- SERVICE OVERVIEWSimple yet comprehensive
- YOUR QUESTIONSFrequently asked questions
- TESTING FOR ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION Identify chronic excessive alcohol consumption
- TAKING A HAIR SAMPLEA simple guide showing how we collect a hair sample
- BLOOD ALCOHOL TESTINGPart of our standard alcohol testing package
- URINE ALCOHOL TESTINGIncluded in our enhanced testing package
- 2.6 MILLION CHILDRENlive with parents who are hazardous drinkers
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Our standard drugs panel tests for 26 different drugs and metabolites, read our SLA for full details!
Our reputation for quality and customer service is recognised by our wide range of customers including members of the public, government departments and the legal profession. We now deliver the same level of scientific rigour, chain of custody management and industry leading customer service with our comprehensive family law drug & alcohol testing service.
Testing hair samples is a low risk, non-invasive method to provide evidence of an individual’s drug or alcohol usage. Using specialist laboratory analyses we are able to identify the substances present in hair samples and to measure their levels.
Hairs are fed by a blood supply and substances that are circulating in the bloodstream can become incorporated into the growing hair. Hair can also incorporate drugs and other substances from sweat or sebum (an oily substance secreted by the sebaceous glands that helps to prevent hair and skin from drying out) or from environmental exposure to smoke or vapour.
With segmental analysis of head hair we can build up a picture of the historic pattern of use or abstinence for a particular individual.
Panel A includes a total of 26 drugs and their metabolites including the following common ‘drugs of abuse’:
Amphetamine and Methamphetamines - including the ‘Ecstasy’ drug MDMA.
Opiates - including markers of Heroin use.
Cocaine – including markers to indicate the use of ‘crack’ cocaine and the concurrent use of cocaine and alcohol.
Benzodiazepines - specifically Diazepam, Desmethyldiazepam (Nordiazepam), Temazepam, Oxazepam and Chlordiazepoxide.
We are able to look for a number of other drugs in addition to Panel A.
Panel B - our Supplementary Drugs of Abuse panel includes LSD, Ketamine and Phencyclidine (PCP).
Whilst Cannabis is the most commonly used drug of abuse it is especially difficult to detect accurately. We have developed a very specific test for Cannabis and its metabolites and this test can be selected in conjunction with either of our panels or as a stand alone test.
NEW! We now offer a standalone test for cocaine – including markers to indicate the use of ‘crack’ cocaine and the concurrent use of cocaine and alcohol.
We will be adding more drugs to our current groups in the future so if you require anything other than those mentioned please call for further details.
It is estimated to take approximately 5-7 days from the time of drug use or exposure for head hair to grow above the scalp and therefore be available for cutting and subsequent analysis. It is recommended to wait at least 3 to 4 weeks following the suspected use of a drug before collection of a sample so that the period of use/exposure is included in the collected sample.
In order to detect the low concentrations of drugs that may be present in hair samples, we require a sample which is the approximate width of a pencil. This amount of hair is unlikely to leave any considerable cosmetic mark to the donor.
Head hair grows at an average rate of approximately 1 cm per month with a range of between approximately 0.7 and 1.5 cm. For the purposes of hair testing at Cellmark the population average of 1 cm per month is assumed in the calculation of section dates. The length of sample available at the time of collection will determine what time period can be covered by the analysis. If a hair sample received is much shorter than required for the requested analyses it may be necessary to collect a further sample at a later date, after the hair has grown sufficiently, in order to fulfill the requirements of the testing.
Testing a single section of head hair provides an overview for the whole approximate time period covered by the length of that section; and any drug use detected may have occurred at any point within that time period and will not demonstrate a historic “profile” or “timeline” for an individual. Alternatively head hair samples can be divided into individual 1 cm lengths to provide an approximate “month by month” report or divided into lengths of up to 3 cm each covering approximately three-month time periods. This sectional analysis can demonstrate patterns of drug use or abstinence for a particular individual which may be more useful than a single ‘overview’ result.
The number of sections able to be tested for the presence of drugs is dependent upon the length of sample available.
Body hair has a similar rate of growth as head hair, with a range of between approximately 0.9 and 1.1 cm per month, but it has a different growth pattern. It has been estimated that for non-head hair a much higher proportion, approximately 40 to 60%, remains in the resting phase compared to only 10 to 15% of head hair. As a consequence non-head hair samples are not divided into sections for analysis and it is not possible to determine the maximum period of drug use or exposure. Any use of or exposure to a drug detected may have been in the weeks or indeed months before the sample collection date.
