Ethanol (alcohol)

Description: 
Ethanol (alcohol) measurement by enzymatic assay.
Clinical details: 
Alcohol is initially rapidly absorbed from the stomach into the bloodstream where it acts on the brain to give a variety of effects dependent on the dose. At low concentrations, alcohol relaxes and tends to lower inhibitions to some extent. As concentrations increase, motor skills and reaction times get worse. Nausea and vomiting can occur, and mood can range from quiet or depressed to loud or violent. If drinking continues, severe impairment of concentration and motor skills can lead to unconsciousness. Continued absorption of alcohol from the stomach after unconsciousness can cause death. Metabolism is primarily through the liver and follows zero order kinetics, i.e. the rate of metabolism is independent of the amount drunk. The rate of metabolism will be dependent on the individual, and can be increased by enzyme induction and tolerance, although as liver damage increases this will reverse. There is also some racial and sexual variation in alcohol metabolism, although the observed effects are usually a combination of consumption, tolerance and body size. Alcohol is legally sold in a large number of licensed premises, and laboratory testing is rarely concerned with illicit alcohol. Police testing is generally concerned with the impairment associated with alcohol, and an acute hospital may measure alcohol to differentially diagnose clinical or alcoholic symptoms.

*Please note:* the methods used are not suitable for police/legal purposes
Reference range: 

There is no reference range for alcohol testing, as alcohol is not normally present in the body. As a guide to the level of results, the legal driving limit for blood alcohol in the UK is 80mg/100mL in blood and 107mg/100mL in urine

Units: 
mg/100mL
Sample type and Volume required: 
1mL blood collected into a fluoride-oxalate container or Random urine sample (10–20 mL) collected into a plain 30 mL universal container.
Turnaround time: 
Results are normally available same day.
Storage and transport: 
Refrigerate if possible and send by first class post. If possible, please complete the request form (do not send electronically) with the sample. This will ensure all relevant information is available and will aid us in processing your test.
Contacts:
Toxicology Department at King's Hospital
020 3299 5881
kch-tr.toxicology@nhs.net
King's College Hospital
Bessemer Wing - 3rd Floor
Denmark Hill
London SE5 9RS
For clinical advice or interpretation of results, please contact the laboratory in the first instance.

*SLaM - South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust

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Last updated: 09/12/2019