How do you prove abstinence from alcohol?

Liz Wood Alphabiolabs

By Liz Wood, Health Testing Specialist at at AlphaBiolabs
Last reviewed: 16/11/2023

In this article, we look at alcohol abstinence – what it is, how you can prove alcohol abstinence, who might need to prove that they are abstinent from alcohol, and where you can buy an alcohol test.

Explore our range of alcohol testing services

What is alcohol abstinence?

Someone who is abstinent from alcohol is someone who does not drink alcohol.

People can be abstinent from alcohol for a variety of reasons. Some people may be abstinent for short periods of time, or completely avoid alcohol altogether.

Each year in the UK, may people take part in an event called ‘Dry January’. Dry January is a month-long challenge to abstain from alcohol and is often done by people who are looking to cut down their alcohol intake, lose some weight, or save some money. Don’t let the name fool you, though – short-term (or indeed long-term) alcohol abstinence can be done any time of year!

There are lots of people around the world who do not drink alcohol at all. This might be for religious reasons, but can also be for many other personal reasons.  

Some people may choose not to drink because they don’t like the taste or the way it affects their body.

Some people may need to prove alcohol abstinence as part of their recovery, or in court cases.

Whatever your reason for alcohol abstinence, avoiding alcohol has many benefits for both your mental and physical health and wellbeing.

Who might need to prove alcohol abstinence?

Lots of people have to prove their abstinence for many different reasons. In this section, we look at a few of the reasons why someone might need to prove their abstinence from alcohol.

Drivers

Drivers may be required to prove abstinence from alcohol, either through pre- or continuous employment checks for professional drivers, or as a requirement to be able to drive again e.g. after reporting alcohol dependence to the DVLA or receiving a drink-driving ban.

Order your CDT test for DVLA

You must inform the DVLA of any conditions that can affect your ability to drive. This includes having an alcohol problem. Not disclosing this information to the DVLA can result in a £1,000 fine and prosecution if you are involved in an accident.

Being found guilty of drink-driving could result in you losing your licence and being banned from driving.

The DVLA can request that you prove abstinence from alcohol before being declared fit to drive again.

The DVLA can request proven alcohol abstinence for different periods of time. The amount of time depends on several factors, such as:

  • Whether consumption is likely to be alcohol misuse or alcohol dependency
  • If alcohol-related disorders or medical issues are present (e.g. alcohol-related liver disease, alcoholic seizures etc.)
  • What vehicles you drive (e.g. car/motorcycle or bus/lorry)

The DVLA will request that you complete a fitness-to-drive medical if you have lost your licence due to drink-driving. Part of this test includes the CDT blood test.

The CDT (carbohydrate deficient transferrin) blood test shows whether someone has elevated levels of CDT.

Alcohol consumption can significantly impact the levels of CDT in the body, meaning laboratory analysis can be used to measure these levels and draw a conclusion about alcohol use over a defined period.  People who do not drink, or drink moderately, will have lower CDT levels in their blood.

Our CDT test for the DVLA can help give you peace of mind before taking your official DVLA fitness-to-drive test.

Employees

More and more companies are adopting drug and alcohol screenings as part of their drug and alcohol policy (HSE, 2023).

Some companies require new employees to pass a drug and alcohol test prior to or when starting their new role. They might also carry out random drug and alcohol screening to ensure that their staff members aren’t under the influence when on the job.

Some jobs involve safety-critical decisions. These are decisions that could cause injury or death if correct procedure is not adhered to, or if the employee making the decision is under the influence of alcohol.

Examples of employees who might be required to prove alcohol abstinence include pilots, professional drivers, medical practitioners, and people who operate heavy machinery.

Proving alcohol or drug abstinence is therefore a good way for employers to ensure that their employees are working in a safe environment, and not putting themselves or others at risk.

If you’re interested in implementing a drug and alcohol testing programme within your business, visit our Workplace Drug and Alcohol Testing Policy page.

