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

Eileen Brobbin*, Paolo Deluca, Simon Coulton, Stephen Parkin, Colin Drummond

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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, >15minutes, we found that sensitivity = 93%, specificity = 84% and a Pearson correlation of r(16) =.926, p = 15 ug/l, >60minutes 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.
Original languageEnglish
Article number111122
JournalDrug and alcohol dependence
Early online date11 Feb 2024
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2024


  • alcohol
  • alcohol dependence
  • alcohol monitoring
  • alcohol treatment
  • transdermal alcohol sensor
  • wearable alcohol biosensor

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