Alcohol Monitoring Bracelet

Our old friend Dean Stepper was on site today talking about the SCRAM bracelet.  We had been hearing a lot about it lately  (especially since a very famous wayward celebrity was sentenced to wear it for a DUI charge earlier this week).

Dean is an expert on the court systems and for many years has been helping people in recovery get through the legal hoops necessary to get their records cleaned up and get back on track.

He felt the SCRAM bracelet provided a good opportunity for men and women to continue their lives (hopefully including work but possibly on house arrest) while being held accountable to staying alcohol free.

The SCRAM Alcohol Detection Bracelet from Alcohol Monitoring Systems (AMS)

The SCRAM (Secure Continuous Alcohol Monitoring) bracelet is a patented device that attaches to the leg (above the ankle). The SCRAM technology, which is called Continuous Transdermal Alcohol Monitoring (CTAM) by its manufacturer, tests the leg perspiration every 30 minutes for changes in pH that would indicate the person has been drinking.

The SCRAM bracelet communicates with a base station in the person’s home and then the reports are available to the relevant authorities.  If the person is away from the base station (for instance, working), then the bracelet will re-connect with the base station when the person returns home and transmit all the data since the last time it uploaded the test results.

Why The SCRAM Bracelet is Good

According to Dean, the psychological aspect of wearing a bracelet that will get the person in grave trouble if they drink is a great motivator to not drink.  Stopping drinking, of course, is a critical first step to the path of recovery.  Some in the program of recovery would argue that it is a somewhat “false sobriety” or that the recovery doesn’t really begin because the person who is wearing the bracelet might rather drink if the bracelet were not present.  We think that in the “real world,” we’ll take any kind of sobriety to start with – even if it is forced.

Another obvious “real world” reason the SCRAM Bracelet is good is that it provides an alternative to incarceration.  We know the criminal justice system is sinking under the weight of the overwhelming number of cases that are related to substance abuse.  We have long supported the “disease model of addiction” (widely accepted in medical circles) which states that men and women who are addicted to alcohol (or any drug) will benefit from rehabilitation more than incarceration.  The SCRAM Bracelet (and the SCRAMx home monitoring system also available from Alcohol Monitoring Systems) opens the door for people to seek recovery outside of a cell during their probationary period.

Why The SCRAM Bracelet is Bad

The SCRAM bracelet makes noise and can disrupt sleep when it takes it’s data. There is also the possibility of false positives because of the variety of ingredients in various food and drinks.  Certainly there is a stigma associated with the ankle bracelet and the above stated reason that it does not inherently encourage a true program of recovery but rather a forced abstinence might make it less than perfect.

Beating The Scram Bracelet

Of course, if you know the way we think here (as recovering alumni),you will not be surprised to hear that the first question I asked Dean was “how can people beat this thing?”

It is not easy.  Apparently there is an infrared light that makes contact with the skin and anything that gets in the way of that light (like saran wrap) will trigger the SCRAM bracelet to notate user interference.  Also, there is a mechanism that analyzes the perspiration (or leg sweat) carefully that will know if the user is drenching the area in water or any other kind of substance to try and avoid detection of drinking.

For More Information

If you would like information about SCRAM bracelet, you can visit the manufacturer’s website:,  or if you would like to contact Dean Stepper, he is a court representative with Diversified Monitoring Systems in Santa Ana.

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