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Determining Abstinence from Alcohol with Hair and Blood Testing

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Advances in Hair Drug and Alcohol Testing have resulted in increased accuracy of results and more complete understanding of the importance of combining testing methods.

It is now widely accepted that testing Hair (EtG & FAEE) combined with Blood (CDT & LFT) can provide a good indication if an individual is abusing alcohol, provided the expert witness reviews all the data together and provides a simple to understand conclusion for the client.

What exactly does abusing Alcohol Mean?

The guidelines have been produced by the World Health organisation a number of years ago as being equivalent to 60 g of pure ethanol (or more) per day over at least 3 months for males and 40 g of pure ethanol a day for females. In real terms 12g corresponds to a standard glass of wine, beer or spirit. Which means excessive Alcohol abuse according to the standard of the World Health Organisation is more than 5 glasses per day. More recently published information is showing that the effects of Alcohol are far more damaging and previously unpublished data indicates that even the smallest amount of alcohol consumed increases the risk of disease.

For example the statement from Cancer Research UK:

“Alcohol can increase the risk of cancer at levels far too low to make an average person drunk. It’s not just people who have ‘drinking problems’ who have higher risks”. 

Furthermore, a new study published in the latest issue of Alcohol and Alcoholism shows that a drink a day may increase the risk of breast cancer in women, when it had previously been thought of as safe.

Whilst the above studies are related to the effects of Alcohol on health the same applies to the care of a child. In a recent discussion with a solicitor they raised the important point that determining alcohol abuse is a critical safety factor for the child. Current testing means an individual can have 4 glasses of wine, be over the drink driving limit yet still be considered capable of taking care of a child?

The above point raises some questions. Many Alcohol tests conducted are to determine alcohol abuse and precautions can be put in place when someone is known to drink in order to safeguard the child as best as possible. But what occurs if an individual “manages” their drinking to stay below the excessive alcohol abuse limit? For this reason there has been a high demand for the development of a set of measures to allow Alcohol Testing to determine if someone is abstaining from Alcohol.  The benefits of such a test could be far-reaching, for example in providing absolute proof that a client seeking contact with their child has abstained from alcohol.

The Society of Hair Testing is due to discuss, at their next meeting, the studies and research that can be used to determine Abstinence from Alcohol.  It is widely considered that the testing methods and guidelines will be endorsed but will still be considered controversial by some. The following points are for discussion:

  • Determination of EtG should be the first choice in abstinence assessment.
  •  In doubtful cases, for mutual confirmation and for exclusion of false positive and false negative results the determination of both EtG & FAEE parameters are useful combined with blood alcohol testing.
  • It is being discussed that an EtG <7 pg/mg would be considered as someone with strict abstinence. For FAEE, a sum concentration of below 0.2 ng/mg is being discussed for distinguishing between tee-totalers and social drinkers.
  •  A positive FAEE result confirms a positive EtG result but a negative FAEE result cannot overrule an EtG result >7 pg/mg due to the effect of external ethanol. False positive results have a higher probability for FAEEs.

DNA Worldwide are ready to report, provided the methods are agreed by the SoHT, on Abstinence from Alcohol through combined testing of Hair and Blood including an expert witness statement by the worlds leading expert in Alcohol Testing. For a free SRA 1 Hour CPD accredited training session please contact us.

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