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Alcohol consumption has increased globally in recent decades, with important implications both in morbidity and mortality. In order to adequately treat people suffering from alcohol abuse, clinicians use some tests that can properly assess alcohol intake. There's a great variety of tests with different clinical implications, uses and meanings. Below you will find information on the most common used tests.
Biochemical substances measurable in the body that can indicate the presence or progress of a medical condition are called biomarkers. The measure of some biochemical substances can provide information to the clinician regarding people's drinking patterns - alcohol biomarkers. They are useful not only for assessing acute (i.e., recent) alcohol intake but also long-term (i.e., chronic) drinking.
These markers may reflect changes in the body due to acute or chronic alcohol consumption and its toxic effects on an organ system (indirect alcohol biomarkers) or they may be related to products derived from the break down (ie., metabolization) of alcohol inside the organism (direct alcohol biomarkers).
In the organism, alcohol detoxification takes place in the liver. This organ is also one of the most frequently damaged by alcohol and the association between alcohol intake and chronic liver disease (cirrhosis) has long been known. Therefore, most indirect alcohol biomarkers reflect the activity of certain liver enzymes.
- There are other alcohol biomarkers currently in research that appear promising. However, none of these tests are commercially available at the moment.
These are alcohol itself or products of alcohol degradation in the body.
In sum, there are some well-established tests for measuring alcohol intake and some efforts are still being made to perfect those already available and implement new ones. As for now, indirect biomarkers like GGT, ALT, AST and CDT are currently used in the U.S. for detecting sequels of chronic alcohol abuse. Alcohol itself is useful for detecting very recent alcohol intake, while EtG and Acetaldehyde allows clinicians to monitor sobriety and abstinence, respectively.
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