Transdermal Continuous Alcohol Monitoring

Definition: Transdermal testing measures the concentration of alcohol present in the insensible perspiration that is constantly produced and given off by the skin. If a person has been drinking, alcohol can be detected in the level of ethanol vapor present in their perspiration.

Executive Summary: A recent advance in alcohol testing is continuous transdermal alcohol monitoring that allows alcohol content to be measured “through the skin.” While transdermal testing cannot determine exact blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels, it can qualitatively determine the quantity of alcohol that was consumed based on the transdermal alcohol content (TAC). TAC results correlate well with BAC results. However, because of the way alcohol is absorbed and processed by the body, TAC peaks typically are reached 30 minutes to two hours after BAC peaks.

More Detail: When an offender is convicted of DUI, domestic violence, or another offense related to alcohol, a typical condition of sentencing or probation is that the individual stop drinking. To enforce this, courts have traditionally looked to random testing methods (blood, breath, or urine) that measure sobriety at a specific point in time which is often scheduled in advance.

Continuous transdermal alcohol monitoring has been confirmed by the scientific community based on more than 70 years of research and 22 peer-reviewed studies. It is becoming an increasingly accepted and integral part of offender alcohol monitoring programs within courts, probation, treatment, and correctional agencies. Transdermal monitoring has also been accepted in evidentiary hearings, and has been admissible in many court cases.

Suggested audience: Prosecutors, Judges

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