Evaluating protein changes in the blood connected to alcohol use, may be a more precise diagnostic test than the ones being used currently, researchers from Penn State College of Medicine said.
"The challenge in alcohol abuse as opposed to substance abuse - things like cocaine or heroin or PCP-is that alcohol is a perfectly legal substance for those over 21," said Willard M. Freeman, department of pharmacology and lead investigator.
Advertisement"Unlike routine testing for illicit drugs, you can't just look for a trace of alcohol because many people enjoy a drink in a responsible manner and alcohol is very quickly metabolized. Discriminating between excessive and responsible levels of drinking makes this a greater challenge," Freeman added.
The researchers identified a set of 17 proteins in the blood that accurately predicted alcohol usage 90 percent of the time in non-human primates.
Researchers were able to separate usage into three categories -- no alcohol use, drinking up to two drinks per day and drinking at least six drinks per day.
Protein levels rose and declined depending on alcohol consumption.
"We observed that the levels of some proteins increased or decreased with as little as one or two drinks a day. These same changes occurred with heavier levels of drinking. We also found other proteins that responded only to heavy levels of drinking. Combined, these proteins allow us to classify subjects into non-drinking, alcohol-using, and alcohol-abusing groups," Freeman said.
The study was published online in the journal Biological Psychiatry. (ANI)