Harrow pioneers fingerprint drug tests
28 June 2019 16:02 GMT

Harrow Council in the UK has successfully trialied a  drug-test technology that uses fingerprints alone.

Intelligent Fingerprinting is a technology which uses a portable device to analyze tiny traces of sweat from fingerprints. Within ten minutes, it accurately detects use of drugs ranging from marijuana to heroin and more. It’s the kind of test that would previously only be possible by taking a urine or saliva sample.

The Intelligent Fingerprinting trial was undertaken by Harrow Council’s Children and Family Care service, in particular as part of a family safeguarding program, which aims to help families stay together by beating drug abuse and addiction.

Cllr Christine Robson, Portfolio Holder for Children and Families, said “As always our focus is upon the best interests of the children, young people and their families.

“For what we want to achieve, Intelligent Fingerprinting is better in every way than conventional drug testing. It allows people to prove they’re clean with no fuss, in ten minutes flat. Its low cost means we don’t have to think twice about testing, and it gives people the assurance and satisfaction of showing their clear test results right away.

“And if the results come back showing recent drug use, well that’s better for everyone too, as we can engage with the issue right away, together, which is one of the most important things we’re here to do.”

One of Harrow Council’s key roles is to encourage and support people to stick to drug-use custody conditions that have been established in court. That includes testing parents, if there is proven knowledge or reasonable suspicion of them being under the influence of drugs when responsible for minors – potentially impacting their ability to care for children.

Parmjit Chahal, Head of Children’s Access at Harrow Council, said: “This technology works. It has helped us improve the success rate of people overcoming addiction while safely caring for their children. It works because it is an early intervention, because it’s non-invasive and because it helps us build trust – parents who have engaged with it give us positive feedback about it.”

Dr. Paul Yates of Intelligent Fingerprinting added: “The fingerprint-based test can be conducted on-site at Harrow Council’s offices, without the need for specialist medical staff or collection areas. We are delighted with the success of the program and are now looking for ways to share our findings with other Councils.”

Intelligent Fingerprinting’s drug testing solution features a small, tamper-evident drug screening cartridge onto which the client’s fingerprints are collected in a process that takes less than a minute. The Intelligent Fingerprinting portable analysis unit then reads the cartridge and provides a positive or negative result on-screen for cocaine, opiates, cannabis and methamphetamine in ten minutes. An introductory video demonstrating fingerprint-based drug testing in action is available here.

Researchers from King’s College London trialed the drug screening device with the support of social workers at Harrow Council over an 8-week period. Parents were screened on a routine or ad-hoc basis using the non-invasive sample collection procedure. Screening results were confirmed using oral fluid and additional fingerprint samples with validated techniques at an independent laboratory. Preliminary data analysis showed the test had promise for rapid and confidential testing by social care workers.  Full details of the King’s evaluation will be published shortly.

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