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What is an EtG Test?

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Facts about EtG Tests

EtG stands for ethyl glucuronide. It is a alcohol biomarker meaning. It is used to detect alcohol consumption. EtG is present in all body fluids and tissues but EtG is usually measured in urine. EtG tests are frequently used by Courts to monitor those convicted of alcohol crimes on probation such as DUI or other crimes that involved alcohol use or abuse or persons participating in Drug Treatment and DUI Court programs.

EtG tests may become positive shortly after even low-level exposure to alcohol and may remain in the body for several days.  Some studies have found that at lower cut-off levels such 100 ng/ml EtG testing can detect alcohol consumption for up to five days after drinking ends. Higher cut-off levels at the 500 ng/ml will only detect heavy drinking in the past two days.  See, Using Ethyl Glucuronide in Urine to Detect Light and Heaving Drinking in Alcohol Dependent Outpatients, McDonell et al, Drug Alcohol Depend., 2015 Dec. 1: 157; 184-187.  Because of the extreme sensititvity of the EtG tests, unintentional exposure to alcohol that is present in many daily use products may result in positive laboratory tests. EtG testing is widely available in the United States in commercial labs and DUI Court programs.  EtG testing plays an important supportive role in therapeutic interventions where breath and blood alcohol tests are used to monitor abstinence. However, at the current state of scientific knowledge, the extreme sensitivity of the EtG test and other alcohol blomarkers does not permit the distinction between incidental alcohol exposure and alcohol consumption. See, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Advisory titled, The Role of Biomarkers in the Treatment of Alcohol Use Disorders, September 2006, Volume 5, Issue 4.

An article published in 2006 in the Wall Street Journal illustrated the problem titled, “A Test for Alcohol  — And Its Flaws, A new screen detects Sunday’s gin in Monday’s urine but it may be ensnaring some innocent people too,” by Kevin Helliker, The Wall Street Journal, August 12, 2006, exposed the problem highlighting that unintended or incidental exposure to Vicks Nyquil cough medicine, Listerine mouthwash, vanilla extract, purell hand sanitizer and Lysol disinfect spray can result in a positive EtG test.

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