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Laboratory measures of alcohol (ethanol) consumption: strategies to assess drinking patterns with biochemical measures.

Alcohol (ethanol) use is a global, health-related problem that spans a continuum ranging from low-risk, at-risk, and problem drinking to alcohol dependence and chronic abuse. Clinicians and researchers alike have the need to quantify drinking patterns to determine the risk for adverse, health-related events such as injury, liver damage, and cancer Biochemical measures of ethanol consumption are affected by temporal patterns of drinking as well as individual characteristics such as gender and age. The choice of a laboratory analysis to determine ethanol consumption is complex; no single laboratory test will predict drinking accurately across all drinking patterns, across the life span, and across gender. In conjunction with interviews and physical assessment, however, biochemical laboratory tests are sensitive tools used to measure both recent and long-term patterns of alcohol consumption.

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