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Comparison of transdermal alcohol concentration and self-reported alcohol consumption in people with alcohol dependence attending community alcohol treatment services

Brobbin, Eileen, Deluca, Paolo, Coulton, Simon, Parkin, Stephen, Drummond, Colin (2024) Comparison of transdermal alcohol concentration and self-reported alcohol consumption in people with alcohol dependence attending community alcohol treatment services. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 256 . Article Number 111122. ISSN 0376-8716. (doi:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2024.111122) (KAR id:105041)



We aimed to assess the accuracy and wearability of a transdermal alcohol sensor (TAS) (BACtrack Skyn) with people currently receiving treatment at alcohol services.


A mixed methods observational study involving three NHS alcohol services in south London was conducted. All participants (7=male, 9=female) wore a TAS for 1 week and met with the researcher every other weekday to complete the TAS data download and a TimeLine Follow Back (TLFB). At the end of the week, a post-wear survey was completed. Transdermal Alcohol Concentration (TAC) from the TAS was compared to the TLFB. Post-wear survey responses, attendance voucher incentives and descriptive TAS data (removals, missing and skin temperature data) were analysed. We investigated different drinking event thresholds changing the criteria of TAC level and length of time TAC was increased and analysed each drinking threshold sensitivity, specificity, positive and negative predicative values, and percentage accuracy classification.


The TAS recorded the number of alcohol-drinking days with a high degree of accuracy compared to the TLFB as gold-standard. However, of the participation time of the 16 participants, 14.5% of the TAS data was missing in output and 16.4% of the recorded data suggests the TAS was not currently being worn. Of the data recorded, in line with the drinking event threshold of >15 ug/l TAC, >15 minutes, we found that sensitivity = 93%, specificity = 84% and a Pearson correlation of r(16) =.926, p = <.001, BCa 95% CI [.855 −.981]. The threshold with the highest accuracy was TAC>15 ug/l, >60 minutes which classified alcohol events with 90% accuracy, AUC =.910, sensitivity = 90%, specificity = 96%. The post-wear survey reported that most participants found it comfortable and that wearing it did not interfere with daily activities. Six participants reported side effects, including itching and a rash, but these would not deter them from wearing it again with all six reporting they would wear the TAS again and for longer than one week.


The TAS did not capture every drinking event that was self-reported but maintained a high correlation. There were instances of missing TAS data and TAS removals. Overall, our findings would support the acceptability and feasibility of TAS as a tool that could be used in clinical settings for objective alcohol monitoring with patients being responsible for the TAS.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2024.111122
Additional information: For the purpose of open access, the author has applied a CC BY public copyright licence to any Author Accepted Manuscript version arising from this submission.
Uncontrolled keywords: alcohol; alcohol dependence; alcohol monitoring; alcohol treatment
Subjects: H Social Sciences
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research > Centre for Health Services Studies
Funders: National Institute for Health Research (
Depositing User: Simon Coulton
Date Deposited: 19 Feb 2024 09:52 UTC
Last Modified: 20 Feb 2024 16:07 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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