Comparison of Ethyl Glucuronide in Hair with Self-Reported Alcohol Consumption

Rosie J Lees, Robert Kingston, Tim M. Williams, Graeme Henderson, Anne Lingford-Hughes, Matthew Hickman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


Aims: Ethyl glucuronide (EtG) in hair is a proposed biomarker for alcohol consumption. This study compares hair EtG concentrations with self-reported alcohol consumption data, in individuals with a range of alcohol use. Methods: Hair was collected from 100 participants with a range of alcohol use. Participants completed an Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test C questionnaire to record alcohol consumption. Participants were categorized into one of the four groups: tee-totallers (consuming 0 units a week), lower-risk drinkers (1-21 units a week), increasing-risk drinkers' consuming (22-50 units a week) and high-risk drinkers (over 50 units a week). Hair from the proximal 3 cm was analysed for EtG using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry/mass spectrometry. Results: EtG was detected in 29 out of 100 hair samples. Based on the Society of Hair Testing (SOHT) threshold of 30 pg/mg EtG, the hair test identified alcohol consumption in 57.9% of high-risk drinkers, 45.5% of increasing-risk drinkers and only 9.8% of lower-risk drinkers. EtG sensitivity was highest for high-risk drinkers (consuming more than 50 units a week), identified to be 0.52 using a 30 pg/mg threshold and 0.58 using a 45 pg/mg threshold. A positive result is highly likely to indicate any drinking (positive predictive value, 1.00). A negative result does not provide good evidence for abstinence (negative predictive value, 0.23). Conclusions: EtG has been identified to be a low sensitivity marker that cannot be used quantitatively to determine alcohol exposure. EtG can be used qualitatively to indicate alcohol consumption with a positive result providing strong evidence for an individual drinking within the past 3 months.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)267-272
Number of pages6
JournalAlcohol and Alcoholism
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2012

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