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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

An Overview of Alcohol Testing and Interpretation in the 21st Century

Ethanol analysis is the most commonly carried out drug testing in a forensic toxicology laboratory. Determination of blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is needed in a multitude of situations, including in postmortem analysis, driving under the influence (DUI) and drug-facilitated sexual assault (DFSA) cases, workplace drug monitoring, and probation investigations. These analyses are carried out by direct measurement of ethanol concentrations as well as of metabolic by-products, such as ethyl glucuronide (EtG) and ethyl sulfate (EtS).

This review article will discuss pharmacokinetics, including absorption, distribution, and elimination of ethanol, methods for the detection of ethanol, the effect of ethanol on human performance, the role of alcohol in injuries and fatalities, and information regarding the interactions that may occur between alcohol and other drugs.

Finally, an explanation will be given on how to interpret alcohol levels as well as the extrapolation and calculation of blood alcohol levels at times prior to sample collection.

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