Accounting for sex-related differences in the estimation of breath alcohol concentrations using transdermal alcohol monitoring

Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2015 Jan;232(1):115-23. doi: 10.1007/s00213-014-3644-9. Epub 2014 Jun 13.


Rationale: Previously, we reported methods to estimate peak breath alcohol concentrations (BrAC) from transdermal alcohol concentrations (TAC) under conditions where alcohol consumption was controlled to produce similar BrAC levels in both sexes.

Objective: This study characterized differences in the relationship between BrAC and TAC as a function of sex and developed a model to predict peak BrAC that accounts for known sex differences in peak BrAC.

Methods: TAC and BrAC were monitored during the consumption of a varying number of beers on different days. Both men (n=11) and women (n=10) consumed one, two, three, four, and five beers at the same rate in a 2-h period. Sex and sex-related variables were considered for inclusion in a multilevel model to develop an equation to estimate peak BrAC levels from TAC.

Results: While peak BrAC levels were significantly higher in women than men, sex differences were not significant in observed TAC levels. This lack of correspondence was evidenced by significant sex differences in the relationship between peak TAC and peak BrAC. The best model to estimate peak BrAC accounted for sex-related differences by including peak TAC, time-to-peak TAC, and sex. This model was further validated using previously collected data.

Conclusions: The relationship between peak TAC and actual peak BrAC differs between men and women, and these differences can be accounted for in a statistical model to better estimate peak BrAC. Further studies are required to extend these estimates of peak BrAC to the outpatient environment where naturalistic drinking occurs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / metabolism*
  • Alcoholic Intoxication / diagnosis
  • Alcoholic Intoxication / metabolism
  • Beer*
  • Breath Tests / methods
  • Ethanol / analysis*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Skin Absorption / physiology*
  • Substance Abuse Detection / methods*
  • Substance Abuse Detection / standards
  • Young Adult


  • Ethanol