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How Does An EtG Urine Test Work?

how does an etg urine test work

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If you or a loved one needs help with substance abuse and/or treatment, please contact Just Believe Detox Center at (877) 497-6180. Our specialists can assess your individual needs and help you get the treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.

How does an EtG urine test work? The EtG is different than the standard urine test. As a result, it can test for different substances in the bloodstream.

An EtG urine test might make sense depending on a user’s substance of choice. This particular urine test is most effective when testing for alcohol abstinence.

Consider this article an overview on the EtG urine test. We’ll go into detail on what it can test for. We’re also going to cover how effective it is and much more. By the end of this article, you’ll discover why an EtG urine test might be right for you or a loved one.

What Is An EtG Urine Test?

An EtG urine test is a special type of urine test. It was first used in 1997 and focuses on testing for the presence of alcohol. A breath or saliva test isn’t effective once alcohol leaves the system. As a result, it can be challenging to check for long-term abstinence from alcohol. To test for long-term abstinence, people turn to the EtG urine test.

How Does An EtG Urine Test Work?

A lot of people wonder how EtG urine tests work. It’s easy to confuse them with the standard urine test used for most substances. The major difference is that the EtG test focuses on testing for one particular substance, EtG.

EtG stands for Ethyl Glucuronide. EtG is created as the body breaks down alcohol. As any substance breaks down in the body it turns into a number of smaller substances called metabolites. Alcohol works in the same way. EtG is one of the metabolites that is created as alcohol works its way through your system.

Experts say that your body processes one alcoholic beverage every 40 to 60 minutes. The alcohol wouldn’t show up on a breath or saliva test after that time. But, EtG, can stay in the system for up to 5 days after consuming alcohol. The amount of time that EtG stays in the body depends on how much alcohol someone consumes.

Family members, medical professionals, and recovery center staff all turn to EtG tests to help keep people sober. By using an EtG test, we can tell if a person has consumed alcohol in the several days leading up to the test. Someone struggling with alcohol abuse may be able to easily avoid testing positive on a breathalyzer. But, it’s a little harder to avoid a positive result on an EtG test.

Limits of the EtG Test

The one challenge to EtG tests are their sensitivity. Other ethanol products can show up as a false positive on a person’s test results. There are many products that aren’t alcohol and contain ethanol. Some products that might cause a false positive on an EtG test are:

  • breath spray
  • mouth wash
  • non-alcoholic beverages
  • some cleaning products
  • hand sanitizer
  • antiperspirant
  • food prepared with alcohol (i.e. penne ala vodka)
  • makeup
  • hair dye
  • aftershave
  • some cough syrups or cough drops

The National Library of Medicine can help with a further list of products. They have published the Household Products Database. People can search this database to see which products contain ethanol. Any products with ethanol in them have the potential to affect the results of an EtG test. Searching the database can help people performing the test to rule out false positive results.

Other False Positive Scenarios

In certain cases, someone can get a false positive on an EtG test without being exposed to ethanol products. This can happen if the urine sample isn’t properly handled by the testing center’s staff.

As a urine sample sits out at room temperature, bacteria will start to grow. This bacteria growth will cause EtG levels in the sample to rise. If someone submits a sample for an EtG test, the sample should be refrigerated immediately. If the sample needs to be shipped, it should be properly packaged and refrigerated during transit as well.

Certain types of infections can also cause false positives on an EtG urine test. If an individual has diabetes and also has a urinary tract infection, they may produce a false positive on an EtG test. It’s important to note, however, that this can only happen in people with diabetes.

Reading an EtG Test

If a person hasn’t been exposed to alcohol or ethanol within the testing period the test results will come back negative. The testing window usually lasts about 5 days after the day in question.

If the test results come back positive, that shows a person was exposed to alcohol or ethanol in the days leading up to the test. When medical professionals receive the printed results, they’ll show the level of EtG in the urine sample. There are specific guidelines for reading these test results.

The guidelines for interpreting EtG results are set by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). According to their guidelines, EtG levels higher than 1,000 ng/mL in the urine sample is considered a “high positive”. A “high positive” shows that the person was drinking in the days leading up to the test.

A “high positive” doesn’t necessarily mean heavy drinking. It can mean heavy drinking the day of or day prior to the test. But, light drinking the day of the test can also result in “high positive” EtG levels.

EtG test results can be “low positive” as well. A “low positive” is an EtG level anywhere from 500 to 1,000 ng/mL in the urine sample. A “low positive” test result can come from heavy drinking within 3 days of the test. It can also come from light drinking within the past 24 hours. Patients can also receive “low positive” results if they’ve experienced intense exposure to products containing alcohol or ethanol prior to the test.

Any EtG levels under 500 ng/mL are considered “very low” test results. These results can indicate heavy drinking several days prior to the test or light drinking 12 to 36 hours prior. This type of result could also mean a person was exposed to products containing alcohol.

Treatment Options

We hope we answered the question, “How does an EtG urine test work?”. If someone you know received positive EtG test results, they could be struggling with alcohol abuse.

Getting the proper treatment is key to helping them overcome this condition. Contact Just Believe Detox today and let us help. We can have a conversation with you and your family and set them up in the program that’s right for them.

If you sense something’s wrong, don’t wait. Taking action now is the best way to stop the pain and danger of addiction.

We Believe Recovery Is Possible For Everyone.
If you or a loved one needs help with substance abuse and/or treatment, please contact Just Believe Detox Center at (877) 497-6180. Our specialists can assess your individual needs and help you get the treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.

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