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Research group - Anders Helander

Improved laboratory testing for alcohol and drugs of abuse – focus on alcohol biomarkers and new psychoactive substances (Internet drugs).

Early identification of individuals at risk for developing alcohol and drug- related problems may enable the treatment may begin before serious symptoms occur and is thus a key factor for success. People who abuse alcohol and illicit drugs , or who have related problems, seldom leave reliable information about their drug habits. Access to objective measures (i.e., laboratory tests) for detection of alcohol and drug intake is very important. This possibility is currently limited by the lack of sufficiently sensitive and specific detection methods. Ethanol analysis in breath or blood is very useful, but can only detect alcohol consumption that occurred in the last couple of hours. Liver function tests such as GGT, on the other hand, primarily identify chronic heavy alcohol consumption for months or years, which implies a low sensitivity to detect early risk consumption. Another disadvantage of liver markers is that elevated levels may be due to causes other than alcohol (liver dirorders or prescribed drugs).

Our work aims to identify, evaluate and implement a panel of new clinically useful laboratory tests to detect drinking during the past few days (EtG and EtS in urine), to identify long-term alcohol consumption during the past few weeks to months (PEth and CDT in the blood) , or to demonstrate use of new psychoactive drugs ("Internet drugs ") that are not detected by current routine drug tests. We also aim to determine the optimal clinical applications of these tests for the detection, prevention and rehabilitation of people with alcohol and drug related problems. Finally, we develop bioanalytical methods suitable for use in routine laboratories.

We are studying the prevalence of alcohol and drug compounds and their metabolites in various biological matrices that may be suitable for routine testing, such as blood, urine, saliva and breath. In parallel, we develop new analytical methods based on chromatographic separation followed by photometric or mass spectrometric detection (HPLC, LC-MS/MS). We further evaluate the performance of the new tests in different patient populations and by laboratory studies. Development of a panel of new sensitive and specific laboratory tests for acute and chronic alcohol use/abuse (alcohol biomarkers) has been demonstrated to improve the ability to detect and treat people with alcohol-related problems. The development of new methods that can detect the intake of new psychoactive drugs ("Internet drugs, designer drugs") has also proven to be very important in the clinical context.

Research group leader Anders Helander


Anders Helander

Enhet: Avdelningen för klinisk kemi

Group members

Anders HelanderProfessor, adjungerad

Research techniques

  • Liquid chromatography coupled with UV or mass spectrometric detection (HPLC, LC-MS/MS)

External funding

Swedish National Institute of Public Health

Selected publications

Identification of novel psychoactive drug use in Sweden based on laboratory analysis--initial experiences from the STRIDA project.
Helander A, Beck O, Hägerkvist R, Hultén P
Scand. J. Clin. Lab. Invest. 2013 Aug;73(5):400-6

Comparative performance of biomarkers of alcohol consumption in a population sample of working-aged men in Russia: the Izhevsk Family Study.
McDonald H, Borinskya S, Kiryanov N, Gil A, Helander A, Leon D
Addiction 2013 Sep;108(9):1579-89