Drugs at music festivals

At this time of year our news feeds contain tales of revellers who have become seriously unwell or even died following the use of drugs at music festivals.  The festivals have a number of measures to try and protect the [more]

Hay fever season – effects of antihistamines on workplace safety

As spring gets into full swing and the grass is growing and the trees are in flower many of us will start to feel the effects of hay fever. A trip to the pharmacist very quickly provides us with the antihistamines we need to [more]

Toxicology – a look back in time

British Science Week is a good week to look at the science of Toxicology.  Toxicology is the branch of science that relates to poisons. Many ancient texts were written about plant toxins and the use of poisons, but it [more]

The effects of recreational drugs on the heart

As the month of love ends, it’s a good time to think about the effects that recreational drugs have on the heart. We tend to focus more often on the immediate effects of recreational drug use and the risks that those [more]

Winter ills – the risks to workplace safety

Many of us have been struggling of late with coughs and colds, and some even with flu. We are fortunate that we have access to a wide range of over-the-counter preparations to help alleviate the symptoms caused by these [more]

Coping with alcohol dependence at Christmas

As we work to support individuals in the Family Court system who have alcohol dependence issues, it’s interesting to read several recent articles about the challenges those with alcohol dependence face at [more]

Meet the Expert: Stephen Ramsay

Meet the expert- Stephen Ramsey. MLPWEB0139

How did you get into drug testing?
After completing a BSc in Applied Biology at Kingston University, my first job was at LGC Teddington where I was part of the team testing urine samples for drugs of abuse. At this time, gas chromatography with mass spectrometry was the primary method used to confirm the presence of drugs and drug metabolites in urine samples.

Did you have any other jobs before moving to TrichoTech?
I moved to The Horseracing Forensic Laboratory (HFL) in Fordham near Newmarket in Cambridgeshire in 1998. At that time, HFL was a laboratory operation owned by the Horserace Betting Levy Board that primarily provided drugs testing for doping control in the equine and canine sports sectors. I was initially involved in the routine testing of competition animals. During my employment I was also involved in a two year development project that looked at increasing the sensitivity of drugs testing and prohibited substances detection in humans resulting in the company achieving accreditation to WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) standards. At that time there was only one other laboratory accredited to this standard in the UK and fewer than thirty five in the world.

When and how did you first start working for Alere Toxicology?
In 2005 I joined TrichoTech to take up a positon testing and reporting drugs in hair. Prior to this time I had worked primarily in the field of urine and blood testing and so I saw hair testing as a new challenge. Since the inception of TrichoTech in 1993, hair testing had grown significantly and the company was looking for experienced personnel in drugs testing.

How long have you been working with this company?
I joined TrichoTech over 11 years ago. TrichoTech was acquired by Concateno in 2007, Concateno then became a subsidiary of Alere Inc and was then rebranded to Alere Toxicology in 2013. I am currently the Reporting Manager and I am responsible for a team of Toxicologists based in Cardiff.

What does a Toxicologist do at Alere Toxicology?
A Toxicologist is responsible for interpreting the analytical results of drugs and alcohol markers testing and reporting the findings in a way that can be understood by a court. We take into account any medication or previously known drug usage or declared history of the donor. In some cases we are required to attend court to provide further information as expert evidence. We are not restricted geographically as court cases can be anywhere in the country. However in most cases, our detailed reports are sufficient to answer any questions that the court may have. When in court the questions asked by solicitors, barristers or the Judge are to assist in the outcome. Besides family law cases, we can also be required to give evidence at civil hearings, criminal hearings and employment tribunals.

What do you like about your job?
The philosophy of our company is ‘Behind every test is a life’. I really appreciate that with each result that we issue, we are assisting courts in the decision making process, which can have significant outcomes for the individuals involved.

Posted in Family Law, Substance Misuse | Leave a comment

5 benefits of using oral fluid laboratory testing


There are various methods of drug testing available. These can differ by sample type, analytes available, instant or laboratory testing – it can be confusing! Some of our customers choose to use instant testing over a laboratory service. With this in mind we have listed the benefits of using oral fluid laboratory testing.

