Research suggests 1 in 10 suspect illegal drug use by workplace colleagues in the UK   


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New national research suggests 1 in 10 suspect illegal drug use by workplace colleagues in the UK

  • One in five don’t take any action if they suspect a friend, family member or colleague of using illegal drugs
  • Regional variations show that almost twice as many Londoners suspect colleagues of drug use compared to national average
  • Would simple drug tests in the workplace help? New technology enables employers to screen employees using a simple fingerprint sweat test

New research released today suggests that more than one in ten workers across the UK have suspected a colleague of taking illegal drugs. This figure rises to 24% in London – almost twice the national average, while at 6% those surveyed in the North-East appeared to be far less suspicious of their colleagues.

The research, commissioned by Intelligent Fingerprinting to determine UK attitudes to drug screening in the workplace, also shows that one in five employees took no action to help or confront the colleague they suspected of drug use. This, despite the fact that 43% of people worry that working alongside someone under the influence of drugs makes their workplace unsafe. Similarly, just under a quarter (22%) have suspected a friend of taking illegal drugs, but again those one in five did nothing about it.

Dr Paul Yates of Intelligent Fingerprinting commented: “drug misuse has always been a concern when it comes to health & safety in the workplace, however this latest research suggests the issue could be even more widespread than previously thought. It is clear that drug usage not only puts the safety of individual employees at risk, but also contributes to the cumulative workplace accidents that cost the UK some £4 billion every year[1]. It’s particularly an issue in those sectors where drug misuse takes place in safety-critical working environments such as construction, manufacturing, logistics, public transport networks and utilities.”

“What is notable from the research is that colleagues are reluctant to act – perhaps because they do not have the ability to provide proof or evidence that drug usage has actually taken place,” adds Paul Yates. “UK employers who do implement a drug and alcohol policy are often frustrated by the practical challenges within their specific workplaces. Operating a traditional drug screening service using urine tests on a construction site, for example, is rather inconvenient. It’s perhaps no surprise that our new fingerprint-based drug screening test – thanks to its portability, ease-of-use and non-invasive approach – is already generating interest from those UK health & safety managers and occupational health professionals who are responsible for safety in the workplace. It takes only a few seconds to collect a fingerprint sweat sample and screens for multiple drugs of abuse – amphetamines, cannabis, cocaine and opiates – in a single test, delivering results in under eight minutes. We know that regular random drug screening, combined with an effective drug and alcohol policy, acts as a strong deterrent to drug use in the workplace.”

The research for Intelligent Fingerprinting was carried out online by Opinion Matters between 27/04/2018 and 30/04/2018 amongst a panel resulting in 1,200 respondents. All research conducted adheres to the MRS Codes of Conduct (2010) in the UK and ICC/ESOMAR World Research Guidelines. Opinion Matters is registered with the Information Commissioner’s Office and is fully compliant with the Data Protection Act (1998).

The Intelligent Fingerprinting Drug Screening System consists of a four-panel test cartridge and the portable Intelligent Fingerprinting Reader 1000 analysis instrument. Together these have the potential to be used almost anywhere, any time to support a range of applications including drug rehabilitation programmes, tackling drug use as part of offender management, police initiatives such as roadside testing for drug driving, coroner services, as well as establishing fitness for duty in safety-critical workplaces such as the transport and construction industries.

NB: The Intelligent Fingerprinting Drug Screening System is available for forensic use only in the USA.

Interviews are available with Dr Paul Yates, a Director at Intelligent Fingerprinting and Abigail Morakinyo of Health in Check – to find out more information about the research.


For media information contact Cheryl Billson at Comma
Email:  Tel: +44 (0)7791 720460

Notes to Editors:

About Intelligent Fingerprinting
Launched in the UK in August 2017, Intelligent Fingerprinting’s portable Drug Screening System works by analyzing the sweat from a fingerprint sample. It is non-invasive, fast and cost-effective – screening for multiple drug groups simultaneously (currently amphetamines, cannabis, cocaine and opiates) with sample collection taking 5 seconds and results in minutes.

In the UK, the system is currently being marketed to the criminal justice arena, drug rehabilitation services, offender management, workplace and occupational health services. The technique has potential for many other uses including healthcare diagnostics and homeland security applications.  The Intelligent Fingerprinting Drug Screening System is currently available for forensic use only in the USA.

Founded in 2007, Intelligent Fingerprinting is a spin-out company from the University of East Anglia (UEA).  The company is based in Cambridge, England and currently employs around 30 people. Twitter @iFingerprinting

[1] United Kingdom drug situation: annual report to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) 2012. Department of Health.

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