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Alcoholism - Facts about Alchol Abuse, Alcohol Addiction and Alcohol Detection

The use of alcohol in moderation is not harmful. In fact, for most adults, alcohol beverages are typical in many social and family gatherings and celebrations. However, alcohol drinking becomes dangerous to your health when you start doing it habitually to the point of abusing it. According to statistics, there are about 18 million people in the United States who abuse alcohol, and over 70 million Americans have dealt with alcoholism in their family.

This section contains essential details about alcohol abuse and the common ways used to test for alcohol consumption. The information is especially helpful for parents who want to know whether or not their teenagers are abusing alcohol and understanding the symptoms, as well as the dangers that alcohol abuse can bring to their health and their lives. Employers will also find this page helpful especially if you do not have alcohol testing policy in place yet.

What is Alcoholism?

Alcoholism is defined as a chronic, often progressive disease in which a person craves alcohol and drinks despite repeated alcohol related problems like losing a job or a relationship.

What are the signs and symptoms of alcoholism?

Alcoholism is characterized by the following signs and symptoms:

  • Drinking by yourself or in secret
  • Craving alcohol
  • Not being able to control the amount you drink
  • Blackouts (not remembering events or conversations)
  • Becoming irritable when you can' t get a drink at your regular time
  • Having legal problems or an inability to sustain a relationship or a job
  • Withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, sweating, shakiness, and anxiety, when you stop drinking
  • Needing more alcohol to feel its effects
  • Liver disease

How do I know if a loved one or an employee is into alcohol abuse?

Aside from the visible signs and symptoms of alcoholism, one way to know if your loved one or one of your employees is abusing alcohol is by performing an alcohol test. For parents, there are several alcohol home test kits available in online and offline pharmacies that are capable of providing instant results. Likewise, employers have several options to conduct alcohol test in the workplace, depending on the conditions stated in your alcohol testing policy.

How prevalent is alcohol abuse in the country?

Statistics showed that in 2006, here were nearly 1.8 million admissions for treatment of alcohol and drug abuse to facilities that report to State administrative data systems. The table below shows that about 40 percent of the admissions were for alcohol treatment:

% of Admission Substance/Drug
21.9 Alcohol
17.8 Alcohol + another drug
16.1 Marijuana
13.7 Heroin
9.9 Smoked cocaine (crack)
8.7 Stimulants
4.2 Opiates (not Heroin)

Source: http://www.the-alcoholism-guide.org/alcoholism-statistics.html#axzz1RIwBfN23

How does alcohol abuse affect a person's driving abilities?

Alcohol affects every organ in the drinker's body and can damage a developing fetus. Heavy use increases your risk of certain cancers, stroke, and liver disease. Likewise, intoxication can impair your brain function and motor skills. In the 2008 report of the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 31 percent of car accidents were alcohol related.

The table below reveals incidents of alcohol-related fatalities in the United States from 2000-2008:

Year Total Fatalities Alcohol-Related Fatalities
Number Number Percent
2008 37,261 13,846 37
2007 41,059 15,387 37
2006 42,532 15,829 37
2005 43,443 16,885 39
2004 42,518 16,919 39
2003 42,643 17,013 40
2002 43,005 17,524 41
2001 42,196 17,400 41

Source: http://www.alcoholalert.com/drunk-driving-statistics.html

Drinking and driving fatalities by state in 2008:

State Total fatalities Alcohol-related Fatalities
Number Number Percent
Texas 3,382 1,463 43
California 3,434 1,198
Florida 2,978 1,041 35
Pennsylvania 1,468 578 39
North Carolina 1,433 500 35
Georgia 1,493 489 33
South Carolina 920 463 50
Illinois 1,043 434 42
Ohio 1,190 415 35
New York 1,231 409 33
Louisiana 912 404 44
Tennessee 1,035 386 37
Alabama 966 367 38
Virginia 824 365 44
Missouri 960 364 38
Michigan 980 331 34
Arizona 937 329 35
Mississippi 783 297 38
Oklahoma 749 274 37
Indiana 814 250 31
Wisconsin 605 250 41
Kentucky 826 226 27
Washington 521 225 43
Arkansas 600 205 34
Colorado 548 202 37
New Jersey 590 197 33
Maryland 591 186 31
Minnesota 456 161 35
Oregon 416 159 38
Kansas 385 157 41
Massachusetts 363 151 42
West Virginia 380 142 37
Nevada 324 121 37
New Mexico 366 118 32
Iowa 412 113 27
Connecticut 264 104 40
Montana 229 103 45
Idaho 232 93 40
Nebraska 208 75 36
Wyoming 159 75 47
Utah 275 55 20
New Hampshire 139 53 38
North Dakota 104 52 50
Hawaii 107 50 46
Delaware 121 49 40
Maine 155 47 30
South Dakota 119 41 34
Rhode Island 65 29 45
Alaska 62 24 38
Vermont 73 15 15
Dist of Columbia 34 13 39

Source: http://www.alcoholalert.com/drunk-driving-statistics.html

What are the different kinds of alcohol tests? How do they differ from each other?

