Fingernail Testing
Fingernail Testing

Fingernail Drug and Alcohol Testing for UK Family Courts.

Fingernail Drug and Alcohol Test

An established testing option

As a leading provider of drug and alcohol testing the DNA Legal forensic labs have been testing nail samples for over 20 years.

With a primary use in criminal matters - and costing thousands of pounds - DNA Legal have recognised the need for alternative sample types and can now bring this expertise to the Family Courts at prices approved by the Legal Aid Agency.

Like hair, fingernails are made of keratin. They provide stable samples that are simple to both collect and transport. Offering a longer window of detection, a fingernail test provides a 3-6 month history of drug and/or alcohol abuse.

Fingernail testing is at the cutting edge of the drug & alcohol industry. 

When is Fingernail Testing Needed?

If the donor has limited head and body hair then nail testing may be the answer. As with body hair it is not possible to provide a month-by-month breakdown from fingernail testing but you are provided with a clear overview. 

Situations that have resulted in the need for nail testing include participants that:

  • Have short hair
  • Have limited or no body hair
  • Have chosen to bleach or chemically treat their hair 
  • Have concerns about their appearance after the hair samples have been collected

Download Fingernail Testing Brochure

How Does Fingernail Testing Work?

As the fingernail grows, substances (drugs and their metabolites) pass from the blood vessels located directly below the nail into the keratin fibers where they are trapped.

Fingernails grow not only in length but also in thickness. 

Fingernails are four times thicker than the typical strand of hair, which means you can often capture more of a substance than within hair. 

Fingernail Drug & Alcohol Test

The metabolites are locked into the keratin fibers along the entire length of the nail providing a detection period of between 3-6 months after drug or alcohol abuse. 

Fingernail Alcohol Abuse Test

Which Drugs Can be Detected?

To ensure a simple and effective testing process fingernails are tested in panels ranging from 9 - 17 drugs. Within the panels the following drugs are tested:

  • Amphetamines
  • Mephamphetamines
  • Cannabinoids
  • Cocaine
  • Crack Cocaine
  • Opiates (inc Heroin)
  • Benzodiazepines 
  • Barbiturates 
  • Phencyclidine
  • Methadone
  • Propoxyphene
  • Oxycodone
  • Meperidine
  • Tramadol
  • Fentanyl
  • Sufentanil
  • Ketamine

Fingernail Alcohol Testing

The detection of alcohol abuse using fingernails provides a reliable alternative to head or body hair. The EtG (Ethyl Glucuronide) alcohol markers are trapped in the fingernail as it grows. 

Alcohol testing using nails can be carried out stand alone or combined with drug testing. 

As is recommended with hair alcohol testing, it is advised to combine fingernail testing with blood testing. DNA Legal provide both traditional (CDT, LFT & FBC) and more advanced (PEth) blood tests. 

Common Fingernail Testing Questions

  1. Each sample type (hair, nails, blood, urine) has a different detection period and drugs are incorporated differently. Testing multiple sample types may result in varying results from each.
  2. One-time drug use does not guarantee a positive fingernail test result. The number of doses required to generate a positive result is highly variable between donors (in the same way as other sample types). 
  3. Studies have shown that Nail Varnish, Nail Varnish remover and manicures do NOT affect the results of testing.