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What is an Alcohol Urine Test?

What Is an Alcohol Urine Test?

The EtG test is commonly used to identify the presence of ethyl glucuronide in the urine of a person who may have consumed alcohol. Ethyl glucuronide (EtG) is a metabolite of ethanol, the intoxicating component in alcohol. It can also be screened for in blood, hair, and nails, but the alcohol urine test is the most commonly used because it is cheaper than other tests and, when compared to blood screens, much less invasive.

EtG tests are used to detect alcohol abstinence or non-compliance under circumstances in which drinking is not allowed, including the following:

Alcohol treatment programs

As legally required for a DUI/DWI probation

Liver transplant patients



Professional monitoring programs (e.e, airline pilots, healthcare professionals, etc.)

Court cases (e.g., child custody)

EtG test is not typically used in workplace testing programs as it does not measure a person’s current level of impairment from alcohol. Furthermore, because alcohol is legal in most areas of the U.S., it’s not a commonly administered test because alcohol could have been consumed days before a person is required to work. And if they show signs of impairment, it is not really a helpful tool on the spot.

Detection Window

Urine tests are quite sensitive and can detect very low levels of alcohol, and can do so up to five days after consumption. In studies of subjects who did not have alcohol use disorders, EtG was identified in urine samples for as long as 80 hours (or 3.3 days) after heavy alcohol consumption.


One drawback of the EtG testing method is that it can sometimes produce a positive result from exposure to alcohol that’s present in many common household goods, including mouthwash. Other examples of environmental or home products that contain alcohol include the following:

Foods prepared with alcohol

Cleaning products

Breath sprays

Hand sanitizers

Hygiene products

Aftershave lotion


Hair color dye

In reality, there are hundreds of household goods that contain ethanol, and exposure to them could potentially lead to a false positive on an EtG screen.

Interpreting Alcohol Consumption Results

A high positive EtG test (>1,000ng/mL) may indicate the following:

Excessive drinking on the testing day or the day before

Light-moderate drinking on the testing day

A low positive EtG test (500 to 1,000ng/mL) may indicate the following:

Excessive drinking within the previous three days

Light alcohol consumption within the past day

Recent heavy exposure to environmental products containing alcohol with the last day

A very low positive EtG test (100 to 500 ng/mL) may indicate the following:

Excessive drinking within the past three days

Light alcohol consumption within the past 12-36 hours

Recent incidental exposure to environmental products that contain alcohol

EtG is a test that can help determine if a person has been recently exposed to alcohol in some way. Therefore, it offers law enforcement and others the ability to determine if a person is compliant with alcohol abstinence or not, and can do so accurately at least 70-85% of the time.

All in all, the EtG test is considered a highly useful test for detecting recent alcohol consumption. But due to the possibility of exposure to alcohol-laden environment products, in some cases, a separate verification may be warranted. 

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