environment, it’s worth mentioning that the test is very hygienic as well.
The fingerprint test could also be used in a variety of settings other than employee drug testing. In emergency situations, the test affords quick results which could make all the difference in the case of an overdose. Doctor’s offices can use them for routine drug monitoring, for that matter, so could parole offices, police departments… Virtually any establishment that conducts drug testing could benefit from using this new technology.