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Alcohol Biomarkers in Applied Settings: Recent Advances and Future Research Opportunities

Authors

  • Raye Z. Litten,

    1. From the Division of Treatment and Recovery Research (RZL), Office of Science Policy and Communications (AMB), and Office of the Director (HBM), National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Bethesda, Maryland.
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  • Ann M. Bradley,

    1. From the Division of Treatment and Recovery Research (RZL), Office of Science Policy and Communications (AMB), and Office of the Director (HBM), National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Bethesda, Maryland.
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  • Howard B. Moss

    1. From the Division of Treatment and Recovery Research (RZL), Office of Science Policy and Communications (AMB), and Office of the Director (HBM), National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Bethesda, Maryland.
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Reprint requests: Raye Z. Litten, PhD, Associate Director, Division of Treatment and Recovery Research, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 5635 Fishers Lane, Room 2041, Bethesda, MD 20892-9304; Fax: 301-443-8774; E-mail: rlitten@mail.nih.gov (Rockville, MD 20852-1705 for FedEx)

Abstract

During the past decade, advances have been made in the identification, development, and application of alcohol biomarkers. This is important because of the unique functions that alcohol biomarkers can serve in various applied settings. To carry out these functions, biomarkers must display several features including validity, reliability, adequacy of temporal window of assessment, reasonable cost, and transportability. During the past two decades, several traditional alcohol biomarkers have been studied in multiple human studies. Meanwhile, several new, promising biomarkers, including various alcohol metabolites and alcohol biosensors, are being explored in human studies. In addition, researchers have explored using biomarkers in combination and using biomarkers in combination with self-reports, resulting in increased sensitivity with little sacrifice in specificity. Despite these advances, more research is needed to validate biomarkers, especially the new ones, in humans. Moreover, recent advances in high-throughput technologies for genomics, proteomics, and metabolomics offer unique opportunities to discover novel biomarkers, while additional research is needed to perfect newly developed alcohol sensors. Development of more accurate biomarkers will help practicing clinicians to more effectively screen and monitor individuals who suffer from alcohol use disorders.

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