There are different ways to test an individual’s use of alcohol. Breathalyser tests can detect alcohol within 15 minutes of a first drink and can continue to detect alcohol for up to 24 hours.
Urine testing for alcohol can show alcohol consumption up to 80 hours after consumed.
Hair tests can help to establish longer-term patterns of alcohol misuse.
Another option is a blood-based test for phosphatidylethanol (PEth), and it’s something we at Cansford Labs are excited about, having recently become the first UK lab to be accredited with ISO 17025 for PEth testing.
What is PEth testing?
In the human body, two types of biomarkers - direct biomarkers and indirect biomarkers - can be used to establish whether there is alcohol present in someone’s system.
Direct biomarkers are formed when ethanol is either metabolised or reacts with other substances present in the body. Indirect biomarkers, on the other hand, reflect changes that organs, tissues or the body’s biochemistry undergoes as a result of alcohol consumption.
While indirect biomarker levels can be affected by other substances, direct biomarkers give a true indication of whether alcohol has genuinely been consumed. One such biomarker is phosphatidylethanol (PEth), which can be detected via blood tests.
What are the benefits of PEth testing?
PEth alcohol testing has a variety of benefits over certain other alcohol testing methods, namely:
It offers a detection period of up to a month
Less invasive than other testing methods
Cansford Labs use a ‘dry blood spot’ method to test for the PEth marker. This means we do not require a full blood sample to be taken directly from the veins. Our test uses just a spot of blood taken from a single finger prick. This is akin to those used by diabetics to monitor blood sugar levels - requires only a few drops to be taken.
Can distinguish between different levels of alcohol use
The sensitivity of a PEth test means that the results can differentiate between varying levels of alcohol use over the last month. PEth values obtained from testing will enable the testing laboratory to distinguish between someone who has abstained during this period, has drunk to moderate levels, or has consumed an excessive level of alcohol (using levels determined by the WHO).
This makes it the perfect testing method for those looking to understand whether an individual continues to be abstinent, whether their drinking patterns have changed, or whether they have relapsed into former patterns of alcohol misuse.
It offers a cost-effective way of monitoring alcohol use over a period of time - for instance, when attempting to monitor an individual’s alcohol consumption each month over a three-month period.
Offers the potential for individuals to monitor their own alcohol intake
It’s possible that some individuals may be unaware of the impact that their alcohol misuse may have. In cases such as these, PEth testing kits could be provided to individuals to allow them to monitor their own alcohol usage levels. As previously mentioned, with diabetics already using similar methods for self-testing, finger-prick blood tests are already known and recognised, which may make their use for self-testing for alcohol more easily accepted.
"Every situation should be analysed individually to establish the best testing method."
PEth testing gives an incredibly accurate picture of the level of alcohol usage over the last month. Every situation should be analysed individually to establish the best testing method, but it's clear that PEth tests have a whole host of uses and benefits that should certainly be considered.
To find out which is the most accurate type of drug test to suit your needs, get in touch.
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