Did you know that 25.1% of adults aged 18 and over had at least one heavy drinking day in the past year? Heavy drinking does not always mean that someone has an alcohol problem, but it can lead to one.
When a patient enters a rehab or detox program for alcohol, how are they tested? How is someone tested for alcohol after receiving multiple DUIs?
A traditional drug test won’t do the trick. The individual must get tested for alcohol specifically. An ETG alcohol test is beneficial in this case.
Read on to learn all about these tests and how they work.
What Is an ETG Test?
Drinking is not allowed in a variety of situations. To ensure someone is staying abstinent from alcohol, ETG testing is a useful method.
These are the most common situations to use an ETG alcohol test for:
- Treatment programs for alcohol
- Court cases
- DUI or DWI programs
- Patients who need a liver transplant
- Programs for probation
- Professional use for monitoring programs
- Schools or the military
Breathalyzers can test for current alcohol impairment but ETG testing cannot. For this reason, workplaces don’t use this form of testing.
ETG Alcohol Test Detection Time
How sensitive are ETG tests? An ETG urine test is very sensitive, meaning that it can detect alcohol even at low levels in the body.
Are ETG tests accurate for up to five days after consumption?
There are some limitations to the test as it can detect exposure to alcohol in products that people use daily. For this reason, it is possible for an ETG test false positive.
Exactly what can cause a false positive alcohol urine test? These typical home or environmental products that contain alcohol can:
- Mouthwash or breath spray
- Cleaning products
- Foods prepared with alcohol or flavored with it
- Hair dye
- Hand sanitizers
- Hygiene products (antiperspirant)
Because of the wide use of hand sanitizers due to COVID-19, it is easier for someone to test positive on an ETG test without consuming alcohol.
Although these are the most common products that can create a false positive test, the reality is that hundreds of products out there contain the ingredient ethanol.
This does not mean that ETG tests don’t work. In fact, they can detect when a person recently consumed alcohol a majority of the time. The number jumps even higher with moderate to heavy drinking.
What Does ETG Test for and How Does It Work?
ETG tests for alcohol in the urine by searching for the metabolite Ethyl Glucuronide (ETG). After someone consumes alcohol, the body breaks it down into different metabolites.
A test can find ETG alcohol in the body between one and five days after drinking. However, the time frame depends heavily on how much alcohol a person consumed.
Unlike a breathalyzer, an ETG test can confirm if someone consumed alcohol days before the test.
One drink might produce a positive ETG test if it was high in alcohol content. You would also need to get tested the day after having the drink or within 24 hours.
How Long Does an ETG Test Take?
Once the ETG urine alcohol test arrives at the lab, it can take 2-3 business days to get the result back. If you’re wondering how the lab experts interpret the results for accuracy, you need to know the cutoffs.
A high positive ETG test indicates that someone heavily drank on the same or previous day. A high positive could also mean that the patient lightly drank the same day as the test occurred.
A low positive ETG test means someone was drinking heavily within the last 1-3 days. It could also mean that the patient started light drinking within the previous 24 hours.
A low positive could mean a false positive. For example, some people test as low positive for alcohol when they have had intense exposure to environmental products containing ethanol within the last 24 hours.
Very Low Positive
A very low positive could indicate a few different things. For one, it could mean you were recently exposed to products containing alcohol.
It could also mean you were heavy drinking between the last one to three days or light drinking within the past 12 to 36 hours.
In addition to exposure to ethanol, they are other situations where one might test positive for alcohol without consuming it.
If alcohol urine test strips are not appropriately stored by remaining at room temperature for too long, the levels of ETG rise due to bacteria in the urine. For this reason, refrigeration is recommended for ETG tests.
A person with diabetes that also has a urinary tract infection might also test positive for ETG. This can only occur if someone has diabetes, not someone with a urinary tract infection without diabetes.
Different Types of ETG Tests
Although a urine ETG alcohol test is the most common type, it is not the only one used in conventional practices. An ETG urine test comes in strip tests, dip cards, and ETG test cups.
The next most commonly used type of test is the ETG hair follicle test.
An individual might get tested for alcohol consumption with a urine sample or a sample of their hair. Both tests screen for the ETG metabolite that can produce a positive ETG test result.
The main difference between the two tests is how long they can detect ETG, also known as the look-back period. This is the period in which ETG metabolites are detectable.
For a urine test, the look-back period is up to 80 hours. The look-back time frame for the hair follicle alcohol test is highly extended.
When you used a strand of hair for the test, the ETG metabolite can be detected for 90 days. If someone consumed alcohol within the past three months, an ETG hair alcohol test would pick up on that.
ETG Test Facts and Myths
There are a lot of facts and myths surrounding ETG testing.
The common facts include things we’ve already discussed, such as ethyl glucuronide, how incidental exposure can create a false positive, and how improper storage can degrade ETG over time.
Now, we will cover some additional facts and myths we have yet to discuss.
Determining How Much Alcohol Is Ingested
One of the common myths ETG testers come across is that the levels of ETG in urine can be used to determine how much alcohol a person has ingested. Let’s debunk this myth.
Although a higher amount of ETG can indicate greater alcohol consumption, the exact ETG number takes in additional factors. One of the major factors being how recently alcohol was consumed.
ETG in the urine means that individuals exposed themselves to alcohol at some point before testing took place, typically within 80 hours. Because of this, no states have officially defined a legal limit for urinary ETG levels.
ETG Results Have Been Accepted in Courts
ETG testing, in the past, has been used as evidence in court hearings and proceedings, so this is not a myth. In several court cases, ETG tests passed scientific admissibility standards.
However, because these tests cannot distinguish specific drinking events, they have little application in criminal justice.
ETG Has a High Rate of False Negatives
We know the possibilities that can cause a false positive ETG test, but what about false negatives? The truth of the matter is that these tests do, in fact, lead to high rates of false negatives when misused.
Although the time window for an ETG urine test is up to 80 hours, it is best to test urine anywhere between 24-36 hours. This is because even when someone has gone through a significant drinking event, ETG detection declines after 40 hours.
SAMHSA Warns Against ETG Testing
This statement is partially true, depending on how you take it. The SAMHSA does have warnings about ETG tests, but they don’t warn people to avoid using them altogether.
Instead, their written advisory warns about the reliability of ETG testing to determine alcohol consumption, mainly in a criminal justice setting.
For hair ETG testing, there is too long of a window for detection in the eyes of SAMHSA, and hair care products can influence the results of the test. Those using a urine ETG test don’t have to worry about this warning.
Buying ETG Alcohol Tests Online
ETG alcohol test strips test the urine of an individual for alcohol use. False positives occur when urine is incorrectly stored or when a person is exposed to products containing ethanol.
It is best to test a subject between 24-36 hours after alcohol consumption before ETG declines in the body. ETG urine testing is widely used for pain clinics, alcohol rehab centers, probation, and pre-trial.
Not sure how to find reliable ETG tests online? Look no further!