A new simplified and rapid method for detection and quantitation of "carbohydrate-deficient transferrin" in serum is described. The method is based on isocratic anion exchange chromatography of isotransferrins in disposable microcolumns followed by a double antibody transferrin radioimmune assay. This technique, which separates all transferrin components isoelectric above pH 5.65, showed a very good reproducibility and accuracy with a coefficient of variation between 5 and 9%. 77 alcoholic patients could be clearly separated from 80 healthy "normal consumers" and 33 total abstainers with a specificity of 100% and a sensitivity of 91%. The values were significantly correlated to the amount of alcohol consumed during the latest month, and declined in abstaining alcoholics with a mean biological half-life of 17 days. Elevated levels occasionally appeared in healthy individuals after daily consumption of 60 g of ethanol during a 10-day period. In a sample of 187 patients with nonalcohol-related conditions only 2% false-positive values were found. This method is suggested as a potential tool for detecting and monitoring alcohol abuse.