Court-ordered requirements

Since March 2021, courts in England have been able to impose Alcohol Abstinence Monitoring Requirements (AAMR) for qualifying offenders. The order requires the offender to remain abstinent from alcohol for a specific period of time.

The AAMR order is only given to offenders if they are eligible. For example, consumption of alcohol must be part of the offence and the offender must not be dependent on alcohol. The offender will also usually be someone who has been given a community order, or who is on a suspended sentence.

An offender who is issued with an AAMR will have to wear an alcohol tag. The tag takes alcohol readings every 30 minutes directly from the person’s sweat. If alcohol is detected or the device is tampered with, the Probation Service are alerted. Someone who is not compliant with the AAMR can be taken back to court, or even sent to prison.

AlphaBiolabs uses the same alcohol tag device to provide our alcohol monitoring service.

You may also need to prove alcohol abstinence in family court matters, such as child custody cases. For example, if there are accusations that a parent or guardian who is looking after a child/children is abusing alcohol, they may be required to prove that they are abstinent.

Find more information on our legal alcohol testing services

What are the different ways you can prove abstinence from alcohol?

The most accurate and definitive way to show that someone is abstinent from alcohol is to conduct laboratory tests. Courts, employers or relevant authorities might also be interested to hear evidence from rehabilitation centres or character references.

Alcohol testing

There are a variety of ways that alcohol consumption or abstinence can be proven through laboratory testing.

Different tests can show alcohol consumption over different periods of time. Some tests, like the urine test, will detect alcohol for up to 2 or 3 days, whereas head hair testing can show excessive alcohol use for up to 6 months.

Blood tests look for direct or indirect markers of alcohol. They are able to distinguish between chronic alcohol use and moderate/no alcohol use over a period of approximately 4 weeks.

Nails can show whether someone has been abusing alcohol for a period of up to 12 months, and is sometimes favoured by those who can’t or don’t want to submit samples such as hair or blood.

When you are abstinent from alcohol, you will either have no or very low levels of ethanol biomarkers, depending on the test type.

At AlphaBiolabs, we offer a variety of alcohol testing, including blood (PEth, CDT, LFT and MCV), hair and nails. We can also offer breath testing (using a breathalyser) or SCRAM continuous alcohol monitoring®.

The type of test you need will depend on the period of abstinence you need to prove.

Explore our range of alcohol testing services

Evidence from rehabilitation centres

If someone ends up in court after committing an offence, and alcohol is suspected or proven to have played a part in the offence, then the court may order certain programmes or treatment plans.

The attendance and contribution of a person at a rehabilitation programme will be monitored and can be a good way for someone to prove that they have remained abstinent from alcohol after committing the offence.

If you have chosen to enter alcohol rehabilitation, you might also want to keep a diary or journal of your time or ask for feedback from mentors/counsellors that can help you prove your commitment to sobriety.

Character reference

A character reference is a written statement that can be used in court. It will detail the defendant’s good character or qualities that reflect positively on the defendant.

A character reference can be written by a family member, friend, co-worker, employer etc. If the person writing the reference has observed the defendant taking steps to reduce or stop their alcohol intake, particularly in cases where alcohol consumption is part of the offence, then this can allow for the magistrate or judge to rule more favourably for the defendant.

Where can I get an alcohol test for abstinence?

As an accredited alcohol testing laboratory, we offer a variety of tests that can help prove abstinence from alcohol.

Our tests can also cover different time periods, depending on what you need, and range from tests for peace of mind to legal alcohol tests for official matters.

We also offer alcohol testing for legal professionals and social workers, and for employers looking to discourage alcohol abuse in the workplace.

Our UK laboratory is fully equipped to test a variety of samples for the presence of alcohol including blood, hair, and nails. We also offer point-of-care breath tests, as well as alcohol monitoring using SCRAM CAM®.

For more information on which test is right for you, call our friendly and discreet Customer Services team on 0333 600 1300 or email info@alphabiolabs.com.

Order an Alcohol Test

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Liz Wood, AlphaBiolabs

Liz Wood

Health Testing Specialist at 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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