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Understanding the ETG Alcohol Test

Without a doubt, the ETG alcohol test is a trending topic.  At National Drug Screening, we are fielding calls daily regarding ETG alcohol testing, which is a test to verify alcohol consumption. 

The ETG urine alcohol test will show alcohol consumption up to 80 hours.  Using a hair specimen testing for ETG alcohol will show alcohol consumption going back up to 90 days. In other words, if a subject were to take an ETG test, it could be determined if they consumed alcohol in the last 80 hours. In the case of workplace alcohol testing, it might be necessary to determine if alcohol was consumed in a timespan closer to the work day. Since the ETG alcohol test look-back is longer than, for example, 8 hours, ETG alcohol tests would not be used for workplace testing.

ETG testing is not testing for external exposure.  The ETG metabolite test only detects and reports the metabolite processed by your body as a result of internal alcohol intake.  A negative ETG test confirms abstinence from alcohol.


Who needs to take an ETG alcohol test?

Individuals who are prohibited from consuming alcohol are likely to need ETG alcohol testing.  This is usually in conjunction with an alcohol rehabilitation program; a court-ordered alcohol testing situation, or a DUI program.  Many of our calls for ETG tests come from attorneys working with their clients who are mandated to have a zero-tolerance alcohol program.  Many times, the ETG alcohol test is ordered with a comprehensive panel for drugs of abuse. The ETG alcohol test is monitoring behavior; it is not determining intoxication.

Our ETG alcohol test customers include:

  • Individuals on probation or in a DWI or DUI offender program 
  • Executives on a last chance agreement due to excessive alcohol-use interfering with their job performance 
  • Court ordered testing for divorce, child custody or from child protective agencies
  • Professional monitoring programs for attorneys, medical professionals, and airline pilots

EtG Alcohol Testing

What is ETG alcohol testing?

Called ethyl glucuronide, the test is a biomarker screening that detects the presence of ethyl glucuronide, a breakdown product of ethanol, in hair or urine samples.  The test is highly sensitive and specific for the alcohol biomarker.  

ETG (Ethyl Glucuronide) is a direct metabolite of ethyl alcohol. It can be found in wine, liquor, and beer that was produced by the fermentation of sugars, starches, and yeast. It is used as a biomarker when testing for the use of ethanol, and to detect and record alcohol abstinence in situations or jobs that do not allow drinking. Examples of situations may include recovering alcohol patients, in alcohol treatment programs, in DUI and DWI programs, in schools, in the military, in professional monitoring programs (attorneys, airline pilots, health professionals), or in liver transplant patients. 

The results of ETG testing have been accepted in court hearings and proceedings.  It is important to note however that many everyday products that people consume can potentially cause an ETG positive.  These include over-the-counter, alcohol-based cold and flu medications (e.g., Nyquil), food products (e.g., sauerkraut, balsamic vinegar, vanilla extract) and personal products such as mouthwashes.  Typically, those in alcohol abstinence programs are required to avoid any alcohol in any form. 

Many of our laboratories also test for a second specific metabolite or biomarker of ethanol called ETS or ethyl sulfate. These labs test and report ETS, in conjunction with ETG, to confirm recent alcohol ingestion or exposure. The detection of ETG and ETS offers higher sensitivity and accuracy for determination of recent alcohol ingestion, than by detection of either biomarker alone. 

Quest Diagnostics performs ETG urine testing for alcohol and criterial at this lab required that ETS also be present in the urine specimen.  The ETG/ETS testing provides for a confirmation test with the highest reliability.

Other Laboratories we work with for ETG alcohol testing include:

  • Quest Diagnostics 
  • LabCorp 
  • Alere Toxicology (now Abbott Labs) 
  • Redwood Toxicology (now Abbott Labs) 
  • Expertox 

Testing for ETG can be set up with a quick phone call or can be ordered online.  Both the ETG hair test and the ETG urine alcohol test are available and can typically be set up with next day service. Additional ETG urine drug tests include the following with drugs of abuse panels include:

  • 5 Panel Drug Test with ETG Alcohol Test
  • 5 Panel Drug Test + Expanded Opioids with ETG Alcohol Test
  • 10 Panel Drug Test with ETG Alcohol Test
  • 10 Panel Drug Test + Expanded Opioids with ETG Alcohol Test
  • 13 or 14 Panel Drug Test with ETG Alcohol Test

Effects of Alcohol

Continued consumption of alcohol in large amounts and binge drinking can cause many negative long-term effects. These potential health problems include: alcohol poisoning; liver disease; stroke, high blood pressure or other heart-related diseases; sexual problems; nerve damage; ulcers; gastritis; cancer of the throat and mouth; malnutrition; permanent brain damage; Vitamin B deficiency, which can lead to other disorders; increased family and relationship problems; increased loss of productivity and on the job injuries; intentional injuries like domestic violence and sexual assault; and unintentional injuries like drowning, falls, burns, and car accidents.

