What is an EtG test?

I once read somewhere about how bad alcohol is for you. I thought to myself, 'That's it for me. I'm done. No more reading.'
Jared Rosenthal
Published on

I once read somewhere about how bad alcohol is for you. I thought to myself, “That’s it for me. I’m done. No more reading.”

If you’re reading this, then you didn’t make the same dumb decision that I made to quit reading. If you are a drinker, or know someone who is, then it’s especially good that you haven’t quit reading, because you need to know how alcohol testing works, and for how long it can be detected in the body. So here’s the deal with EtG tests:

Just like a hangover lurks over you after the fun is over, EtG (Ethyl Glucuronide) remains in your body long after the alcohol itself is gone. As anyone who has ever thrown a few back knows, when you drink, your body immediately begins the metabolization process. That’s why you don’t stay drunk forever (although sometimes I have tried).

When your body processes anything at all, there’s always byproducts and waste. When you drink orange juice, you utilize the good stuff, create metabolites (byproducts), and pee off the waste. Makes sense.

It works the same with alcohol (certainly the peeing part is not news to you!). EtG is a byproduct of your body’s metabolization of alcohol. EtG stays in your system for around 3 days after consuming alcohol – well beyond the time that alcohol itself can be detected.

So, let’s say you go bottoms up on six beers one night. At the end of the night, if you blow into a breathalyzer, you’ll probably hit around .120 BAC, give or take a few. Your body has already started metabolizing the drinks from earlier in the night, and EtG is already being left behind.

You cannot drive, of course, so you go home in a taxi. You sleep 8 hours. You wake up hungover. You take another breath alcohol test just for fun. There may in fact still be some residual alcohol, say around .030, so you go back to sleep for a couple hours. You wake again, blow again, and it’s finally down to .000 BAC. Are you in the clear?

To drive, yes, you are fine. Go ahead and get a ride back to the bar and pick up your car, and head to work all hung over. No problem. But, if you were not supposed to be drinking at all – due to a court order, a child custody arrangement, or a rehab requirement – and someone wants to find out if you had any drinks last night, then guess what…that EtG is still there. A simple ethanol or urine alcohol test will stay positive for just 12 hours, but an EtG Urine Alcohol Test will stay positive for the next 3 days.

And as of very recently, this same EtG metabolite of alcohol can been detected in the hair. Bad news for you if you are trying to hide your drinking, because the EtG can be picked up in a hair alcohol test for a whopping 90 days. But good news if you are trying to keep your kids safe from an abusive parent who drinks too much and tries to hide it.

What do you think about this controversial topic?

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WRITTEN BY

Jared is the Founder of Health Street, the creator of the Who's Your Daddy DNA truck, and the host of VH1's Swab Stories.

WRITTEN BY

Jared is the Founder of Health Street, the creator of the Who's Your Daddy DNA truck, and the host of VH1's Swab Stories.

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