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The accuracy and promise of personal breathalysers for research: steps toward a cost-effective reliable measure of alcohol intoxication?

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journal contribution
posted on 2021-04-07, 02:17 authored by Benjamin RiordanBenjamin Riordan, Damian Scarf, Saleh Moradi, Jayde AM Flett, Kate B Carey, Tamlin S Conner
Objective:Technology is continuing to shape the way we collect health data, including data on alcohol use. A number of technologies are being developed to objectively measure intoxication 'in the wild' without relying on self-report; the most immediate solution may be the use of personal breathalysers. In this study, we aimed to determine whether a cost-effective personal breathalyser would perform in a similar manner to a device used for roadside breath testing. Method:We intercepted young adults (n = 337; 45% men) outside three concerts, administered 5-min interviews, and asked for breath samples on two devices (a personal breathalyser and a police-grade breathalyser). Results:Participants reported having consumed an average of 7.3 standard drinks before the interview and had a mean Blood Alcohol Content of 0.077 g/dl on the police-grade device and 0.085 g/dl on the personal device. Difference scores suggested the personal breathalyser was more likely to over report Blood Alcohol Content (bias = 0.008 g/dl). Conclusion:Although the personal device was more likely to over report Blood Alcohol Content compared with the police-grade device, the results suggest that personal devices could be used as a measure of Blood Alcohol Content when collecting data outside of the lab.


This research was funded by a grant to DS from the University of Otago (112012.01.R.FU). The university had no role in the study design, collection, analysis or interpretation of the data, writing the manuscript, or the decision to submit the paper for publication. BR is sponsored by a Fulbright New Zealand General Graduate Award.


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Digital Health



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Sage Publications



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