Alcohol Testing Devices for Personal Use
My friend Chuck recently asked me if there was a “commercially available” alcohol testing device for personal use that he could provide to his adult children so they could learn about intoxication levels. (I think Chuck’s assumption was that his kids would learn to drink responsibly if they had more information about how intoxicated they were after drinking.) My friend knows that I am in the business of selling drug and alcohol testing products, but had never looked at our website to see all the products that we have to offer. Had he done so, he would have found our Buyer’s Guide that suggests products for different applications – including Personal Use.
Here’s a summary of what our Buyer’s Guide recommends for alcohol testing devices for personal use.
Our guess is that most consumers don’t want to spend a lot of money on alcohol test devices, so our first suggestions are the disposable, one-time-use devices that sell for several dollars each. All the following disposable devices are FDA cleared for over-the-counter sale to consumers.
- The Alco-Breath Tube does the best job of estimating intoxication levels. The ABT-15 will register up to .15 BAC, which for most individuals is very intoxicated. (The legal limit for drunk driving in the US is .08 BAC.) Compared to our other disposable alcohol testers the Alco-Breath Tube requires a few more steps to use – inflating a balloon and attaching it to the test device. This would be my top recommendation to Chuck for a disposable test because it gives estimates of intoxication levels.
- The CheckPoint breath alcohol test is the easiest to use. Crush it once with your fingers to break a glass ampule inside the device, then blow for 12 seconds. The yellow crystals turn to a blue/green color to indicate the presence of alcohol at or above the threshold level for that device. For example, if using a .08 CheckPoint device, the color change to blue/green indicates an intoxication level of .08 or higher. It is not possible to know if the intoxication level is higher than .08, however, as the color is the same at .08 BAC as it is for .15 BAC.
- The Alco-Screen saliva test is simple to use as well; wet the end of the strip with saliva, and the reagent pad turns different shades of green depending on the amount of alcohol present. The user estimates alcohol by comparing the green color at two minutes with the color standard on the package. The estimates will give the user a ballpark estimate of intoxication level.
- The Alco-Screen 02 saliva test is a pass/fail test that detects alcohol at the .02 level and above. It is most often used to determine if someone has been drinking or not, but it could also be used to gauge if an intoxicated person has sobered up. The instructions for use are the same as for the Alco-Screen – wet the reagent pad with saliva. Results are read differently, however. A green line appears within four minutes if the alcohol concentration is .02 or greater.
For those who are willing to spend several hundred dollars to get a very accurate, evidential quality alcohol testing device, we suggest a refurbished Alco-Sensor III or Alco-Sensor FST. We suggest refurbished instruments because we guess that most consumers won’t want to spend another several hundred dollars more for the price of a new instrument. Alco-Sensor instruments give a three-digit readout of test results and are rated as evidential quality instruments, and are the same devices used by law enforcement as road-side testers.
- The refurbished Alco-Sensor III is our most affordable suggestion. Two buttons operate the device. As the subject blows into the mouthpiece, the user presses the READ button to capture a breath sample. The instrument displays positive results within 10 to 30 seconds.
- The refurbished Alco-Sensor FST improves on the manually-operated Alco-Sensor III by automating the breath sampling, which means that the subject simply blows into the mouthpiece. The user does not need to press a button to capture the breath sample. The Alco-Sensor FST determines that the subject is blowing adequately, and then automatically determines the optimum moment to pull in a sample of the breath for analysis. The Alco-Sensor FST has several additional features, such as the ability to perform a “passive” test without a mouthpiece, and to detect the presence of alcohol in a beverage.
About the assumption that if a person will behave more responsibly if they know more accurately about their intoxication level, here’s what we learned over our 34 years in the alcohol testing business:
- It’s never safe to drink and drive.
- It is educational for individuals to accurately know their intoxication level after drinking. We have had many anecdotal experiences of people telling us how surprised they are to learn how impaired they feel at alcohol concentrations well below .08, the legal limit for drunk driving, and how surprised they are that our laws allow individuals to drive with that high an intoxication level.
- Intoxicated people cannot be relied upon to make responsible decisions.