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Can hair alcohol testing identify instances of binge drinking?

The hair alcohol test for the alcohol markers ethyl glucuronide (EtG) and fatty acid ethyl esters (FAEE) undertaken by Lextox should be only used to determine if a donor is consuming chronic excessive amounts of alcohol over the approximate time period covered by the testing; it is not a test to determine alcohol abstinence, social drinking or ‘binge drinking’.

A hair alcohol test is unable to determine exactly when alcohol has been consumed as the results obtained are integrated results for the whole approximate time period covered by the hair section analysed, typically over an approximate 3 or 6 month period. It is therefore possible for a donor to ‘binge drink’ (consume very large amounts of alcohol in a short period of time) on a regular basis and to give a positive result for a hair alcohol test. It is not possible to determine if a positive chronic excessive alcohol consumption interpretation was due to ‘binge drinking’ or more frequent excessive drinking.

The Society of Hair Testing defines chronic excessive alcohol consumption as an average consumption of 60 grams of pure ethanol per day over several months. This is the equivalent to an average consumption of approximately 7.5 units of alcohol per day or 52.5 units per week. For reference, an average pint of lager is approximately 2 units and a large glass of wine is approximately 3 units.

Whilst hair alcohol testing is unable to provide a detailed breakdown of alcohol consumption, the use of a SCRAM™ alcohol testing bracelet would be able to provide information of alcohol consumption subsequent to the bracelet being fitted. The bracelet provides information regarding alcohol consumption every 30 minutes, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and could therefore be used to ascertain a detailed pattern of alcohol consumption over a period of time, for example 90 days, after fitting the bracelet. Whilst complete abstinence is unable to be confirmed, very low alcohol consumption for example 1-2 units can be determined.

To instruct us for hair alcohol testing and SCRAM Continuous Alcohol Testing, please contact us today on 029 2048 4141 or email [email protected].

Published 01/08/16 – All information correct at time of publication