BACKGROUND: Paper spray mass spectrometry (PS-MS) is a technique that has recently emerged and has shown excellent analytical sensitivity to a number of drugs in blood. As an alternative to blood, fingerprints have been shown to provide a noninvasive and traceable sampling matrix. Our goal was to validate the use of fingerprint samples to detect cocaine use. METHODS: Samples were collected on triangular pieces (168 mm2) of washed Whatman Grade I chromatography paper. Following application of internal standard, spray solvent and a voltage were applied to the paper before mass spectrometry detection. A fingerprint visualization step was incorporated into the analysis procedure by addition of silver nitrate solution and exposing the sample to ultraviolet light. RESULTS: Limits of detection for cocaine, benzoylecgonine, and methylecgonine were 1, 2, and 31 ng/mL respectively, with relative standard deviations < 33%. No matrix effects were observed. Analysis of 239 fingerprint samples yielded a 99% true-positive rate and a 2.5% false-positive rate, based on the detection of cocaine, benzoylecgonine, or methylecgonine with use of a single fingerprint. CONCLUSIONS: The method offers a qualitative and noninvasive screening test for cocaine use. The analysis method developed is rapid (4 min/sample) and requires no sample preparation.