Alcohol Urine Testing – Understanding EtG Testing

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When it comes to measuring levels of alcohol within one’s body, there are a range of biomarkers that are used as a detection method. Each provides an objective timeframe over which the presence of alcohol can be identified. One of the more popular means of determining the amount of alcohol one has consumed is the EtG test.

What Is The Etg Test?

Alcohol produces the metabolite, ethyl glucuronide. The EtG test determines the level of this within one’s system.There are two ways that the amount of ethyl glucuronide is measured: through hair follicles or via urine.

For hair, this metabolite can still be discovered for up to 90 days. The standard procedure is a urine test. This allows for the detection of alcohol up to 80 hours after consumption.

Who Uses The Etg Test?

The EtG can be used by a range of entities. Courts can enforce the test in situations such as:

  • Those people who are on probation and who have been ordered to abstain from alcohol
  • Individuals involved in child custody cases. The main concern in such cases is the child’s welfare. Parents who currently have an alcohol dependency issue, or who are recovering yet have a history of relapse, can be asked to undergo an EtG test.

Facilities that offer alcohol recovery services can provide the EtG test. This allows for monitoring of an individual to see if they are still privately consuming alcohol while undergoing the program. Then, corrective measures for support can be taken.

In addition, companies can use the test as a way of screening employees’ drinking habits. This is a way to monitor if staff have been drinking on the job, thus causing a health and safety risks.

Even though employers may use this method of measuring alcohol levels, there are a couple of flaws that need to be considered. The EtG test doesn’t reflect the impairment of the employee’s ability to carry out his or her job. Nor does it catch the employee in the act of drinking on the job, as it is a historical measurement.

That leads us to wonder what levels of ethyl glucuronide in one’s system are deemed acceptable.

Urine Alcohol Levels

There are three levels of the EtG test. However, the lower levels can return a false positive due to environmental factors, which we will consider.

High Positive

This is when the result of the test indicates an alcohol level of over 1,000 ng/mL. Such a reading can indicate that the individual has been drinking heavily throughout the day of the test or even the day before. Having a light drink on the day the test is administered can also result in a high positive reading.

Low Positive

Here, the alcohol level is recorded as falling between 500 ng/mL and 1,000 ng/mL. The factors contributing to this result are somewhat similar to the high positive levels. That is heavy and light drinking.

Regarding heavy drinking, the EtG picks up the alcohol from the past one to three days. Light drinking is detected if it occurred over the previous 24 hours.

Very Low Positive

This reading is returned when the alcohol level is in the range of 100 ng/mL to 500 ng/mL. Contributing factors reflect those found at the Very Low level. The individual drank heavily during the past 24 to 72 hours. Or, the person had a light drinking session within the preceding 12 to 36 hours.

False Readings

The EtG isn’t without its flaws. Due to the sensitivity level of the test, it can return a false positive. This is especially true at the lower end of the test result spectrum (500ng/mL – 1,000 ng/mL).

Products that have an alcohol base need to be taken into consideration within the context of determining the accuracy of the EtG test result. Typical examples of items that may provide a false positive are mouthwashes, perfumes/deodorants, cough syrups, hand sanitizers, and some brands of gum.


The EtG test is a popular way to detect the consumption of alcohol. It works by detecting the level of the metabolite, ethyl glucuronide, within one’s body. Though there are two methods of detection, hair, and urine, the latter is the preferred method. It offers courts, probation officers, and employers a way of ensuring individuals have abstained from drinking.

However, the EtG can indicate alcohol has entered the system through items that have an alcohol base. This leads to a false positive in the reading. Therefore, caution and understanding need to be displayed by those who use this method of alcohol-level measurement.

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