Comparison of Phosphatidylethanol Results to Self-Reported Alcohol Consumption Among Young Injection Drug Users

  1. Jennifer Jain,
  2. Jennifer L. Evans,
  3. Alya Briceño,
  4. Kimberly Page and
  5. Judith A. Hahn*
  1. University of California, San Francisco, CA, USA
  1. *Corresponding author: Department of Medicine, UCSF School of Medicine, 50 Beale St., 13th Floor Box 0886, San Francisco, CA 94143-0886, USA. Tel.: +1-415-597-4961. E-mail: judy.hahn{at}
  • Received August 6, 2013.
  • Revision requested October 17, 2013.
  • Revision received April 22, 2014.
  • Accepted May 23, 2014.

Aims: To test the value of phosphatidylethanol (PEth) as a biomarker for alcohol consumption among injecting drug users (IDUs). Methods: As part of a longitudinal study of young IDUs, dried blood spots and self-reported alcohol by structured interview were collected at baseline. We compared self-reported alcohol use to detectable PEth (≥8 ng/ml) in the blood spots as well as the relationships between quantitative PEth results and quantity measures of alcohol consumption. Results: There were strong associations between PEth and self-reported categorical measures of alcohol consumption (all P < 0.01). There was high specificity for reporting abstaining from alcohol; 94% of those who reported not consuming alcohol in the prior month tested negative for PEth. PEth was well correlated with measures of alcohol use (e.g. with reported number of days drinking in the prior month: Spearman r = 0.70 (P < 0.001)). Conclusions: The positive correlation of PEth with reported alcohol consumption suggests that PEth may be a useful marker in settings where alcohol consumption is difficult to assess, or to corroborate or invalidate self-reported measures of alcohol consumption.