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Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2018 Mar;42(3):500-507. doi: 10.1111/acer.13587. Epub 2018 Jan 31.

Phosphatidylethanol Levels Among Incarcerated Women: The Influence of Pre-incarceration Alcohol Consumption and Length of Abstinence.

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Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut.
Department of Psychology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan.
Behavioral Medicine and Addictions Research, Butler Hospital, Providence, Rhode Island.
Division of Public Health, College of Human Medicine, Michigan State University, Flint, Michigan.
Department of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, California.
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, McGovern Medical School at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, Houston, Texas.
Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, Brown University Medical School and Butler Hospital, Providence, Rhode Island.
Department of Health Law, Policy & Management, Boston University School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts.



Phosphatidylethanol (PEth) is a direct biomarker for alcohol that is formed shortly after alcohol use and may remain detectable in blood for weeks after alcohol consumption. There is little research on alcohol use factors that influence PEth elimination, especially among women.


Data were collected from 116 alcohol use-disordered women who were recently incarcerated. We used a 2-part model with logistic and linear components to examine whether alcohol consumption in the 2 weeks prior to incarceration and days since last alcoholic drink (operationalized as abstinence days prior to incarceration + days incarcerated) were associated with PEth detectability (>8 ng/ml) and level (ng/ml) in blood.


Participants reported drinking an average of 10 drinks per day in the 2 weeks prior to incarceration. Days since last drink was negatively associated with PEth level (odds ratio [OR] = 0.97, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.93; 0.99) and being PEth detectable (OR = 0.96, 95% CI = 0.91; 0.99). Quantity of alcohol consumed prior to jail admission was associated with PEth detection (OR = 1.08; 95% CI = 1.03; 1.16), but not PEth level.


Days since last alcoholic drink and drinks per day both influenced PEth detectability, but only days since last drink predicted PEth level among a large sample of women with alcohol use disorder in the criminal justice system.


Alcohol; Elimination; Incarceration; Phosphatidylethanol; Women

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