Alcohol BLOG

Alcohol testing and Drug testing is part of almost every business in the United States and it is mainly to test the presence of alcohol and drugs in the system - Urine, blood and breath. EtG (Ethyl Glucuronide) an intoxicating metabolite found in beer, wine, and liquor. EtG testing has recently emerged as the most desired form of alcohol testing.

Alcohol Addiction:

Alcohol use can begin with social drinking or with occasional beers on a weekend. Most users believe numerous misconceptions about alcohol consumption and convince themselves that their habits are nothing out of the ordinary. Over time, the drinking becomes an addiction.

While not everyone who drinks is an alcoholic, alcohol abuse is more prominent in our society today than you may realize.

The metabolites as well as the presence of alcohol in blood or saliva can act as biomarkers in helping to detect alcohol in your system through a variety of testing methods.

However, let’s start with a few other aspects of alcohol – The dangers of alcohol abuse, how long does it stay in our system, alcohol testing and testing methods:

Dangers of alcohol abuse:

The dangers of alcohol abuse include:

  • Injuries due to loss of motor control
  • Poor decision making
  • High blood pressure, risk of stroke, heart attack and chronic liver disease
  • Depression
  • Dependency

No, not everyone loses all control when it comes to alcohol, though as the saying goes: for some, one drink is too many and a thousand is not enough.

For instance, per a 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 86.4% of those 18-years and older reported having consumed alcohol at some point in their lives.

However, 26.9% of adults (18 and older) reported having engaged in binge drinking, with binge drinking being defined as “a pattern of drinking that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels to 0.08 g/dL.”

This goes in addition to the 7% who reported heavy alcohol abuse within the past month, as well as an estimated 88,000 alcohol-related deaths annually, making it the third leading cause of death in the United States. (1)

How Long does Alcohol Stay in my System?

While not everyone’s metabolism performs at the same rate, the average time it takes to metabolize 1-unit of alcohol is 1-hour, with 1-unit described as “10ml or 8g of pure alcohol.” (2)

However, such factors as weight, gender, medications and food consumption can affect this rate. The rate also fluctuates with the amount consumed, meaning that the more units consumed, the longer it takes to leave your system.

This is to the point that alcohol can remain in your system for as long as 12-hours, and it can also be detected through the presence of certain metabolites for up to 96 hours after consumption.  

These metabolites include:

  • Ethyl glucuronide (EtG), which is a direct metabolite of alcohol and can be used to determine alcohol consumption for up to 80-hours after ethyl alcohol is consumed.
  • Ethyl sulfate (EtS), which is specific to alcohol metabolism and is not subject to degradation. (3)

This means that alcohol can be detected in the system using multiple testing methods.

Alcohol testing Methods:

EtG is detectible in the urine for up to 4-days after alcohol consumption, which means that concentrations of it can provide an extended detection window for alcohol consumption.

This is a more reliable biomarker than alcohol itself and is a simple-to-use method which involves an instant urine dip card which uses a chemical reaction to indicate alcohol use through color change.

Alcohol remains in expelled oxygen for between 6-12 hours after consumption, which can be detected using an alcohol breath analyzer, which is one of the most common methods for determining intoxication.

While there are 3 main types of breath analyzers which are fuel cell, infrared and color change - the most accurate and the only one the law allows as admissible evidence is the fuel cell.

The fuel cell analyzer works with the use of 2 electrodes which have a porous acid layer between them which oxidize any alcohol present in a breath sample. This produces an electrical current which passes through a meter, with the higher the current reading the higher the blood alcohol content (BAC). (4)

Since BAC is based on the percentage of blood which contains alcohol, a 0.01 reading means 0.01% of the blood is alcohol.

All states now consider 0.08% to be the standard identification of legal intoxication, although many states have also additional laws, such as 0.04% for drivers of commercial vehicles and increased penalties for higher BACs. (5)

Alcohol saliva testing is done using a test strip which contains certain chemicals which react to alcohol and change color.

This usually happens within 20 seconds of application, and can detect BAC of as little as 0.02.(6)

This makes saliva testing one of the quickest and most cheat-proof methods of testing.

  • Alcohol Blood Test

While alcohol usually doesn’t remain in the bloodstream for more than 12 hours or contain biomarker metabolites such as in the urine, blood testing is the most accurate method of testing.

However, it does require a sample to be drawn and analyzed, though it can show a specific amount of alcohol in the blood at the time the sample was drawn. This makes it an excellent method of testing at the scene of accidents since it can give an accurate assessment of the level of intoxication at the time of the accident.

A Final Word on Alcoholism

Finally, while occasionally imbibing to the point that your coworkers know just what you did last night may seem relatively harmless, keep in mind that alcoholism is a progressive disease. This means that even though it is easy to control for now, it may not always be so, and in time you may find yourself dependent upon it.

So be aware of your consumption, pay attention to any warning signs such as drinking in the morning, hiding alcoholic beverages around your home, or shaky, nervous feelings when not drinking, and get help if you need it.

However, to allow alcoholism to continue its progression is a recipe for disaster which can not only ruin your life, but the lives of those who care about you!