Symptoms of Alcohol

There are various symptoms of alcohol use, depending on the individual, their physical condition, and the amount that is consumed in a period of time. Some of the more common symptoms may include slurred speech, impaired judgement, distorted vision and hearing, decreased coordination and perception, drowsiness, headaches, upset stomach, vomiting, diarrhea and anemia.

Some more serious symptoms of alcohol use that require immediate medical attention can include breathing difficulties, unconsciousness, or even a coma. It is also common for users to experience blackouts, which are memory lapses that occur during the time the person was under the influence of alcohol.

Alcoholism and alcohol abuse have some differences. Individuals who suffer from alcohol abuse, but are not physically addicted like with alcoholism, may still experience similar signs and symptoms as individuals suffering from alcoholism. However, individuals that abuse alcohol generally do not experience the same need to drink or cravings that people with alcoholism experience. Alcohol abuse occurs when a person is not able to control their drinking when they do actually drink, but do not feel the constant need to drink. Alcoholism is much more severe when compared with alcohol abuse, but alcohol abuse can lead to alcoholism if untreated, and can come with many of the same health complications.

Alcohol Screening

Uses of Alcohol

There are many different uses of alcohol, both recreational and practical. The main and most obvious use is drinking it. It is widely used among adults and is associated with relaxing and socializing. Some studies have even discovered some possible health benefits from consuming alcohol in moderation. However, there can be many negative health benefits from consuming alcohol as well, so the positive might not outweigh the negative.

Ethanol is also used for cleaning purposes. Although the mixtures are usually unsafe to drink and highly poisonous, it still makes a great cleaning product, like for cleaning paint brushes. Since ethanol is a safe alcohol, it is frequently used for dissolving chemicals that are not water soluble, such as vegetable essences (vanilla extract) and cosmetics. As ethanol is the least toxic of alcohols, it is ideal to use in perfumes and colognes in order to stop whatever animal and plant extracts are used from going off. The amount varies depending on what you are making with it.

Ethanol is also used as an alternative to fossil fuels, and it is considered a renewable fuel since it can be made from renewable resources like sugar cane. Ethanol burns very cleanly and produces only water and carbon dioxide. It is valued in countries that do not have an oil industry since it reduces their dependence of petrol imports.


Testing for Alcohol

EtG alcohol testing is generally used to monitor mandatory or required alcohol abstinence. Occasions where EtG alcohol tests may be implemented can include: DUI and DWI cases; probation programs; treatment programs; child custody cases; court ordered cases; drug court cases and other situations where an individual is unequivocally prohibited from ingesting alcohol.

The existence of EtG in hair, blood and urine can be used in detecting recent ethanol ingestion, even after the ethanol isn’t measurable any longer. Ethanol can be detected in urine up to 80 hours after consumption. EtG can only be detected if the ethanol is ingested, and not if it is produced as a result of fermentation. Call National Drug Screening for expert assistance in arranging a urine EtG alcohol testing panel in your local area.

An EtG hair test can detect the presence of alcohol for up to 90 days after ingestion. EtG is not suitable for testing in the workplace since it can’t detect or prove current consumption or impairment due to consuming alcohol during work hours. A breath test or blood test may be more suitable for workplace clients that want to determine prohibited use of alcohol and impairment.

Both urine EtG alcohol testing and hair follicle EtG alcohol testing panels are available. The hair follicle EtG alcohol test is a specialty test and not available at all testing locations. Call National Drug Screening for expert assistance in arranging a hair follicle EtG alcohol testing panel in your local area.


Warning Signs

Most people are easily able to recognize the basic signs of alcohol ingestion, like alcohol on the breath, slurred speech, lowered inhibitions and uncoordinated movements. However, it is more difficult to recognize the signs of a deeper addiction. Many alcoholics are able to function without obviously displaying the symptoms for a very long period of time. It is very important that you pay close attention to the warning signs if you suspect someone of having an alcohol addiction, you could save their life.

Some of the behavioral warning signs that could indicate that a person might have an alcohol addiction can include: irritability if they can’t drink when they want to; the inability to control how much they drink; the inability to control when they drink; having uncontrollable cravings or feeling compelled to drink; feeling the need to drink in order to feel good or “normal”; having a “tolerance” to alcohol so that they need to ingest increasingly larger amounts of alcohol in order to experience the same effects; drinking alone or in secret; experiencing blackouts where they can’t remember the periods of time in which they were under the influence; storing or hiding alcohol in unusual places in your house, car, or at work; preferring to drink rather than participating in other hobbies or activities; and continuing to drink regardless of all of the negative consequences effecting their professional and life.

A person suffering from alcohol addiction may also experience physical symptoms similar to withdrawal symptoms when they can’t drink alcohol. Those symptoms include nausea, vomiting, shaking, sweating, convulsions and hallucinations.