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Addict Behav. 2004 Sep;29(7):1427-37.

Biochemical alcohol screening in primary health care.

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Medical University of South Carolina, 67 President Street, P.O. Box 250861, Charleston, SC 29425, USA.


Alcohol biomarkers such as carbohydrate-deficient transferrin (CDT) and gamma-glutamyltransferase (GGT) have significant potential for enhancing the quality of medical treatment in primary health care settings. Recent studies demonstrate that these laboratory tests can help the general practitioner in several ways. First, CDT and GGT can detect current heavy drinking in primary care patients with a fair degree of sensitivity (approximately 60% to 70%), with CDT being more specific (approximately 90%). When combined with self-report tests, they can provide a clinically useful alcohol screening battery. Second, elevated CDT and GGT levels have been correlated with specific alcohol-sensitive diseases (e.g., hypertension) and, as such, can serve as risk indicators for those diseases. Third, alcohol biomarkers have proven to be useful in monitoring the effectiveness of brief alcohol interventions with medical patients. Unfortunately, preliminary findings indicate that physicians have little knowledge of current biomarker research as applied to primary health care. Translational studies are needed on methods to facilitate knowledge and use of alcohol biomarkers by general practitioners.

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