Fingerprint Scanner Fights Drug Abuse

The days of “Total Recall” (the movie) seem to be upon us – kind of. A fingerprint scanner developed by a British company can actually detect drugs in the system of the user.

A British company has developed a new biometric device that can reveal whether or not a person is using illicit drugs and even which drugs they’re using – all by reading their fingerprint. The technology can establish a subject’s identity and at the same time detect marijuana, cocaine, heroin and methadone.

The science behind the technology is based on sweat as well as fingerprint patterns. The device deposits dyed antibodies that act on sweat that is released through minute pores on the fingertips. The antibodies adhere to metabolites that are also released through the pores when a person is under the influence of drugs. The antibodies used by the scanner device are brightly colored with dye. If the subject has been using drugs, brightly colored fingertips will tell the tale.

Expectations for the device are high. Currently there is no way to quickly determine if a driver is under the influence of drugs. This new fingerprint scanner can deliver results in about 15 minutes. In July, health officials in Ohio launched a one-year pilot program with the new high-tech scanner. According to The Wall Street Journal, Holzer Health System will scan patients’ fingerprints when they visit a doctor. They will also be scanned when they pick up prescriptions. For now, participation in the program is voluntary.

In Ohio, data from the fingerprint scanner will upload to a patient’s medical record. In addition to detecting the presence of drugs, the data will be used to track the number of times a patient visits a doctor and how often he or she fills a drug prescription. Drug experts believe that this type of monitoring can help reduce the practice of doctor shopping and cut down on the number of prescription drugs that are diverted to the black market. Ohio has one of the highest rates of prescription painkiller abuse in the nation, with an average of 67 opioid painkillers prescribed to each resident in the state per year.

Holzer Health System is hopeful about the success of the program. According to CEO T. Wayne Munro, this is the first system they’ve seen that can help health officials track where people are getting their prescriptions in real-time. Ohio’s current prescription monitoring program depends on data input from pharmacies and has a one-week lag in uploading data that undermines its effectiveness.

Intelligent Technology, the developer of the fingerprint scanner, is a spin-off company from the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England. The company recently received a government grant to develop technology for drug testing by coroners.

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