August 1, 2014

Fingernail test IDs drunk drivers in Wisconsin

A new technology is helping to identify people who use drugs and binge drink in Wisconsin. The pilot program is using fingernail drug testing on people who have at least three previous DWI convictions, and are partaking in a yearlong substance abuse awareness program, during which they are not supposed to be drinking.

“We do a lot of assessment, but until now there’s been no teeth behind it – no ability to help people see they really have a problem – and help guide them in a way to stay abstinent,” says Guida Brown of the Hope Council on Alcohol & Other Drug Abuse, which assesses drivers convicted of impaired driving in Kenosha County, Wisconsin. “With this test, when we say you can’t use drugs or alcohol for the one-year duration of the driver safety program, we can verify the results.”

Taking a sample of an individual’s fingernail can show up to six months of drug use and three months of alcohol history. For alcohol usage to show, an individual must be drinking at a binge level – consuming about five drinks in two hours. Lesser alcohol use of about 2 drinks a day will not show on the test.

Fingernail testing is more accurate than hair testing, and offers a longer-term picture than a urine test, something that could make it appealing to more counties going forward.


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