  1. Simple collection without the need for specialist facilities

The benefit of using oral fluid is that a sample collection does not require the special facilities needed for a urine sample. The collection can be easily supervised thus decreasing the likelihood of sample adulteration.

  1. Quality assured accredited services

Drug testing laboratories should be regularly audited against ISO/IEC 17025:2005 standards to demonstrate their competence to carry out tests using laboratory-developed methods. This accreditation is awarded in the UK by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS).  You can check a laboratory’s Schedule of Accreditation by going to the UKAS website.

  1. A wider range of tests available

Laboratory testing offers more analytes than those available for instant testing. A good laboratory will also be able to differentiate between illicit drugs and prescribed medications.

  1. Same day turnaround for negative samples

State of the art laboratories are able to provide same-day reporting for negative screening tests. They will also be able to consistently and accurately screen high volumes of samples.

  1. Confirmation testing providing unequivocal identification of drugs

Positive screening tests can go straight to confirmation for unequivocal identification of a drug. This will differentiate between prescription and illicit drugs. For example a positive screening test for opiates could be from the illicit use of heroin or over the counter codeine.

Who is Alere Toxicology?

Alere Toxicology provides legally defensible drug testing and can be relied upon to help you make informed decisions. Our laboratories were among the first in the UK to provide a laboratory based oral fluid testing service, which we have been providing for over 13 years. Our validated laboratory methods for oral fluid are accredited to ISO/IEC 17025:2005 standards by UKAS and cover a comprehensive range of analytes.

Since the beginning of 2012 we have analysed over 1 million oral fluid samples. We have a rapid turnaround time of one day for samples that screen negative. The results of 99.5% of these samples were reported back on the same day they arrived at the laboratory.

Alere Toxicology are able to offer services that not all laboratories can. For example, our laboratory- developed technique can be used to distinguish between street amphetamine and pharmaceutical amphetamine. A 6-MAM (6-monoacetylmorphine) screening test is available. This is more specific than a general opiate screen when checking for heroin use because 6-MAM is the unique marker of heroin use.

We employ qualified, experienced and committed industry experts, all of whom integrate around a single binding philosophy that ‘behind every test is a life’. This gives you confidence in the process of testing and allows you to focus your attention on making effective use of the results.

Posted in Accreditation, Drug Testing, Workplace Solutions | Leave a comment

Oral fluid positivity rates


Drug addiction treatment centres and probation services across the UK send us samples for testing on a daily basis and we thought we’d share some data with you that gives a clear picture of drug use amongst those in treatment. Alere Toxicology receive approximately 15000 oral fluid samples in our laboratory every month, of which 91% are from the Drug Treatment sector. The graph below highlights the positivity rate of oral fluid samples received in our laboratory over a 3 month window.

What drugs do you think we get the highest positivity for?

The highest positivity rate for illicit drug use is for the metabolite of heroin with nearly half of those tested screening positive for 6-MAM. The high positivity rate for methadone reflects the use of this testing for compliance.


Number of samples for each test


Positivity rates


Posted in Drug Testing, Drug Treatment | Leave a comment

Psychoactive Substances Act 2016


Intended to come into force on 6 April 2016 the Government has now postponed legislation for at least a month due to claims that its current definition of a psychoactive substance is not enforceable by the police.

The main intention of the Act is to shut down shops and websites that currently trade in “legal highs”. The Act does not include possession as an offence; the Government did not want it to lead to the mass criminalisation of young people. However the Act does include possession in a custodial institution as an offence.

Summary of the Act as it currently stands:

  • The act makes it an offence to produce or supply any substance intended for human consumption that is capable of producing a psychoactive effect.
  • Possession of a psychoactive substance will not be an offence, except in a custodial institution.
  • Maximum sentence will be 7 years imprisonment.
  • Excludes food, alcohol, tobacco, nicotine, caffeine.
  • Excludes poppers (alkyl nitrites)
    • The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) told the Home Office that, in its view, poppers do not fall within the scope of the current definition of a ‘psychoactive’ substance in the legislation.
  • Exempts healthcare activities and approved scientific research.