Alcohol Saliva Test Kit

Among the common alcohol testing techniques include breath alcohol testing, urine alcohol testing, blood alcohol testing, saliva alcohol testing, and hair alcohol testing. Their underlying differences factors in a number of things, such as the type of specimen collected, detection times, and the convenience for specimen collection - to name a few.

Breath alcohol test or most commonly known the alcohol breathanalyzer detects how much alcohol is in your blood by measuring the amount of alcohol in the air you breathe out (exhale). At present, there are a number of available alcohol breathanalyzer, each using a different method to determine the level of alcohol in the breath.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of using alcohol breath analyzer?

Breathanalyzer test is perhaps the most common method used to detect alcohol level in the person’s body. Unlike other methods, breathanalyzer offers no discomfort as it estimates blood alcohol concentration (BAC) by measuring the amount of alcohol in one’s breath. However, the test does not take into account the driving abilities of the person, and it can result in false BAC readings due to a person's breathing rate caused by vigorous exercise, hyperventilation, or a person holding one's breath.

What are alcohol biomarkers?

Alcohol biomarkers are physiological indicators of alcohol exposure or ingestion and may reflect the presence of an alcohol use disorder. At present, the most readily measurable biomarkers in alcohol testing are EtG and EtS.

What is EtG?

Urine Alcohol Testing

EtG stands for Ethanol Glucuronide. It is a direct metabolite of alcohol (ethanol) with a long urinary elimination time. Its presence in the urine or saliva may be used to detect the recent ethanol ingestion - even after the ethanol alcohol itself is no longer detectable. The presence of EtG in urine or saliva is a definitive indicator that alcohol was ingested.

How is EtG detected?

Through EtG alcohol testing, Ethanol Glucuronide can be detected in the urine for up to 3-5 days following consumption of alcohol. EtG tests are extremely useful for the assessment of people younger than the legal drinking age, as well as people under supervision of the criminal justice system when alcohol consumption is strictly prohibited.

Is EtG also detected via hair samples?

Yes. When an individual consumes alcohol, various alcohol metabolites including EtG are released - from the scalp and deposited on the exterior of the hair shaft as the hair grows - into the body. EtG are analyzed using techniques known as LC/MS/MS (LiquidChromatography coupled with tandem Mass Spectrometry detection).

What is the detection window for alcohol testing?

The detection window for alcohol testing varies depending on the sample of specimen and the method of testing used.

Below is a test comparison chart of blood test vs. hair test:

Alcohol Abuse Test Comparison Chart
Detection Window Markers Result Detail Benefits Limitations
LFT Blood Test 2-4 Weeks Total Bilirubin
ALP
AST
ALT
Gamma GT
Quantitative Long term alcohol consumption Invasive sample collection.
CDT Blood Test 2-4 Weeks Carbohydrate
Deficient
Transferrin
Quantitative Can detect alcohol abuse even 2-3 weeks after donor stopped drinking Invasive sample collection. Measures only excessive alcohol consumption (average of 50g per day, for at least 2 weeks).
EtG Hair Test 2-8 Weeks Ethyl Glucuronide (EtG) Quantitative Analysis can be segmented by month, provided as a lower cost solution for determination of alcohol abuse Must also take into consideration medical and other contextual information, including blood alcohol test results.

Source: http://www.alphabiolabs.com/assets/files/documents/DOT406VariousTypesofTesttoDetectAlcoholAbuseIssue01.pdf

Below is a test comparison chart of blood test vs. urine test:

Blood alcohol testing vs. Urine alcohol testing
Blood Alcohol Testing Urine Alcohol Testing
Window of detection 2 - 4 Weeks < 72 Hours
Regularity Approx once a month Every three days
Results False positives are reduced Risk of false positives
Collection Company nurse Unknown third party

Source: http://www.alphabiolabs.com/assets/files/documents/DOT406VariousTypesofTesttoDetectAlcoholAbuseIssue01.pdf

Other references:

http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/alcoholism-000002.htm

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003632.htm

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