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This article was originally published in our Learning Centre. You can view the original version here.

An accurate way of pinpointing exactly how much alcohol has been ingested and when is now possible with SCRAM Continuous Alcohol Monitoring® (SCRAM CAM®).

What is SCRAM CAM®?

This device is a bracelet that is worn on the ankle and tests for the presence of alcohol in perspiration. If the court wishes to monitor current and future alcohol intake, SCRAM CAM® is the best option as it tests for alcohol every 30 minutes over specified time periods and provides information on precise drinking events. As such, it can provide a definitive decision in cases involving alcohol abuse.

This method of testing for alcohol makes it easier to adhere to low or no-alcohol schemes as samples are taken on a continuous basis, every half-an-hour, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The technology is so advanced it can even differentiate between very low alcohol consumption (such as 1–2 units) and environmental alcohol sources. This helps enforce participant sobriety, compliance and accountability. This form of continuous monitoring (also called sobriety tagging) can provide local authorities, courts and child-protection agencies with the tools to change behaviours in vulnerable and higher-risk alcohol-dependent clients.

How is alcohol detected?

The principle behind this transdermal form of testing is based on how the human body metabolises alcohol. Once alcohol is absorbed and distributed through the bloodstream, it is eliminated in various forms.

About 1–2% of the alcohol that is consumed is eliminated through the skin in the form of perspiration. These transdermal emissions are sampled every 30 minutes. As such, the frequency and pattern of alcohol consumption can be easily shown.

The bracelet is water resistant, but shouldn’t be submerged so showers are preferred to baths or swimming. Ideally the bracelet should be worn for 30 days or more as that gives a good overview of the wearer’s drinking behaviour.

FAQs

What does the test measure?
Ethanol in perspiration.

Period of detection
1 day up to as many months as you need.

Method of detection
Fuel cell technology.

Can the test measure the amount of alcohol consumed?
The report can describe alcohol values as indicative units of alcohol.

Can the test identify the frequency that alcohol is/was consumed?
Yes, the device can pinpoint alcohol use at the exact time of day, which day and which day of the week.

Can environmental exposure cause any problems?
Although the ankle bracelet is waterproof and tamper-resistant, it can pick up readings from hygiene products containing alcohol. Such products should not be applied to the ankle.

Sample collection requirements
The bracelet needs to be fitted to the ankle by a trained person.

Is the Chain of Custody procedure legally defensible in court?
Yes. ID can be checked and a photograph taken at the time the SCRAM CAM® device is fitted.

Case Study

Melissa Homes* was at risk of losing her third child to care because of her dependence on alcohol. She had struggled with addiction issues since being a teenager and had been in the care system herself. Since her two older children had been fostered, Melissa had overcome her drugs habit in a bid to show the courts that she was capable of bringing up her youngest child alone. Controlling her alcohol intake was proving more of an issue. However, she was determined and stopped drinking 2 months before the next court date.

To demonstrate Melissa’s abstinence over this 2-month period, her legal representative ordered a 3-month hair test. The results were heart breaking. Even though Melissa had abstained for 2 whole months, her binge drinking during month 1 had caused the whole time period to show positive for alcohol. Unlike drug testing it is not possible to segment the hair for the presence of alcohol. Alcohol metabolites are absorbed through the root of the hair so the entire hair shaft becomes embedded with alcohol.

Melissa was at risk of being separated from her child despite being free of drugs and alcohol.

AlphaBiolabs was contacted to offer advice on the case. Our in-house toxicologists suggested Melissa try continuous alcohol monitoring, which would give real-time results on any drinking activities. The SCRAM CAM® bracelet was fitted at a local Walk in Centre, where trained staff could analyse the results and provide a report at the end of the testing period.

The bracelet is discreet and does not interfere with daily activities. It can also distinguish environmental exposure to alcohol, should a client visit any premises serving alcoholic drinks. The data categorically proved that no alcohol had passed Melissa’s lips. The court approved the results and Melissa kept her family together.

For further information on SCRAM CAM® and other alcohol testing solutions, please call our Customer Services team on 0333 600 1300 or email us at: info@alphabiolabs.com.