Hair Alcohol Testing
Legal Hair Alcohol Test
Ensuring the most accurate test
With alcohol abuse costing the UK over £23 billion per year and being a significant factor in over 1/3rd of domestic violence cases, as well as more than 63% of care proceedings, it is essential that alcohol testing is carried out in a way that accurately and truthfully supports your clients.
Around 15 – 20% of hair alcohol testing is incorrectly ordered or reported, which means that ;
- Clients are being advised they are abusing alcohol above the level for alcohol abuse when it is likely that they are are not.
DNA Legal advise that the outcomes of these tests can lose your client a custody case, not to mention wasted costs and the miscarriage of justice.
Three critical alcohol testing points
- Ethyl Glucuronide (EtG) is the main test to be used in hair and for mutual confirmation or if the client has chemically treated hair Fatty Acid Ethyl Esters (FAEE’s) should be tested as well.
- FAEE testing should never be used without EtG testing due to the fact that FAEE testing has a high false positive result from hair products.
- Hair Alcohol Testing should NEVER be used in isolation, blood testing (CDT, LFT & FBC or PEth) should always be carried out and analysed with the hair testing in a combined expert report. It is far better to test EtG and Bloods than EtG and FAEE.
Hair Alcohol Testing Explained
Testing for alcohol in hair works by looking to EtG and FAEE markers in the hair.
The alcohol markers (EtG and FAEE) are absorbed into the hair via sweat and diffusion. Unlike drug testing where the metabolites are absorbed through the root of the hair, when a client consumes alcohol the entire length of the hair will be contaminated with alcohol. Therefore it is not possible to segment the hair.
For example if your client had not drunk for 5 months and then in one month drinks an excessive amount of alcohol, the alcohol markers will be found throughout the entire length of the hair.
Free Case Review
It is reported that 15 – 20% of testing is ordered or reported incorrectly meaning thousands of potential clients are either being reported as positive for excessive alcohol when they should not be. And on the flip side, clients who have used drugs a few times per month are sometimes being reported as negative in reports.
The legal professional needs help and support especially if one of their cases relies of the results of a hair alcohol test which the client is adamant shows incorrect results. Simply send us the case and reports and we will provide a free of charge consultation and a quote for providing a full detailed report for court if needed.
Hair Products & Chemical Treatments
Hair alcohol testing must be interpreted with caution. This is especially true for clients who use chemical treatments.
Recent studies have shown that around 30% of hair alcohol results end up with discordant results (negative EtG and positive FAEE) this was attributed to hair products (shampoos, waxes and hair sprays) that contained ethyl alcohol and resulting in a false positive FAEE result. At DNA Legal we take this matter with extreme care when interpreting results.
Alcohol Test Detection Periods
Using a sample of hair to test for alcohol allows us to trace alcohol usage for up to 6 months, rather than using a blood ethanol test that covers only a few hours, a urine sample that can only detect alcohol for up to 4 days, or alcohol biomarkers in a blood sample that can only trace alcohol for up to 30 days.
DNA Legal recommends using both hair and blood samples when testing for alcohol to produce the most accurate result possible. DNA Legal's hair alcohol and blood tests can be used to differentiate between regular 'social drinking' and excessive alcohol use, and even abstinence from alcohol. We are on the of the first companies in the UK who are able to interpret blood abstinence by PEth test.
It is recommended to use Phosphatidylethanol (PEth) in blood and/or EtG in hair to determine abstinence. Research has shown that PEth is 99% accurate in determining low, regular, and excessive drinking.
Hair sample are up to 3 or 6cm long, depending on the length of time your client needs to be tested for, and approximately 200 strands of hair per sample are required. The location of hair is also important; hair collect from the vertex region of the scalp is preferred.
Body hair can also be used to test for alcohol, however, its different physiology, length and cosmetic treatments must be taken into consideration.
Hair Alcohol Testing Facts
- False negative or false positive results can be caused by different hair treatments, such as sprays, gels, bleaching, straightening and perming. Other factors can also have an affect on results. Before we conduct a hair test it is important that a list of used hair products and treatments are submitted to the laboratory to avoid false results. All of these variables will be analysed and looked at when interpreted by our doctors (forensic toxicologist) to report the real results.
- Testing hair for alcohol allows you to trace alcohol usage for up to 3 or 6 months, whereas a urine test can only detect up to 80 hours previous
- FFAE is an additional alcohol by-product we can test for in hair, increasing the quantity of data and improving the accuracy of the results. FAEE's are much easier to detect than alcohol found in blood and urine, and they can also be used to assess if the alcohol consumption was excessive over a specific period of time
- Excessive hair washing can affect results; this is why EtG testing should only be used to complement other tests.