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The detection of alcohol abuse using nails provides a reliable alternative to head hair or body hair testing. The techniques are similar in that both hair and nails are made from the fibrous protein keratin. As the nail grows, substances can pass from the blood vessels below the nail into the keratin fibres where they become trapped.

A specific long-term marker of ethanol (the intoxicating agent in alcohol) called ethyl glucuronide (EtG) is measured in nail alcohol testing. It can provide an overview of alcohol consumption of up to 6 months. As such, nail alcohol testing provides a longer period of detection than breathalysers and blood tests.

Nail alcohol test results can be made available in 3 days.

Advantages of nail alcohol testing

Sample collection for nail alcohol testing is quick and easy. The nail needs to be collected as close to the nail bed as possible. Approximately 10 mg of nail is required in total. Either fingernails or toenails can be used for the test, but not a mixture.

In addition, nail samples are very stable. Alcohol biomarkers can be washed out of hair by everyday cosmetic treatments such as bleaches and dyes. Heat treatments, such as straighteners can also reduce the presence of detectable substances. This isn’t a problem with nails.

If legally defensible results are required, the sample of nail clippings would need to be collected under chain of custody conditions. This would require either an appointment with one of our trained sample collectors at a place convenient to the donor or at one of our 10 nationwide Walk in Centres.

Nail testing is ideal for those cases where hair testing is not possible (such as the donor has no or little hair, for religious reasons, and for those concerned with their appearance). AlphaBiolabs provides breath, blood, hair and nail alcohol testing. Because nail alcohol tests only detect EtG, AlphaBiolabs would always recommend that a blood test be taken to provide a greater insight into an individual’s level of alcohol consumption. We also offer round-the-clock testing via SCRAM Continuous Alcohol Monitoring®. For expert advice or further information, please call 0333 600 1300 or email us at