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Monday, April 5, 2010

Blood Test Could Identify Heavy Drinkers

Testing for drugs and alcohol has been a controversial subject for some time now. Employers have been drug testing employees to determine whether or not someone who works for them has a drug problem. What about people who strictly have an alcohol problem? Up until now there was no way to tell if someone had been up all night drinking whiskey. Not only does that affect places of employment determining whether or not someone has a problem, but, also drug treatment facilities that let their clients go about the town without supervision had no way to determine, short of a breathalyzer, whether or not clients had been drinking. Breathalyzers will tell you if someone is drunk, but it will not tell you if someone had been drunk recently. A blood test that could identify heavy drinkers could greatly help start the process of recovery much sooner.

Penn State University recently has been experimenting with alcohol and ways of identifying if someone is a heavy drinker. Researchers claim that by measuring a set of protein changes in the blood linked to alcohol use could help create a more precise test for identifying an alcohol problem."Unlike routine testing for illicit drugs, you can't just look for a trace of alcohol because many people enjoy a drink in a responsible manner and alcohol is very quickly metabolized. Discriminating between excessive and responsible levels of drinking makes this a greater challenge", said Willard M. Freeman, department of pharmacology and lead investigator, reported ANI.

17 proteins were identified by researchers at Penn State, which accurately predicted the amount of alcohol used 90 percent of the time, with non-human primates. The amount of alcohol consumed, directly affected the way protein levels would rise or fall in the subjects.

Researchers separated usage into three categories:

  • no alcohol use
  • drinking up to two drinks per day
  • drinking at least six drinks per day

"We observed that the levels of some proteins increased or decreased with as little as one or two drinks a day. These same changes occurred with heavier levels of drinking. We also found other proteins that responded only to heavy levels of drinking. Combined, these proteins allow us to classify subjects into non-drinking, alcohol-using, and alcohol-abusing groups," Freeman said.

The research was published online in the journal Biological Psychiatry.

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