About 150 million worldwide are now suffering from alcoholism which is defined as the psychological and physical need to imbibe alcohol, usually at the expense of work, health and relationships. Throughout history, alcoholism has been one of the most prevalent problems of society. Drunken behavior can cause annoyance, repulsion, and avoidance of the person involved. Also, a person’s behavior gradually becomes erratic, eventually leading to self-destructive tendencies. Alcoholism can also aggravate preexisting medical conditions as well as greatly disrupt a person’s mental health.
Alcoholism is a difficult problem to deal with, especially if it has long been entrenched into a person’s behavioral patterns. The longer a person has become an alcoholic, the harder and the more complicated the effort needed to help the person. This involves support from the workplace, social community and family. Many institutions and employers prefer not to hire people who are alcoholics. To facilitate recognition of early signs of alcoholism and to detect alcohol use in law enforcement, work place, and educational institution, alcohol tests have become commonly administered.
Alcohol tests usually test for the presence of ethanol in the body. Body fluids are usually required for testing. These bodily fluids include urine, saliva and blood. Blood tests are usually performed to confirm if a person was in a drunken state upon commission of a crime or an administrative error. Coupled with external observations and physical on the spot tests, blood tests for alcohol use can lead to arrests and aggravated sentences. Blood tests are also performed for members of institution where alcoholic consumption is prohibited; these include the military, work places, and schools. Individuals who have chronic alcohol problems also undergo blood tests for alcohol regularly to gauge their progress.
Ethanol is readily absorbed by the blood, thus measuring ethanol content in blood is a sure way to approximate the amount of alcohol a person has imbibed. Blood is usually obtained from a vein in the upper arm. The amount of ethanol concentration in the blood is indicative of the amount consumed and has its corresponding effects. An estimated blood alcohol content of 0.02 usually relaxes a person while 0.10 would already slow one’s reflexes, thinking, and slurs one’s speech. Intoxication is usually defined as having a blood alcohol content measurement within 0.08 to 1.0. Take note that blood alcohol content is usually expressed as a percentage of alcohol in the blood. For instance, a BAC of 0.10 means that 0.10% (one tenth of one percent) of your blood is alcohol.
To test for chronic alcohol consumption several specialized blood tests can be performed. These blood tests, coupled with an interview and observations by friends and family members is indicative of alcoholism.
One test that may indicate alcoholism is the GGT test. This test measures the amount of gamma-glutamyl-transferase, an enzyme produced by the liver. Its concentrations in the blood are sensitive to the amount of alcohol ingested. Drinking several bottles for four to eight weeks would significantly raise GGT content in blood.
Another test is the Mean Cell Volume test. This test involves actual visual observation of the red blood cells present in blood. When a person consumes alcohol, it affects the bone marrow, the site of production for red blood cells. The red blood cells appear large by a magnitude of a hundred.
Liver damage is highly indicative of prolonged chronic alcohol use. When the liver gets damage, several substances make their way into the blood. A liver panel detects these compounds and can approximate the type and extent of damage based on the composition of these proteins. Several proteins tested for by the liver panel include bilirubins, aspartate aminotransferase (enzyme), alanine aminotransferase, and alkaline phosphatase. A 1:2 ratio between alanine aminotransferase and aspartate aminotransferase may indicate alcoholic hepatitis.
Alcoholism is a serious concern because it endangers not only the life of the individual but also his or her relatives, friends, and colleagues. These blood tests that indicate alcoholism may help stem a person’s descent into dependence and lead that person into sobriety and reintroduction as a productive member of society.[ad#afterpost]
- The Carnegie Library 1997 The Handy Science Answer Book, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. Science and Technology Department.
- Rea, Caroline. 2008 Cirrhosis: Exams and tests. Retrieved from http://www.ivillage.com/cirrhosis-0/exams-and-tests/4-o-90040