According to the World Health Organisation chronic excessive alcohol consumption is currently defined as an average consumption of 60 grams of pure ethanol (alcohol) per day over several months. In the UK, 1 unit of alcohol is defined as 8 grams of alcohol, so 60 grams of alcohol equates to 7.5 units. The amount of alcohol consumed depends on the strength of the drink. A single shot of spirits is 1 unit, a standard glass of wine (175ml) and a pint of lower strength lager is 2 units and a bottle of wine at 12% ABV is 9 units.
In addition to our drug panels we are also able to look for markers of “excessive alcohol consumption” in hair samples, specifically ethyl glucuronide (EtG) and four fatty acid ethyl esters (FAEEs). If drug analysis has also been requested it is necessary for an additional hair sample to be collected for EtG and FAEE analysis and a minimum of 3 cm of head hair is required. It is also very important to remember that these hair tests are not appropriate for testing for abstinence, social drinking or binge drinking.
Ethyl glucuronide (EtG) is formed in the liver and four fatty acid ethyl esters (FAEEs) are formed by enzymes in blood and tissues after alcohol consumption. While FAEEs are thought to get in to hair mainly by diffusion from sebum, EtG is thought to be deposited into hair mainly from sweat. It is understood that the more of each of these markers that are present in the hair, the more alcohol has been consumed. EtG and FAEEs can therefore both be useful indicators in the determination of alcohol consumption for an individual.
EtG is a polar water-soluble substance and its incorporation into hair is not thought to be biased by natural hair color; however it is sensitive to normal hygiene practices and to cosmetic treatments causing ‘wash-out’ effects. FAEEs are insoluble in water and stable at neutral pH, and therefore not susceptible to the same ‘wash-out’ as EtG, but are sensitive to hair treatments at alkaline pH. We therefore do not recommend that bleached head hair is used for these types of tests.
The Society of Hair Testing (SoHT) consensus (revised in March 2011) states that the different strengths and weaknesses of each test mean that using both together will give less chance of false positive or negative results. It is also recommended that these tests should only be used as part of the overall assessment of “chronic excessive alcohol consumption” for an individual. Analyses should be carried out in the 0-3cm proximal section of scalp hair and if samples less than 3 cm are used the results should be interpreted with caution. This is in agreement with the indications of a High Court hearing before The Hon. Mr Justice Moylan (12/11/2010) where it was suggested that both EtG and FAEE results should be considered together where appropriate.
At Cellmark we highly recommend using hair alcohol tests as part of a complete review to enable correct interpretation, judgement and decisions to be made. Additional tests offered by Cellmark include blood and urine tests which look for other indicators of alcohol consumption. A clinical assessment by a medical professional is also suggested.
We offer a combined blood test for carbohydrate deficient transferrin (CDT) and liver function (LF) testing. The combination of these tests can provide useful evidence of raised alcohol consumption, particularly in combination with hair and urine tests.
LF testing looks at a range of markers within the blood to check how the liver is performing; these are gamma-GT (GGT), alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and aspartate aminotransferase (AST). Excessive consumption of alcohol will affect liver function and produce raised levels of these markers.
Carbohydrate Deficient Transferrin (CDT) levels are another indicator of recent heavy alcohol consumption. Measuring CDT levels for an individual allows the monitoring of alcohol consumption over an extended period of time in comparison to the alcohol breakdown products in urine.
Ethyl Glucuronide (EtG) and Ethyl Sulfate (EtS) are both breakdown products produced by the body after the consumption of alcohol. Urine testing for EtG and EtS is a laboratory based technique that will detect the presence of breakdown products from alcohol up to approximately 80 hours after consumption.
Coupling EtG with EtS provides stronger evidence of alcohol consumption, since the EtG metabolite may be "masked" by urinary tract infections.
Our blood and urine testing services are provided in partnership with The Doctors Laboratory and Homerton University Hospital.
Yes - the collection of a hair sample is best undertaken by someone who is specially trained. The sample must be taken as close to the scalp as possible and without any pain or embarrassment for the person being sampled. The sampler also needs to complete consent and identification paperwork. To ensure that the integrity of the sample collection and chain of custody is maintained, Cellmark uses a specialist team of samplers who can visit your offices to complete this task (blood and urine samples can be taken at the same time).
Any hair not used during the analysis is stored at room temperature in the sample collection envelope for a minimum of 2 years. Hair extracts are retained for a minimum period of 1 year.
Cellmark's test reports are retained for a minimum period of 2 years. Customer data is stored by our sampling organisation for 13 months in its original form, it is then anonymised and moved to an archive database.