Increased sensitivity of hair alcohol test for abstinence assessment

May 15, 2019

Full head of hair
Ethyl glucuronide (EtG) is a specific alcohol marker in hair strand drug testing that can detect alcohol consumption over weeks and months.
At Cansford we have been performing assessments of EXCESSIVE drinking using the EtG marker in hair.  
Now we have extended the usefulness of the test by improving the analysis so that we can offer evidence in support of a claim of ABSTINENCE.
The Society of Hair testing (SoHT) has issued a consensus document developed by many scientists working in Hair analysis.  They have found that a level of EtG greater than 30pg/mg in a 3 centimetre hair sample is suggestive of excessive drinking.  They have further found that an EtG level of less than 7 pg/mg is consistent with a person who is abstinent from drinking alcohol.  The residual small level of EtG is explained because normal metabolism produces small amounts of Ethanol.
We have worked hard to develop a fully validated assay for the quantitation of EtG in hair down to 7 pg/mg.  This assay, that has been accredited by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) to the level of ISO 17025:2005, is now available from Cansford Laboratories and we expect it to help Social Workers and Courts better assess abstinence from alcohol in their clients.
At Cansford, we can now report ETG results indicating in the results reports according to the following:
  • EtG <7pg/mg: Suggestive of abstinence within the period covered by the sample.
  • EtG ≥7pg/mg and <30pg/mg: Indicative of alcohol use within the period covered by the sample.
  • EtG ≥30pg/mg: Suggestive of chronic excessive alcohol use within the period covered by the sample.
Please note:
  • It is not possible to relate the levels of EtG precisely with the amount of alcohol used.  The amount of EtG present in hair can be reduced by normal shampooing, and further reduced by the use of chemical treatments that damage the hair, for example hair dye. The use of alcohol markers in a hair strand test should not be used in isolation, and should be used in conjunction with biochemical blood tests and medical review.

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