The Psychoactive Substances Act does not replace the Misuse of Drugs Act (1971) which remains in place for drugs that are under Government control. However it has been amended to enable the Home Secretary to place a new psychoactive substance causing sufficient concern about its potential harms under temporary control by invoking a temporary class drug order.

The introduction of this legislation should have no impact on a customer’s requirements for NPS testing as the intention of the Act is to close down establishments and websites who supply the drugs.



Home office factsheet about Temporary Class Drug Orders (TCDO)

Guide to the Psychoactive Substances Act

Psychoactive Substances Act 2016

Posted in General News, Legal Highs | Leave a comment

9 key benefits of giving up alcohol for 30 days


New government guidelines issued this month on alcohol consumption have cut recommended drinking limits and say there is no such thing as a safe level of drinking. Research also shows that any amount of alcohol increases the risk of cancer, says Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer for England.

The revised guidelines state that:

  • Men and women who drink regularly should consume no more than 14 units a week – equivalent to six pints of beer or seven glasses of wine.
  • If people drink, it should be moderately over three or more days and that some days should be alcohol-free.
  • Pregnant women should not drink at all.
  • People should not “save up” their units and drink them all in one or two goes. Heavy drinking sessions increase the risk of accidents and injury.

The publication of these new guidelines, coupled with ‘Dry January’, – Alcohol Concern’s initiative to encourage people to ‘go sober’ for 30 days this month – means there’s no better time to consider your drinking habits. Benefits of saying no to alcohol can include:

1. Better long term health

As the government guidelines support, stopping drinking can keep the risk of illnesses like cancer and liver disease low.

2. Weight loss

Alcoholic drinks are seriously fattening. Cut out just one pint a day for a week and you’ll have consumed close to 1,500 fewer calories. Drinking can also interfere with your fitness regime. The way alcohol is absorbed by the body can reduce the amount of fat you’re able to burn by exercising – no good if you’re trying to lose weight!

3. Better sleep

If you regularly drink too much it can make you feel anxious and interfere with your sleeping patterns, both of which will stop you feeling your best. You’re also more likely to wake early and find it hard to drop off again.

4. Improved wellbeing

If you already feel anxious or sad when you’re sober, drinking can make this worse. Heavy drinking can be linked to depression, and sometimes a hangover can leave you feeling low, so cutting out drinking may improve your mood.

5. More energy

As well as affecting your sleep and moods, alcohol can interfere with your immune system making it harder to fight off bugs. Steering clear of alcohol may therefore help with improving your energy levels.

6. Sharper concentration

Alcohol can affect your concentration and therefore your ability to work. Give up the drink and you may discover you feel more on the ball.

7. Better skin

Your complexion could improve – no more dull and grey-looking skin caused by the dehydrating effects of alcohol. Skin is quick to react to changes so it could be looking better after just a couple of days of stopping.

8. A settled stomach

Alcohol can irritate the stomach as it causes the production of more acid, and can lead to stomach complaints such as diarrhoea and indigestion. You may therefore enjoy a more settled stomach once you stop drinking.

9. More time and money

No more hangovers to sleep off – think of what you could do with those extra hours! You could use the money you save to treat yourself – the average person spends £50,000 on booze in their lifetime!

Dry January encourages people to not only cease drinking to achieve these health benefits, but also to fundraise for Alcohol Concern, making a real difference to the lives of those harmed by alcohol, their families, and help ensure that young people (and the rest of us) have a healthy relationship with alcohol.

It’s not too late to join if you haven’t already done so – visit Dry January for more details. Alternatively, you could always begin your own ‘alcohol free’ month another time, as it’s giving up alcohol for 30 days that’s important, not the start and finish date.

Posted in General News, Health & Wellbeing | Tagged | Leave a comment