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Urine Alcohol Concentration and Urine Alcohol Test

How is a urine alcohol test done?

A tested person empties the bladder completely and then, after 20-60 minutes, provides at least 45 milliliters (about 1.5 fl. oz) of urine [4]. To stimulate urination, the person may drink up to 40 oz (about 1 liter) water before the test [4].

How accurate is a urine alcohol test?

In legal procedures in the U.S. the urine alcohol concentration (UAC) is considered to be 1.3 times as high as blood alcohol concentration (BAC), but this is close to the truth only for a certain period of time during which the blood alcohol concentration is falling [1].

The actual UAC/BAC ratios may range from as low as 0.1/1 to as high as 21/1 [3]. For example, low UAC/BAC ratios can be observed within the first 2 hours after drinking when there may be not much alcohol in the urine yet, and high UAC/BAC ratios can be observed when most of alcohol already disappears from the blood.

Drinking water after drinking alcohol and before the test does not significantly reduce urine alcohol concentration; it only lowers urine specific gravity [5].

Causes of FALSE POSITIVE Results

Errors during collecting, storing or testing urine samples may cause false positive or negative results [6]. For example, in an improperly stored urine sample of individuals with untreated diabetes type 1 and urinary tract infection, bacteria or fungi can convert glucose to ethanol [7].

Causes of FALSE NEGATIVE urine alcohol test

  • When the test is performed within 2 hours after stopping drinking, that is when the urine alcohol concentration (UAC) may be still lower than blood alcohol concentration (BAC), using the official UAC : BAC ratio 1.3 : 1 could result in a false negative estimation of BAC [8].
  • When not supervised, a tested person could add water into the urine sample and thus lower its alcohol concentration. Such manipulation can be easily recognized by checking the temperature and composition of the urine sample, though.

Ethyl Glucuronide (EtG) and Ethyl Sulfate (EtS) Urine Test

Ethylglucuronide (EtG) and ethyl sulfate (EtS) are products of ethanol degradation in the body. EtG and EtS can be produced only from ethanol and not from other alcohols, such as methanol or isopropanol, or other metabolic processes in the body, so EtG urine test is specific for an ethanol consumption [9]. EtG and EtS may be excreted in the urine for as much as 5 days after alcohol consumption [10]. A commonly used level at which an EtG urine test is considered positive is 500 ng EtG/mL of urine, but different laboratories may use levels ranging from 100 to 1,000 ng/mL [10].

When is an EtG urine test done?

An EtG test can be done to check for alcohol consumption in workplaces, alcoholism treatment programs or in those on probation after professional or driving license suspension [11].

How accurate is an EtG urine test?

  • After 1 drink, an EtG urine test may be positive (above 100 ng EtG/mL) for less than 24 hours (or longer), and after 2-4 drinks for less than 48 hours (or longer) [10,12]. In heavy drinkers, EtG urine tests were positive (above 500 ng EtG/mL) for 4o-13o hours after admission to the hospital [10].
  • After the same amount of alcohol drunk, there may be great differences in the urine EtG levels in one individual (after repeated tests), among different individuals or among different laboratories [12].

FALSE POSITIVE EtG Urine Test

Causes of a false positive EtG urine test, when a cutoff level 100 ng EtG/mL urine is used [13]:

  • Consumption of as little as 1 gram of alcohol, for example by alcohol-containing foods (communion wine, cooking wine added to sauces and marinades,  wine or fruit vinegar, soy sauces and other condiments, vanilla extract in desserts, certain candies, overripe fruits, fruit juices, kefir, Kombucha, gravy, sauerkraut, red cabbage, jam, marzipan, raisins chocolate, pizza, bread, hot dog rolls and other yeast leavened carbohydrate foods), may result in a positive EtG urine test [13,14,17].
  • Non-alcoholic beer (containing up to 0.5 vol% alcohol) my cause a positive EtG urine test  [15]. In one study, ingestion of 750 milliliters non-alcoholic wine (containing EtG, EtS and up to 0.2 grams of alcohol per liter) did not cause positive EtG, but positive EtS test [16].
  • Ethanol from drugs and supplements, such as ethanol-containing cough, analgesic, antihistamine, multivitamin and iron syrups, nasal decongestants, asthma inhalers (theophylline), liquid anti-diarrheals and diuretics, sedatives, antipsychotics or anesthetics might cause positive EtG urine tests [17,21].
  • Occupational exposure to vapors of alcohol beverages and ethanol-containing solvents, lacquers, denatured alcohol, air fresheners, windshield wipers, insect repellents, deodorants, perfumes, cologne, shaving lotions, hair conditioners, hand sanitizers, detergents, cleansers could potentially result in a positive EtG urine test [17,18,19,20].
  • In individuals with untreated diabetes 1 and urinary tract infection, bacteria can convert sugar in their urine to EtG but not EtS [7].
  • According to 2 studies, using alcohol-based mouthwash up to 4 times a day may result in a positive EtG test [18,22].
  • Technical errors in storing a urine sample before testing may result in false positive EtG test [6,10].
  • Dehydrated individuals may have increased urine EtG levels, so they could be tested positive after non-intended alcohol consumption (alcohol-containig foods or medicines), but there is a lack of experimental studies about this issue [23].

