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Hair analysis can help uncover alcoholism, says study

Ethyl sulphate (EtS) or EtG (Ethyl glucuronide) levels in hair can help find out if a person has consumed alcohol or not, according to a recent study published in the Drug Testing & Analysis. In the study, the scientists have established a technique to measure EtS level in hair samples of patients being treated for alcohol use disorders (AUDs). These individuals are more prospective of having two compounds, ethyl glucuronide and ethyl sulphate, in their hair locks.

The uncovering and measuring the consumed alcohol is of vital importance to both forensic and clinical officials and can have a big influence on impending legal actions and/or healthcare decisions, including alcohol-related offense among drivers, legal matters related to alcohol misuse by airline pilots and professionals undergoing treatment for AUDs and taking legitimate decisions concerning the custody of children, etc.

Hence, these biomarkers can help evaluate the alcohol consumption or abstinence, and then monitor the activity by differentiating risk drinking from non-risk drinking and verifying the alcoholic compounds even after a long time period.

According to the study, these compounds are generated when alcohol is broken down and deposited in hair. Hence, hair testing could be considered to analyze alcoholism apart from blood and urine since the samples are easily collectable and storable.

Ethyl sulphate and ethyl glucuronide – biomarkers for alcohol consumption

In the study, the researchers from the University of Antwerp, attempted to analyze the hair and nail samples of nearly 40 patients being treated for AUDs.

Lead author Dr Delphine Cappelle said, “Hair shows potential as a biomarker for alcohol consumption and should be subject to future research.”

According to the author, keratinous matrices like hair and nails – store compounds over time and can act as a biomarker permitting reflective examination of alcohol or drug consumption in the past three months. This means that hair analysis method have a long window period unlike urine and blood which have a window period of 15 hours.

The Society of Hair Testing (SoHT) has shown its assurance in EtG as a marker for alcohol and has set guiding principle and cutoff values for EtG concentrations in hair. Therefore, if EtG is found to be present in hair samples, it shows alcohol consumption. However, if there is no EtG detected in hair, it does not necessarily indicate alcohol abstinence. The study indicates that EtG quantification using hair sample can be a beneficial tool for the impartial identification of alcohol consumption, that too with a larger time window than any other test. Care must still be taken while interpreting the results.

Treating alcoholism in the right way

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports about 88,000 alcohol-related deaths nationwide every year. Once addicted to alcohol, many people with alcoholism find it extremely tough to reduce their intake of alcohol. According to the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), approximately 8.2 million Americans aged 18 and above, suffered from dual diagnosis in the past year.

More than 8,000 deaths occur every year in the UK due to alcohol abuse. Around 14 million adults in the U.S. have a drinking disorder. If you or a loved one is struggling to overcome alcohol addiction, contact the Recover Mental Health. Call us at our 24/7 helpline number 866-593-2339 or chat online with one of our experts to know about state-of-the-art alcohol treatment centers in your vicinity.

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