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How do you prove abstinence from alcohol?

Liz Wood AlphaBiolabs

By Liz Wood, Health Testing Specialist at at AlphaBiolabs
Last reviewed: 20/11/2023

In this article, we look at alcohol abstinence – what it is, how you can prove alcohol abstinence, who might need to prove that they are abstinent from alcohol, and where you can buy an alcohol test.

What is alcohol abstinence?

Someone who is abstinent from alcohol is someone who does not drink alcohol.

People can be abstinent from alcohol for a variety of reasons. Some people may be abstinent for short periods of time, or completely avoid alcohol altogether.

Each year in Ireland, many people take part in an event called ‘Dry January’. Dry January is a month-long challenge to abstain from alcohol and is often done by people who are looking to cut down their alcohol intake, lose some weight, or save some money. Don’t let the name fool you, though – short-term (or indeed long-term) alcohol abstinence can be done any time of year!

There are lots of people around the world who do not drink alcohol at all. This might be for religious reasons, but can also be for many other personal reasons.  

Some people may choose not to drink because they don’t like the taste or the way it affects their body. 

Some people may need to prove alcohol abstinence as part of their recovery, or in court cases. 

Whatever your reason for alcohol abstinence, avoiding alcohol has many benefits for both your mental and physical health and wellbeing.

Who might need to prove alcohol abstinence?

Lots of people have to prove their abstinence for many different reasons. In this section, we look at a few of the reasons why someone might need to prove their abstinence from alcohol. 

Drivers

Drivers may be required to prove abstinence from alcohol, either through pre- or continuous employment checks for professional drivers, or as a requirement to be able to drive again.

You must inform the NDLS of any conditions that can affect your ability to drive. This includes having an alcohol problem.

NDLS can request that you prove abstinence from alcohol before being declared fit to drive again. 

Employees

More and more companies are adopting drug and alcohol screenings as part of their drug and alcohol policy.

Some companies require new employees to pass a drug and alcohol test prior to or when starting their new role. They might also carry out random drug and alcohol screening to ensure that their staff members aren’t under the influence when on the job. 

Some jobs involve safety-critical decisions. These are decisions that could cause injury or death if correct procedure is not adhered to, or if the employee making the decision is under the influence of alcohol.

Examples of employees who might be required to prove alcohol abstinence include pilots, professional drivers, medical practitioners, and people who operate heavy machinery. 

Proving alcohol or drug abstinence is therefore a good way for employers to ensure that their employees are working in a safe environment, and not putting themselves or others at risk. 

If you’re interested in implementing a drug and alcohol testing programme within your business, visit our Workplace Drug and Alcohol Testing Policy  page.

Court-ordered requirements

You may also need to prove alcohol abstinence in family court matters, such as child custody cases. For example, if there are accusations that a parent or guardian who is looking after a child/children is abusing alcohol, they may be required to prove that they are abstinent. 

Click here for more information on our legal alcohol testing services.

What are the different ways you can prove abstinence from alcohol?

The most accurate and definitive way to show that someone is abstinent from alcohol is to conduct laboratory tests. Courts, employers or relevant authorities might also be interested to hear evidence from rehabilitation centres or character references. 

Alcohol testing

There are a variety of ways that alcohol consumption or abstinence can be proven through laboratory testing. 

Different tests can show alcohol consumption over different periods of time. Some tests, like the urine test, will detect alcohol for up to 2 or 3 days, whereas head hair testing can show excessive alcohol use for up to 6 months. 

Blood tests look for direct or indirect markers of alcohol. They are able to distinguish between chronic alcohol use and moderate/no alcohol use over a period of approximately 4 weeks.

Nails can show whether someone has been abusing alcohol for a period of up to 12 months, and is sometimes favoured by those who can’t or don’t want to submit samples such as hair or blood. 

When you are abstinent from alcohol, you will either have no or very low levels of ethanol biomarkers, depending on the test type. 

At AlphaBiolabs, we offer a variety of alcohol testing, including blood (PEth, CDT, LFT and MCV), hair and nails. We can also offer breath testing (using a breathalyser) or SCRAM continuous alcohol monitoring®.  

The type of test you need will depend on the period of abstinence you need to prove.

Evidence from rehabilitation centres

If someone ends up in court after committing an offence, and alcohol is suspected or proven to have played a part in the offence, then the court may order certain programmes or treatment plans. 

The attendance and contribution of a person at a rehabilitation programme will be monitored and can be a good way for someone to prove that they have remained abstinent from alcohol after committing the offence. 

If you have chosen to enter alcohol rehabilitation, you might also want to keep a diary or journal of your time or ask for feedback from mentors/counsellors that can help you prove your commitment to sobriety. 

Character reference

A character reference is a written statement that can be used in court. It will detail the defendant’s good character or qualities that reflect positively on the defendant.

A character reference can be written by a family member, friend, co-worker, employer etc. If the person writing the reference has observed the defendant taking steps to reduce or stop their alcohol intake, particularly in cases where alcohol consumption is part of the offence, then this can allow for the court to rule more favourably for the defendant.

Where can I get an alcohol test for abstinence?

AlphaBiolabs is one of Ireland’s leading providers of laboratory alcohol testing services for members of the public, the legal sector, and the workplace sector.

Our accredited laboratory can test a variety of samples for the presence of alcohol and its metabolites, including breath, blood, hair, and nails.

We also offer alcohol monitoring in the form of SCRAM Continuous Alcohol Monitoring®.

To discuss your alcohol testing needs, call our Customer Services team on 01 402 9466 or email info@alphabiolabs.ie.

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Liz Wood AlphaBiolabs

Liz Wood

Health Testing Specialist at at AlphaBiolabs

Liz joined AlphaBiolabs in 2021, where she holds the role of Health Testing Specialist.

As well as overseeing a range of health tests, she is also the lead on several validation projects for the company’s latest health test offerings.

During her time at AlphaBiolabs, Liz has played an active role in the validation of the company’s Genetic Lactose Intolerance Test and Genetic Coeliac Disease Test.

An advocate for preventative healthcare, Liz’s main scientific interests centre around human disease and reproductive health. Her qualifications include a BSc in Biology and an MSc in Biology of Health and Disease.

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