Thursday, August 14, 2008

New Test Effective in Detecting Heavy Drinkers

The sooner alcohol problems are addressed the better the outcome and the less long-term damage is done from excessive drinking. Physicians and healthcare providers now have a new chemical-based test that is more accurate in detecting heavy drinking in their patients. The test can detect heavy drinking episodes in the past four to six weeks.

Physicians and healthcare providers have a new tool which is twice as likely to detect heavy drinking in patients compared to the usual liver enzyme test. The Early Detection of Alcohol Consumption test has been found effective in detecting patients who drink in excess.

The test is used to determine if a patient has engaged in heavy drinking in the previous four to six weeks. Heavy drinking is defined as more than five drinks a day for men and four drinks a day for women.

How The EDAC Test Works

The Early Detection of Alcohol Consumption test is actually an algorithm of 20 blood chemistry levels. Those measurements are compared to a database of more than 1,700 heavy and light drinkers.

Scientists have found that the Early Detection of Alcohol Consumption test is twice as accurate as a liver enzyme test that has been used for years to detect heavy drinking. In one study, 88% of the heavy drinkers and 92% of the light drinkers were correctly identified using the test.

The test is even more effective with patients over 40 years of age.

Early Detection Important
Research has shown that the sooner alcohol problems are addressed the better the outcomes and the less long-term damage. At the 2008 meeting of the American Association for Clinical Chemistry, physicians were encouraged to use the test to increase early intervention with heavy drinkers.

"Physicians can use the test as part of an early intervention," James Harasymiw, director of Alcohol Detection Services, said in an AACC news release. "When patients are confronted with test results, they may be more likely to change their behavior."

"Physicians can show patients the test results to help convince them that their drinking is causing serious damage to their organs and other biologic systems," Harasymiw said.

More Accurate Than Screening Tests?

There are many short alcohol screening tests that are available to screen for alcohol problems in the healthcare setting, but the results of those tests depend upon the patient answering the questions openly and honestly.

Someone trying to cover up or minimize their drinking habits could easily do so with the short-answer screening tests. But the Early Detection of Alcohol Consumption test measures actual blood chemistry levels, making it more difficult for heavy drinkers to hide their consumption.
source: Harasymiw, James W., et al. "Identification of Heavy Drinkers By Using the Early Detection of Alcohol Consumption Score." Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research Volume 25 Issue 2, Pages 228 - 235.

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