In addition to self reports and questionnaires, biomarkers are of relevance in the diagnosis of and therapy for alcohol use disorders. Traditional biomarkers such as gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase or mean corpuscular volume are indirect biomarkers and are subject to the influence of age, gender and non-alcohol related diseases, among others. Direct metabolites of ethanol such as ethyl glucuronide (EtG), ethyl sulphate (EtS) and phosphatidylethanol (PEth) are direct metabolites of ethanol, that are positive after intake of ethyl alcohol. They represent useful diagnostic tools for identifying alcohol use even more accurately than traditional biomarkers. Each of these drinking indicators remains positive in serum and urine for a characteristic time spectrum after the cessation of ethanol intake - EtG and EtS in urine up to 7 days, EtG in hair for months after ethanol has left the body. Applications include clinical routine use, emergency room settings, proof of abstinence in alcohol rehabilitation programmes, driving under influence offenders, workplace testing, assessment of alcohol intake in the context of liver transplantation and foetal alcohol syndrome. Due to their properties, they open up new perspectives for prevention, interdisciplinary cooperation, diagnosis of and therapy for alcohol-related problems.
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