Alcohol Use Biomarkers

Approximately 20% of primary care patients in the United States drink alcohol (ethanol) at levels harmful to health. A blood-alcohol concentration over 250 mg/dL is considered toxic and may result in loss of motor function, impaired consciousness, respiratory depression, and death. Other effects of alcohol exposure include fetal alcohol syndrome, cardiomyopathy, stroke, fatty liver disease, fibrosis, pancreatitis, increased risk of developing cancer, psychological disorders, and vitamin deficiency.  Ethanol ingestion by children may cause hypoglycemia.

Diagnostic criteria for alcohol use vary, but the most widely used criteria are found in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).  Laboratory tests for acute alcohol ingestion include ethanol, ethyl glucuronide (EtG), and ethyl sulfate (EtS). Carbohydrate-deficient transferrin (CDT) and phosphatidylethanol (PEth) are useful markers for abstinence monitoring following long-term use.

Tabs Content
Content Review: 
August 2018

Last Update: October 2018