Advantages of EtG urine testing for alcohol
What are some of the advantages of EtG urine based tests for alcohol? We review this option for zero tolerance workplaces, probation officers, or drug courts. Then, we invite your questions or comments about EtG testing for alcohol at the end.
The limits of breathalyzers
While alcohol breathalyzers are an effective tool for checking if a person currently has alcohol in their system, they have their limitations, namely the relatively short window these tests can detect alcohol consumption. This is where EtG alcohol urine testing can be helpful, particularly for places that have a zero tolerance policy for alcohol.
Home, school, or home based testing, in general, do not detect patterns of alcohol abuse. Instead, you’ll get near immediate feedback on the current intoxication state of the person you test. So, while you cannot detect long-term chronic drinking, you can tell if the person has been drinking in the past few days, or not.
How EtG tests are different
EtG tests are different from traditional alcohol tests. A breathalyzer or saliva test screens for the presence of ethyl alcohol (the alcohol found in beverages) in a person’s body. Whether tested for via saliva or breath, ethyl alcohol will only be detectable for a matter of hours after a person consumes alcohol and usually is accompanied by other, more observable but subjective alcohol effects.
Comparatively, EtG urine tests have a much longer window of detection. EtGs test for the presence of the alcohol metabolite Ethyl Glucuronide (EtG), which is produced when a person’s body processes alcohol after they drink it. EtG is present in the body for up to four days after alcohol consumption and can therefore be detected for a much longer period compared to tests that only screen for ethyl alcohol itself.
On the other hand, the advantage that breathalyzers and saliva tests have over EtG testing is that the tests can be performed virtually anywhere, as the collection is non-invasive and does not require special facilities or same-gender collectors.
Testing for EtG: A new instant test
EtG used to only be detectable by specialized laboratory equipment making it a rather costly proposition, but an instant test has been developed that uses a urine sample to test for the metabolite and provide results in minutes. They work much the same way as instant drug tests, with a tester simply dipping a card or some other device into a urine sample (or transferring some of the sample into a testing device) and waiting a few minutes until the results show up, usually either as a line or the lack of a line in a specific area.
While breathalyzer tests are ideal for scenarios like driving, where one needs to find out if a person is currently under the influence of alcohol, EtG tests are more suitable to places that have zero tolerance alcohol policies like:
- probation or parole offices where people are court ordered to abstain from alcohol
- alcohol abuse treatment facilities
- workplaces that have included alcohol testing as part of their drug testing programs
The effects of alcohol problems at work
Alcohol is by far the most common drug abused around the world. In the United States alone, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) estimates nearly 14 million people either abuse alcohol or are full-fledged alcoholics. To put that slightly differently, that means one in every 13 adults either abuses alcohol or is an alcoholic. Those are only the adults who definitely have a problem already. There are several million more who often engage in risky drinking patterns that could potentially lead to alcohol problems.
These alcohol problems tend to spill over from people’s personal lives into their work lives. Numerous studies have tried to pinpoint the cost to society in terms of loss of productivity, health care, traffic accidents and personal tragedies, and estimates range from $33 billion on the low end to $68 billion on the higher end. And that’s still just for a single country.
It’s not just injuries in the workplace that rise due to alcohol, as on-the-job injuries are far more prevalent among alcoholics and alcohol abusers. Absenteeism is estimated to be four to eight times more among alcoholics and alcohol abusers than other workers. Plus, family members of alcoholics also have greater rates of absenteeism, meaning the reach of alcohol abuse goes well beyond just the person who is abusing it.
Alcohol testing at work and legality
As alcohol is a legal substance almost everywhere, it’s not always legal to test for alcohol in the workplace. However, if it is legal and there is a need to ensure employees have been abstaining from alcohol, EtG urine testing is a valid way to find out if they have been indulging in it.
Why choose EtG alcohol testing?
With its long window of detection and its cost effectiveness compared to laboratory testing, instant alcohol EtG testing can be a valuable tool for places with zero tolerance policies. While this type of testing cannot detect dependence and alcohol or chronic drinking problems, on-site testing can help protect your workers, your business, and will signal “Red flag” cases that require help.
Do you still have questions about the new instant version of EtG testing? Please leave your questions or comments in the section below. We’ll do our best to respond to you personally and promptly.
Photo credit: NIEHS