FALSE NEGATIVE EtG Urine Test

  • Drinking large amounts of water within 1 hour before the test results in diluted urine with lower or even false negative EtG levels [12]. In laboratories, an abnormal dilution of urine can be detected and the results recalculated to average urine dilution.[10].
  • Urinary tract infection (UTI) in combination with improper storing of an urine sample may cause a false negative EtG (but not EtS) test due to bacterial degradation of EtG [7,21,24].
  • Kidney disease may decrease urine EtG levels [21].

How long can be alcohol detected in the urine?

Alcohol in urine can be usually detected by up to 48 hours after a last drink, or, in chronic alcoholics by up to 130 hours.

  1. Ethanol  Lab Tests Online
  2. Alcohol urine  ClinLab Navigator
  3. Winek CL, 1984, The unreliability of using a urine ethanol concentration to predict a blood ethanol concentration  PubMed
  4. Urine Specimen Collection Guidelines, revised 2010,  US Department of Transportation
  5. Jones AW, 2006, Urine as a biological specimen for forensic analysis of alcohol and variability in the urine-to-blood relationship  PubMed
  6. Helander A et al, 2009, Unreliable alcohol testing in a shipping safety programme  PubMed
  7. Helander A et al, 2007, Postcollection Synthesis of Ethyl Glucuronide by Bacteria in Urine May Cause False Identification of Alcohol Consumption  Clinical Chemistry
  8. Conen D et al, 2008, Alcohol Consumption and Risk of Incident Atrial Fibrillation in Women  JAMA
  9. AbuseCheck™ Hair Alcohol & Drug Abuse Testing  AbuseCheck *
  10. Helander A et al, 2008, Detection Times for Urinary Ethyl Glucuronide and Ethyl Sulfate in Heavy Drinkers during Alcohol Detoxification  Alcohol and Alcoholism
  11. Dahl H et al, 2011, Urinary ethyl glucuronide and ethyl sulfate testing for detection of recent drinking in an outpatient treatment program for alcohol and drug dependence  PubMed
  12. Wojcik MH et al, 2007, Sensitivity of commercial ethyl glucuronide (ETG) testing in screening for alcohol abstinence  Alcohol and Alcoholism
  13. Agius R et al, 2012, Ethyl glucuronide in hair – A highly effective test for the monitoring of alcohol consumption  PubMed
  14. Thireauf A et al, 2009, Urine tested positive for ethyl glucuronide after trace amounts of ethanol  PubMed
  15. Thierauf A et al, 2010, Urine tested positive for ethyl glucuronide and ethyl sulphate after the consumption of “non-alcoholic” beer  PubMed
  16. Høiseth G et al, 2010, Levels of ethyl glucuronide and ethyl sulfate in oral fluid, blood, and urine after use of mouthwash and ingestion of nonalcoholic wine  PubMed
  17. Guide to alcohol-free products & Incidental exposure index & Products containing alcohol  California Board of Occupational Therapy, Department of Consumer Affairs
  18. Reisfield GM et al, 2011, Ethyl glucuronide, ethyl sulfate, and ethanol in urine after sustained exposure to an ethanol-based hand sanitizer  PubMed
  19. URINE ABSTINENCE TESTING AND INCIDENTAL ALCOHOL EXPOSURE CONTRACT  Lancaster County Adult Drug Court
  20. Detection of Ethylglucuronide in Urine following the Application of Germ-X  Journal of Analytical Toxicology
  21. Kalapatapu RK et al, 2009, Novel Objective Biomarkers of Alcohol Use: Potential Diagnostic and Treatment Management Tools in Dual Diagnosis Care  PubMed Central
  22. Costantino A et al, 2006, The effect of the use of mouthwash on ethylglucuronide concentrations in urine  PubMed
  23. Dahl H et al, 2001, Comparison of Urinary Excretion Characteristics of Ethanol and Ethyl Glucuronide  Journal of Analytical Toxicology
  24. Helander A et al, 2005, Urinary Tract Infection: A Risk Factor for False-Negative Urinary Ethyl Glucuronide but Not Ethyl Sulfate in the Detection of Recent Alcohol Consumption  Clinical Chemistry

40 Responses to "Urine Alcohol Concentration and Urine Alcohol Test"

  1. hassina says:

    I go to a counceling program voluntarly n have been drinking certain herbal teas like turmeric,clove,nutenmeg,cinnamon,ginger cayannepepper. also a tea of baking soda n molasses, and lemon balm,speriment, and lavender. and aloe vera , ginger root an greentea. so since feb 16 I have had 4 positive urins for alcohol…I haven’t drank alcohol in 9 years???? why is it coming out positive???????help!!!!!

  2. John says:

    Will I pass an etg test from one coors light and have an etg test 48 hours after. Will I pass ????

