The Potential Clinical Utility of Transdermal Alcohol Monitoring Data to Estimate the Number of Alcoholic Drinks Consumed

Donald M. Dougherty, Nathalie Hill-Kapturczak, Yuanyuan Liang, Tara E. Karns, Sarah L. Lake, Sharon E. Cates, John D. Roache

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Objectives: Transdermal alcohol monitoring is used extensively in forensic settings to identify whether individuals have violated court-ordered mandates to abstain from drinking. Despite widespread use in that setting, comparatively few studies have explored the clinical utility of transdermal alcohol monitoring. Furthermore, of the few studies conducted, most have relied on the forensically established conservative criteria to identify whether or not a drinking episode has occurred. Here, we explore how transdermal alcohol monitoring data can be used to estimate more clinically meaningful parameters relevant to clinical treatment programs. Methods: We developed a procedure to use transdermal data to objectively estimate the number of standardized drinks an individual has consumed. Participants included 46 men and women who consumed 1 to 5 beers within 2 hours in the laboratory on separate days while wearing devices to monitor transdermal alcohol concentrations (TAC). Results: A mathematical model was derived to estimate the number of standardized alcohol drinks consumed, which included a number of variables (time-to-peak TAC, area under the TAC curve, and sex). The model was then validated by applying it to data from a separate study. Our results indicate that transdermal alcohol devices can be used to estimate the number of standard drinks consumed. Conclusions: Objective methods characterizing both the level of intoxication achieved and the number of drinks consumed, such as transdermal alcohol monitoring, could be useful in both research and treatment settings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)124-130
Number of pages7
JournalAddictive Disorders and their Treatment
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 7 2015


  • alcohol treatment
  • breath alcohol concentration
  • standard alcohol drinks
  • transdermal alcohol monitoring

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)


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