Recreational drugs are everywhere. In large cities and small towns, people find ways to use drugs on a regular basis, despite laws prohibiting against it and law enforcement desperately trying to crack down on dealers.
Drugs like cocaine are so prolific in society that some research has shown that they can end up on the fingers of people who have never touched them.
A new study, published in the journal Clinical Chemistry, found that trace amounts of cocaine and heroin were present on the fingers of drug free volunteers.
The researchers from the University of Surrey recruited 50 people who had never touched drugs, and 15 people who said they had taken cocaine or heroin in the past 24 hours.
About 13% of people who didn’t use drugs had tiny amounts of cocaine on their fingers, and about 1% contained a substance associated with heroin.
Rather than thinking the volunteers were lying about their drug use, the researchers tested whether it was possible to transfer drugs through the environment. Drug free volunteers were asked to shake hands with a drug users, which showed how the substances could be transferred that way.
By testing the drug users as well, the team were able to create a forensic fingerprint for the drugs. This meant they could distinguish between environmental contamination and genuine drug use. Also, while people who don’t use drugs merely had traces on their skin, users secreted the substances and byproducts through their sweat.