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The benefits of alcohol testing nails are four-fold:

  • Offers a useful alternative to hair testing
  • Provides up to a 6-month overview
  • Permits a fast and non-intrusive sample collection method
  • Enables legal testing

The hair strand test for alcohol detection is considered the gold standard for assessing long-term alcohol misuse. However, what happens when a sample donor has no, or little, hair? A sample of head hair strands needs to be cut from the highest point of the scalp (the vertex) as this region is associated with least variation in growth rates. Ideally, the sample needs to be about the width of a pencil and should always be taken from a discrete area. Nail testing for alcohol levels is therefore ideal for those cases where hair testing is not possible, such as when hair can’t be cut for religious reasons, and for those concerned with their appearance.

Like hair, 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. Nail samples are analysed for a specific long-term marker of ethanol (the intoxicating agent in alcohol) called ethyl glucuronide (EtG). These EtG biomarkers become trapped within the keratin fibres along the length of the nail and can provide an overview of alcohol consumption of up to 6 months.

Unlike hair strand testing, the sample collection of nails is quick, easy and non-intrusive. The nail needs to be collected as close to the nail bed as possible. Either fingernails or toenails can be used for the test, but not a mixture of both. Approximately 10 mg of nail is required in total.

For legally defensible results, the sample of nail clippings would need to be collected under chain of custody conditions. This would require an appointment with a trained sample collector. AlphaBiolabs can arrange to send a sample collector to an address of your choice. Or alternatively, a donor can attend one of our 10 nationwide Walk in Centres.

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. AlphaBiolabs also offers breath, blood, hair and nail alcohol testing. Round-the-clock testing is also possible via SCRAM Continuous Alcohol Monitoring®.

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