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When it comes to legal matters, alcohol testing is relied upon to help make decisions in cases that can have far-reaching effects. Understanding the level and pattern of alcohol misuse can help assess the risk, whether to an individual, an employee, their workplace or even a family unit. In child protection cases, for example, one or both parents may have an addiction issue that needs proving. Or abstinence may need to be confirmed.

Whatever the scenario, you need to be confident that the decisions you make are backed by scientific evidence. Consequently, there are a wide variety of alcohol tests to choose from depending on the required timescale of alcohol assessment. AlphaBiolabs’ comprehensive range, includes instant breath tests, blood analysis and 3- or 6-month hair analyses to show alcohol consumption over a period of time. Continuous results are also available using an innovative alcohol monitoring bracelet.

Hair alcohol testing

A history of alcohol consumption can be achieved by looking at two metabolites of alcohol in head hair: ethyl glucuronide (EtG) and fatty acid ethyl esters (FAEEs). AlphaBiolabs follows the consensus on hair alcohol testing for chronic excessive alcohol consumption published by the Society of Hair Testing (SoHT). The level of biomarker found in the hair can help determine if a person has been drinking chronically and excessively, and will show an overview of 3 or 6 months. Body hair can also be tested to give an overview, although this test only measures EtG.

Blood analysis

Blood testing can determine whether an individual may have drunk to excess over the course of the last 4 weeks. AlphaBiolabs offers four blood tests: LFT, CDT, MCV and PEth. The liver function test (LFT) assesses the variation of liver-produced proteins in the blood. The carbohydrate deficient transferrin (CDT) test looks at a specific biochemical marker for alcohol consumption. The mean corpuscular volume (MCV) test gives an indication of abnormally large red blood cells caused by heavy drinking. Phosphatidylethanol (PEth) is a direct marker of alcohol, which means that it can only be detected when alcohol has been consumed.

Nail clippings

Nail clipping analysis is an alternative to hair testing when an individual has insufficient head or body hair. People can go to dramatic lengths to hide their alcohol consumption when called upon for a legal test. Parents may shave their hair off if their family is at risk. In addition, excessive hair washing, bleaching, dyeing, and hair preparations such as gels and wax can affect alcohol metabolites in hair. Nail clipping analysis can provide up to a 6-month overview of alcohol consumption. This is because consumed alcohol circulates in the bloodstream and a proportion of it and its metabolites becomes incorporated into the keratin that makes up nails. Toe nails as well as finger nails can be analysed.

Real-time results

An easy way to show the frequency and pattern of alcohol consumption is available with SCRAM Continuous Alcohol Monitoring® (SCRAM CAM®). This alcohol testing bracelet is worn on the ankle and monitors alcohol consumption by testing for the presence of alcohol in perspiration every 30 minutes. It is the first device of its kind to detect the drinking of alcohol in real-time. Results are automatically gathered and uploaded without the need for an individual’s participation. Continuous monitoring has been proven to enforce participant sobriety, compliance and accountability. As such, SCRAM CAM® is popular among child-protection agencies as a tool to change behaviours in higher-risk alcohol-dependent parents.

Instant tests

Breath test devices show the level of alcohol in the breath at the time the test was taken. This method of testing is therefore ideal to check for current alcohol consumption and can be used to prove sobriety as and when needed. The compact and portable device is used by UK police for roadside drink-driving checks, and by social workers for point-of-care testing when evaluating child protection issues.

Getting the right alcohol tests for your case

Our in-house toxicologists will be able to advise you on the best test for your particular case, We also offer a Comprehensive Alcohol Analysis Package that combines hair (EtG and FAEE), blood (LFT, CDT and MCV), Statement of Witness and sample collection. For expert advice or further information on legal alcohol testing, please call 0333 600 1300 or email us at info@alphabiolabs.com. You can read a longer article on this subject here.

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