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New Test Identifies Heavy Drinkers

It compares 20 blood chemical levels to database of users, so docs can spot trouble early

WEDNESDAY, July 30 (HealthDay News) -- A new screening test identifies twice as many heavy drinkers as the commonly used liver enzyme test, a new report shows.

The Early Detection of Alcohol Consumption (EDAC) test determines the likelihood of heavy drinking in the previous four to six weeks and could help physicians spot and treat problem drinkers sooner. It uses an algorithm of 20 blood chemistry levels and compares the subject's test results to data from more than 1,700 heavy and light drinkers in a database.

The database classifies heavy drinkers as men reporting more than five drinks a day or women having more than four drinks a day.

A presentation about the test and its effectiveness was to be made Wednesday at the American Association for Clinical Chemistry (AACC) annual meeting, in Washington, D.C.

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

Alcohol abuse claims about 100,000 lives in the United States annually, including almost 17,000 people who die in alcohol-related traffic accidents.

"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 information

The U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has more about alcoholism.

-- Kevin McKeever

SOURCE: American Association for Clinical Chemistry, news release, July 30, 2008

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