Alcohol Testing

Liz Wood Alphabiolabs

By Liz Wood, Health Testing Specialist at at AlphaBiolabs
Last reviewed: 22/01/2024

AlphaBiolabs offers the most comprehensive legal alcohol testing on the market today. Our range includes 3- or 6-month head hair analyses to show historical alcohol consumption over a period of time. Blood analysis, nail clippings, point-of-care breath tests provide an overview of usage and ongoing consumption is also available using an innovative alcohol monitoring bracelet, SCRAM CAM®.

All samples need to be collected under chain of custody conditions to support legally defensible results. 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 11 nationwide Walk in Centres.

Hair alcohol testing

Biomarker testing in head hair can establish a person’s history of alcohol consumption for up to 6 months. The recommended minimum length of hair is a 3 cm section taken from nearest the scalp which covers a 3-month time period. This is consistent with the consensus on hair alcohol testing for chronic excessive alcohol consumption published by the Society of Hair Testing (SoHT) in June 2019 [1].

AlphaBiolabs determines alcohol abuse in head hair by detecting two metabolites of alcohol: ethyl glucuronide (EtG) and fatty acid ethyl esters (FAEEs). These markers of alcohol intake are incorporated into the hair via different routes: EtG via sweat and FAEEs via sebum (an oily substance secreted by glands in the scalp). Performing two different types of hair analysis can assist in building evidence to support the diagnosis of chronic excessive alcohol consumption with a greater degree of certainty.

In the case of body hair testing, only EtG can be measured. The time period would also be more approximate due to the nature of body hair growth. In all cases, we would also recommend a blood test to detect alcohol biomarkers, in conjunction with clinical assessment, to gain a greater insight into an individual’s alcohol use.

Window of detection: 3- or 6-month overview. (Body hair: up to 12-month overview).

Advantages: useful for detecting long-term alcohol use. History of alcohol use can be established. Chronic and excessive levels can be measured.

Blood alcohol analysis

Blood testing can determine an alcohol consumption history for up to 28 days. The sample collection process uses the venous sample method.

When alcohol is consumed it is absorbed from the stomach and intestines into the bloodstream and is transported to the liver where the toxins can be processed and removed. The liver is the first organ that all the blood from the stomach and intestines enters before circulating around the rest of the body. Therefore, the highest concentration of alcohol will be in the blood flowing through the liver making it more prone to its damaging effects.

Our tests can identify when a person may have drunk to excess over the course of 4 weeks or more. This is achieved using the liver function test (LFT), which 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 ingested alcohol. Phosphatidylethanol (PEth) is a direct marker of alcohol, and therefore PEth testing is the most accurate of the blood tests to determine alcohol abuse.

To provide a more comprehensive history of alcohol use, over a longer period of time, we would suggest combining a blood alcohol test with a hair alcohol test.

Window of detection: 4 weeks.

Advantages: measures alcohol biomarkers in blood, which in conjunction with clinical assessment, can provide a greater insight into an individual’s alcohol use. Chronic and excessive levels can be measured.

Comprehensive Alcohol Analysis Package

The Comprehensive Alcohol Analysis Package provides the best insight into an individual’s level of alcohol consumption. It combines hair testing (FAEE and EtG) with blood tests (PEth and/or CDT, LFT and MCV) and also includes a Statement of Witness report and sample collection.

Alcohol testing with nail clippings

Nail analysis can also provide information on alcohol consumption and is a highly stable, simple-to-collect and easy-to-transport sample.

Consumed alcohol circulates in the bloodstream and a proportion of it and its metabolites become incorporated into the keratin that makes up nails.

Nail clippings need to be taken as near to the nail bed as possible. Approximately 10 mg of nail is required for the test. The nail is collected as close to the nail bed as possible. If the nail is long (5 mm or above) then only one would be required. If the nails are short then it may be best to take clippings from several nails. Toe nails as well as finger nails can be used, but not a mixture of both. The advantages of using toe nails is that there is less potential for environmental exposure.

Acrylic nails, Shellac and other forms of nail varnish would need to be removed as this may damage the surface of the nail and impact on the drug results.

Window of detection: up to a 12-month overview.

Advantages: simple-to-collect sample can measure levels of EtG.

SCRAM Continuous Alcohol Monitoring®

This is an ankle bracelet that detects around-the-clock alcohol in real time. As such, this test can pinpoint alcohol use at the exact time of day and on which day. You can read more details about SCRAM Continuous Alcohol Monitoring® here.

Window of detection: 1 day up to as many months as needed.

Advantages: ankle bracelet detects around-the-clock alcohol in real time. Can pinpoint alcohol use at the exact time of day and on which day.

Breath alcohol tests

AlphaBiolabs can provide a number of devices for breath alcohol testing dependent on your individual needs.

After blowing into the breath alcohol device, the results are given as a digital readout, known as the breath alcohol concentration (BAC). The BAC shows the level of alcohol in the breath at the time the test was taken. It does not measure historical use of alcohol. This method of testing is therefore ideal to check for current alcohol consumption and for post-incident testing.

Window of detection: shows the level of alcohol in the breath at the time the test was taken.

Advantages: instant measure of alcohol in the system. Immediate results.

SmartMobile™ Portable Alcohol Monitoring

SmartMobile™ is a portable breath alcohol testing device with a built-in camera and GPS tracking capabilities. It can be customised for each user with scheduled, random or on-demand testing options available.

Unlike hair strand analysis, which provides a historic overview of alcohol consumption over a period of months, the SmartMobile system allows for instant, on-demand monitoring and drinking event notifications.

Window of detection: shows the level of alcohol in the breath at the time the test was taken.

Advantages: instant measure of alcohol in the system. Immediate results. Discreet, lightweight and easy to use, which helps to encourage participant accountability and compliance. USB compatibility allows for charging on the go, and battery life lasts for up to five days from a single charge.

For expert advice on alcohol testing solutions, please call our Customer Services team on 0333 600 1300 or email us at

[1] Society of Hair Testing guidelines for drug testing in hair. Forensic Science International 2012;218(2012):20–24.

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Liz Wood

Liz Wood

Health Testing Specialist at AlphaBiolabs

Liz joined AlphaBiolabs in 2021, where she holds the role of Health Testing Specialist.

As well as overseeing a range of health tests, she is also the lead on several validation projects for the company’s latest health test offerings.

During her time at AlphaBiolabs, Liz has played an active role in the validation of the company’s Genetic Lactose Intolerance Test and Genetic Coeliac Disease Test.

An advocate for preventative healthcare, Liz’s main scientific interests centre around human disease and reproductive health. Her qualifications include a BSc in Biology and an MSc in Biology of Health and Disease.

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