How Does Hair Alcohol Testing Work?

Alcohol consumption is a widespread, socially acceptable behavior. In countries where it isn’t prohibited, people are free within legal limits to take it.

But like most casual activities, it leads to harmful and dangerous consequences when done to the extreme. To determine if individuals have been drinking, hair alcohol testing has become an increasingly popular method. This test measures the presence of a specific metabolite of alcohol, ethyl glucuronide (EtG), in a hair sample.  

With advanced analytical techniques, hair alcohol testing provides a reliable and non-invasive method for determining an individual’s alcohol consumption history. This post will delve into the science behind hair alcohol testing, including how it works and its advantages. 

Whether you’re seeking to monitor your alcohol consumption or an organization looking to enforce substance-free policies, understanding the basics of hair alcohol testing is crucial. You can work with professional providers like Lextox, among many others.

What Is Hair Alcohol Testing?

Hair alcohol testing is a drug test that measures the amount of alcohol in a person’s hair to determine if they have been drinking. This test provides a more accurate picture of a person’s alcohol use over a longer period than traditional methods like blood or urine tests.

When Was It First Used?

The use of hair analysis for determining substance use has a long history, dating back to the 1970s. However, the specific method of hair alcohol testing that involves the measurement of ethyl glucuronide (EtG), a particular metabolite of alcohol, was first introduced in the 1990s and has become increasingly popular in recent years.

How Does It Work?

Hair alcohol testing works by analyzing a small sample of hair for the presence of ethyl glucuronide (EtG), a metabolite of alcohol that is formed in the body after drinking.

EtG is formed when alcohol is metabolized in the liver and is excreted into the urine, where it can be detected for up to 80 hours after alcohol consumption.

This metabolite reaches the hair shaft and remains there for several months, allowing the test to detect alcohol consumption over a longer period than other testing methods.  

The process of hair alcohol testing starts with collecting a sample of hair, usually from the back of the head near the crown. A small section of it is cut close to the scalp and sent to a laboratory for analysis. 

The laboratory uses liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) to extract and analyze the EtG from the hair sample. After that, it calculates the amount of the metabolite in the sample and compares it to established reference levels to determine how long and how much a person has been drinking.

What Is Liquid Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (LC-MS)?

LC-MS is a widely used analytical technique that combines the separation power of liquid chromatography (LC) with the highly sensitive and specific detection capabilities of mass spectrometry (MS). 

LC-MS has various applications, including the analysis of drugs, chemicals, and biological molecules. 

In this method, liquid chromatography first separates a sample into its components. This is achieved by passing it through a column packed with a stationary phase, which separates the components based on their physical and chemical properties.

These are then introduced into a mass spectrometer, where they are ionized. The resulting ions are analyzed based on their mass-to-charge ratio.

The mass spectrometer can detect the presence of individual components in the sample based on their unique mass-to-charge ratio, displaying the results as a mass spectrum. This shows which are present and at what concentrations, allowing for precise and sensitive analysis of complex samples. 

LC-MS is widely used in many fields, including pharmaceuticals, biochemistry, environmental analysis, and food safety. Its ability to provide highly specific results through precise processing makes it a valuable tool for analyzing complex samples.

What Are The Advantages Of Hair Alcohol Testing? 

As mentioned before, one of the main advantages of hair alcohol testing is that it provides a more accurate picture of a person’s alcohol use over a more extended period than traditional methods like urinalysis.

This is because this procedure can detect alcohol consumption up to 90 days before the test. On the other hand, standard blood and urine tests can only measure alcohol levels within the past 24 to 48 hours. 

Another advantage of hair alcohol testing is that it’s less invasive and less subject to tampering compared to other testing methods. Unlike urine tests, the results cannot be easily manipulated, making it a more reliable and trustworthy method of testing for alcohol use. 

Furthermore, it’s less affected by the individual’s hydration levels, unlike urine tests, which can produce false positive results if a person is dehydrated. If you’re looking to enforce policies in your organization, this may provide more transparent benchmarks.

What To Take Away

In a world where alcoholism is widespread, it’s essential to have reliable methods for monitoring consumption and preventing harmful consequences. Hair alcohol testing is a helpful tool in this effort, providing a valuable resource for individuals and organizations alike. Reach out to expert providers today for more information.

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HBC Editors
HBC Editors
HBC editors are a group of healthcare business professionals from diversified backgrounds. At HBC, we present the latest business news, tips, trending topics, interviews in healthcare business field, HBC editors are expanding day by day to cover most of the topics in the middle east and Africa, and other international regions.

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