Child Protection: Alcohol testing in context

Knowing which type of alcohol test to use can sometimes be difficult. To help I have created two scenarios to illustrate the use of different testing types.

Scenario 1

Paul is a single parent who used to be dependant on alcohol. He maintains that he has not consumed alcohol for 6 months and has volunteered to undergo any tests necessary to prove his sobriety so he can show he is capable of looking after his children.

Through his solicitor, Paul could use a combination of urine and breath alcohol tests, as well as seeking a clinical assessment from someone with access to his medical history. By combining a series of tests with the clinical assessment Paul would build a better base of evidence of his sobriety.

Suitable urine tests can highlight alcohol use up to the past four days, with a positive result providing a strong indication that alcohol has recently been consumed. A breath test would provide a much shorter detection window and will highlight if Paul has alcohol in his system at the time of the test. A clinical assessment should be carried out by someone qualified to provide a psychological evaluation.

Scenario 2

Rebecca is separated from her partner and both of them share joint custody of their two children. She had growing concerns that he was misusing alcohol and subsequently he is ordered by court to undertake any necessary tests.

In this instance the best tests to detect chronic excessive alcohol use would be a hair and blood alcohol test.

The current scientific consensus states that a suitable hair alcohol test should be able to detect five alcohol markers in order to get a higher level of certainty of chronic excessive alcohol use. The blood tests are a useful aid as they can highlight the effects excessive alcohol consumption have on the body and with hair testing can help create a better picture of alcohol use.

Although both cases are similar, the context in which testing could be used are very different and as such the types of testing needs to reflect this.

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