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Hair alcohol testing

  • Hair alcohol testing for members of the public, the legal profession,
    social workers and employers
  • Results within 5 days
  • History of alcohol use can be established
  • Accredited-laboratory processes
  • In-house toxicology experts available for advice
  • Nationwide network of sample collectors
  • Free sample collection at our UK-wide Walk in Centres

Hair alcohol testing explained

Testing for alcohol in head hair works by detecting two metabolites of alcohol: ethyl glucuronide (EtG) and fatty acid ethyl esters (FAEEs). These alcohol biomarkers are absorbed into the hair via different routes and their levels can assist in assessing excessive alcohol consumption. Both markers are analysed because they are affected by external factors in different ways. EtG is produced by the liver and is incorporated into the hair mainly through sweat. It is hydrophilic, meaning that it is water soluble. As such, some EtG may be lost through the use of hair dye and excessive hair washing.

FAEEs are produced in the blood and incorporated into hair via sebum. FAEEs are lipophilic and therefore not water soluble, so although not affected by hair washing, the amount detected could be affected by use of alcohol-containing hairsprays, gels and wax.

Because of the respective strengths and weaknesses, both EtG and FAEE tests should be performed and their findings should support each other in order to determine chronic excessive consumption of alcohol.

Unlike hair drug testing where the metabolites are absorbed through the root of the hair, when an individual consumes alcohol the markers are found along the entire length of the hair. Therefore, it is not possible to segment the hair.

Overview analysis

The minimum length of hair for EtG and FAEE tests is a 3 cm section taken from nearest the scalp (vertex). Around 200 individual strands are required, which is about the width of a pencil. AlphaBiolabs follows the consensus on hair alcohol testing for chronic excessive alcohol consumption published by the Society of Hair Testing (SoHT). The result will be considered either above or below the recommended SoHT cut-off levels.

The level of biomarkers found in the hair can help determine if a person has been drinking chronically and excessively, and will show an overview of 3 or 6 months, depending on the length of hair sampled.

Other types of alcohol tests

Head hair is preferred, but some types of body hair can also be analysed for alcohol. However, it is only possible to perform EtG analysis on hair samples collected from the chest, arm, leg and beard. The timeframe for body hair alcohol testing is also more approximate due to the nature of this hair growth and can only be determined when the hair length has been measured.

Although, AlphaBiolabs’ hair alcohol testing methods are highly accurate and reliable, we would always recommend that a blood test be taken to complement the FAEE/EtG test. Detecting alcohol biomarkers in blood, in conjunction with clinical assessment, can support the hair results and, especially in cases of inconclusive results, provide a greater insight into an individual’s level of alcohol consumption. AlphaBiolabs’ blood tests include a liver function test (LFT), carbohydrate deficient transferrin (CDT) analysis, mean corpuscular volume (MCV) test and phosphatidylethanol (PEth) testing.

UK-wide sample collection

We have a UK-wide network of sample collectors that are able to collect hair samples from an address of your choice. This could be your home, office, or anywhere else convenient. In addition, we can collect samples at our 10 nationwide Walk in Centres. For further information, please call our Customer Services team on 0333 600 1300.

AlphaBiolabs provides breath, blood, hair and nail alcohol testing. 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 info@alphabiolabs.com

Call us on 0333 600 1300 to discuss legal alcohol testing options

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