Our DNA testing clients from the legal profession and social services are often dealing with complex cases involving alcohol abuse as well as issues of paternity. We have been asked to offer an alcohol testing service and we are now pleased to do so. Insofar as residence and contact orders are at issue, there could be around 2.6 million children living with a parent where excessive drinking could lead to poor parenting*.
This means we can offer a unified solution together with a DNA test if required, in support of decision making in family cases.
We use both our own in house facilities and a network of state of the art external providers to ascertain chronic alcohol usage from cut hair (often called hair strand) testing. This information can be useful guidance to alcohol consumption over a given time period. We also access a national network of trained sample collectors and given the extent of this network, can offer a reasonably “local” collection service with a high level of responsiveness.
Alcohol itself is not deposited in the hair shaft and direct measurement, as with some drugs, is not possible by this route. Instead, we use the breakdown products of alcohol as surrogate markers for alcohol consumption. In particular, these are bio-markers known as ethyl glucuronide (EtG) and the fatty acid ethyl esters (FAEE) and both must be tested to give an overall picture of the alcohol consumption; this optimised the data as the advantages of bone biomarker are compensated by the disadvantages for the other.
The distinction we can make with these tests, along with other evidence is between; a) no evidence of drinking (or casual use) and b) excessive consumption (sustained chronic use). We do not conduct EtG tests in isolation, as the levels of this particular biomarker may be affected by other factors, such as medicinal products, weight loss and say, alcohol containing hair products, confounding low amount detection. Furthermore, FAEE and EtG are not evenly distributed in hair shafts, with EtG being near the scalp and FAEEs at a higher concentration near the tip of the hair.
We recommend that alcohol consumption is tested using either a 3 cm (3 month) or a 6cm (3 month or 6 month ) detection window, using both EtG and FAEEs. The practice of 1cm hair segmentation for alcohol testing has been determined to be unreliable** and this cannot be used to indicate temporal alcohol consumption.
In addition to head hair, body hair can also be used for the determination of chronic alcohol consumption.
If additional evidence of alcohol consumption is required (e.g. a dispute over the hair strand results), then we can conduct blood tests for two other biomarker measures, know as the Liver Function Test (LFT) and the elevation of Carbohydrate deficient transferrrin (CGT). However, these test should only be considered in a small number cases and are of little benefit on their own. We do not carry out breathalyser or urine based alcohol tests as our focus is on long term abuse in child custody cases.
If you would like to discuss a case, request a quotation or place an order, please feel free to call us on either 0131 516 3966 or 0131 240 1280.
Please return the completed downloaded form by either;
- a) e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org,
- b) fax to 0871 231 1282 or
- c) mail to Complement Genomics Ltd (dadcheck®scotland), 93 George Street, Edinburgh, EH2 3ES.
LB Richmond v B & W & B & CB  EWHC 2903 (Fam)
For a recent review of alcohol testing options:
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