The ability to test your client’s hair alcohol levels and gain a snapshot their alcoholic past is now made possible through the introduction of Hair Alcohol Testing in the UK.

Recently launched by Trimega Laboratories Ltd in April 2007, this new method of testing has been adopted by numerous court, legal and family advocates across the UK. For the first time ever, there is a non-invasive method of establishing long-term excessive drinking for up to 12 months.


It is difficult to quantify the impact the substance misuse has on families. The use of drugs and alcohol is often one of many factors that place stress of family relationships. Substance misuse is associated with domestic violence, martial break-up, unemployment, and parenting problems.

“Researchers have observed high levels of mental health problems among relatives of people who misuse alcohol and drugs . Further, children of problem drinkers are more likely to have behavioural problems, school related problems, and to use alcohol and drugs in a problematic way than children of non-problem drinkers.

Current estimates indicate that 780,000 to 1.3 million children affected by parental alcohol problems and between 250,000 and 350,000 children of problem drug users in the UK .

There are an estimated 1.3 million parents with alcohol misuse problems in the UK and 350,000 parents who have serious drug problems in England and Wales . Of these parents who misuse drugs it is estimated that only 37 percent of fathers and 64 percent of mothers still live with their children .

Childline, a free 24 hour helpline for children and young people across the UK received calls from just under 140,000 children in 2004/2005. Analysis of these calls suggests that more children are effected by parental/carer alcohol misuse than drug misuse. In 2004/2005 the number of callers who spoke to Childline about significant other’s alcohol misuse was over double the number who called primarily to talk about significant other’s drug misuse (3,442 compared to 1,600)

It is therefore not surprising that substance misuse (particularly alcohol) is a problem for a large proportion of children and families on social work case loads in the UK. A 2002 Nuffield Foundation study reviewed the cases of 290 children allocated for social work cases across four London boroughs. Sixty two percent of the children involved were subject to care proceedings and 40 percent were on the child protection register. The study found that the parental substance abuse affected 100 families, 34 percent of the total sample. 41 percent involved alcohol misuse, and 27 percent involved alcohol and drug misuse. Only 29 percent of the families involved had received support from substance misuse professionals .”

Furthermore, alcohol has just been classified as the fifth most seriously harming drug, after only heroin, cocaine, barbiturates and street methadone. Even more shocking is the fact that liver disease is the fifth highest cause of death in Britain and that alcoholics are just as prevalent in society as diabetics.

So it is not surprising that many legal, medical and HR professionals have been looking for a reliable test that tracks an individual’s history of alcohol misuse.


Traditionally, excessive alcohol consumption has been monitored using the Liver Function Test (LFT), which indicates the degree of inflammation present in the liver, and the Carbohydrate Deficient Transferrin (CDT), which shows excessive alcohol consumption by looking at a specific biological marker in the blood. While useful in showing excessive alcohol consumption over past three – four week period, the major limitation is the window of detection. There is still a valuable place for these tests, not least because they provide a fuller picture of alcohol abuse over a two – four week period.

Hair alcohol testing extends that history significantly by providing a reliable and historical record of alcohol consumption for periods of up to one year.

The alternative provider in the Medico-Legal market for hair drug testing, Trimega Laboratories, have a patent-pending process of hair extraction for these markers, followed by interpretation of results against controls set with clinical data from alcohol users that allows them to distinguish teetotalers or social drinkers from alcoholics or individuals drinking at harmful levels.

When hair grows it absorbs a range of chemical markers that are locked in the hair in just the same way that the rings on a tree can tell us about the climate year by year. These markers, including fatty acid ethyl esters (FAEE’s) only occur when ethanol (‘alcohol’) is consumed, The more alcohol an individual consumes, the greater the concentration of these markers in the hair.

Unlike hair drug testing, it is currently not possible to segment samples to give a month-by-month pattern, unless the donor has abstained from drinking for the most recent 3 months or more. The reason for this is that fatty acid derivatives measured are carried into the hair via sebum from the scalp and then down the hair shaft. So past periods of abstinence when followed by excessive alcohol consumption cannot be accurately tested.

Already the feedback and interest in this medical application since the launch has been remarkable. This latest technology is a beginning of a new era in substance misuse prevention insofar as early identification of individuals that could place children at risk and families at risk.

For further information in relation to this testing Visit Or contact 0845 388 0124