  3. Janice says:

    I do not drink I work in a kitchen that use sanitary solutions to whip equipment down why did my urine test for alcohol come up positive

    • Jan Modric says:

      Janice, as stated above in the article: “Occupational exposure to vapors of alcohol beverages and ethanol-containing solvents, lacquers, denatured alcohol, air fresheners…sanitizers, detergents, cleansers could potentially result in a positive EtG urine test.”

  4. Leia says:

    I ate a small serving of almond amaretto sweet potatoes roasted in an open pan for 90 minutes. I didn’t consume little if any juice. I don’t know if I have to give urine tomorrow or not. But I imagine that they test for the 100 ng which could lead to a false positive according to your article. Can you give me any guidance on how long this might show up? Thx

    • Jan Modric says:

      Leia, so a small amount of almond amaretto was added in the juice at the beginning of the cooking, the cooking time was 90 minutes, and you barely had any of the juice? Additionally, a lot of alcohol has evaporated during cooking. But some alcohol was probably in the potatoes. So, you probably consumed just a small amount of alcohol. I cannot reliably answer will this cause a positive result when tested after one day, but I guess it should not after 2 days.

  5. Leia says:

    She used a quarter of a cup in a pan of sweet potatoes. The lesson is never to eat something that you don’t know.

  6. Ann says:

    Can eating cheese fondue at a fondue Restaurant made with wine and other alcohol in them cause a positive on an ETG urine screen?

    • Jan Modric says:

      Ann, I can’t reliably answer this, but in theory it could. It depends on the amount of the ingested alcohol, sensitivity of the test and the time between alcohol consumption and the test. If the test were done within 24 hours, it could be positive. After greater amount of alcohol, it could be positive for up to 5 days.

  7. Jane says:

    I had a UA test done last Thursday. I had not had a drink since the Saturday night before, when, yes, I did drink heavily. There was at least 80 hrs from consumption to test. I thought I was fine. My UA came back as positive. I now have to go back next Tues for a retest. I did drink last night (Tues). There will be about 156 hours of no alcohol. Should I be concerned that this one might come back positive too?

    • Jan Modric says:

      Jane, in the article above I have written that an EtG urine test for alcohol can be positive as much as 5 days after drinking. 80 hours is 3.3 days, so within 5 days, and 156 hours is 6.5 days. So, you may be fine, I can’t say for sure. I would appreciate if you report back what happened and which exact test was it.

  8. Ray says:

    After 1 beer and 39 hours later will I pass a urinalisis?

  9. Connie says:

    Connie
    I had a sip,literrallya sip/taste of a beer. on Saturday evening,had an erg Monday evening,will. I test positive in the test?

  10. Marie says:

    I drank one Sparks 8% drink at 12 PM will I pass etg test tomorrow at 6pm?

  11. Nikki says:

    I have not had a drop of alcohol in months but I have consumed a lot of candy and chocolate lately- especially yesterday, I tested this morning for an ETG.

    Will it come back positive for the high amount of sugar I consumed?

    • Jan Modric says:

      No, it should not. Sugar does not turn into alcohol in your body.

      There is one very specific situation where sugar can cause a positive EtG tesT: If a person who has untreated diabetes with high sugar levels plus an infection of the urinary tract, then bacteria in the urine can convert sugar into alcohol and make the test positive.

      If you do not have diabetes (and urinary tract infection), the sugar you eat will not end in the urine and will not turn into alcohol.

  12. Chri says:

    1 pint vodka Fri 5:30p.m. etg Mon 3:p.m. etg..ets…Negative.

    • Jan Modric says:

      I appreciate this report.

    • Jesse H says:

      You passed that quickly after drinking a whole pint of vodka? I’d consider that heavy drinking and that’s not even 3 days. Was it sent to a lab? Asking because of my own worries of passing

  13. Chrissy says:

    Do you know anything about kambucha. I had 4 sips and I didn’t realize it had an alcohol content but it made stomach hurt as soon as I took my first sip. Do you think I will test positive for alcohol if I am tested in 2-3 days. I have not had any alcohol in 3 months

  14. john says:

    i drank from Friday night to monday. Tuesday at 9 am I had 0 bac, I have a egt test monday at 9am that will put me at 144 hours should I even be scared? That puts me over 80 hours and the five day mark for heavy drinking, Please help the info on the web is so all over the place. Thank you

  15. Jesse H says:

    I drank heavily (12 drinks) from 7pm to 4 am on Saturday night/Sunday morning. I was tested at 12:00 pm on Thursday. I drank a good amount of fluids, should I pass? Very important

  16. Sabrina says:

    Drank 1 beer- modelo and took a etg 42 hours later. Will I pass?

  17. Brittany says:

    I drink on Friday night 4 cups of greygoose mix with oragnge juice and 3 corinas and had to do a alchol test today at 2 do y’all think I’ll be ok

  18. Alexandra Squair says:

    I had one sip of a friends mixed drink (lemonade vodka) on Saturday around 2pm and there’s a possibility I might have a urine test Tuesday at 5:15pm. Will I pass?

  19. Brittany Vera says:

    I drink 4 mix drinks and 3 coronas Friday night but I was also dancing 4 hours straight sweating and I did my test Monday at 3pm should I be ok

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