BACKGROUND: Recent publications have explored the possibility of using fingerprints to confirm drug use, but none has yet dealt with environmental contamination from fingertips. Here we explored the possibility of establishing an environmental cutoff for drug testing from a single fingerprint. METHODS: Fingerprint samples (n 100) were collected from the hands of 50 nondrug users before and after handwashing to establish separate environmental cutoff values and testing protocols for cocaine, benzoylecgonine, heroin, and 6-monoacetylmorphine. The cutoff was challenged by testing the fingerprints of drug-free volunteers after shaking hands with drug users. Fingerprints from patients who testified to taking cocaine (n 32) and heroin (n 24) were also collected and analyzed. RESULTS: A different cutoff value needed to be applied, depending on whether the fingerprints were collected as presented or after handwashing. Applying these cutoffs gave a 0% false-positive rate from the drug-free volunteers. After application of the cutoff, the detection rate (compared to patient testimony) for washed hands of patients was 87.5% for cocaine use and 100% for heroin use. CONCLUSIONS: Fingerprints show enhanced levels of cocaine, heroin, and their respective metabolites in patients who testified to taking the substances, compared with the population of naïve drug users surveyed, and a cutoff (decision level) can be established. The cutoff is robust enough to account for small increases in analyte observed after secondary transfer.