Addiction Alcohol Use EtG Test for Confirming Alcohol Abstinence What You Should Know About the EtG Test By Buddy T Buddy T Facebook Twitter Buddy T is an anonymous writer and founding member of the Online Al-Anon Outreach Committee with decades of experience writing about alcoholism. Learn about our editorial process Updated on May 17, 2022 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Steven Gans, MD Medically reviewed by Steven Gans, MD Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Peter Dazeley Collection / Photographer's Choice / Getty Images Table of Contents View All Table of Contents Uses Detection Time Frame EtG Test Accuracy EtG Test Results How EtG Is Eliminated From the Body The ethyl glucuronide (EtG) test is widely used to detect the presence in the urine of ethyl glucuronide. EtG is a breakdown product of ethanol, the intoxicating agent in alcohol. The test can also screen for EtG in the blood, hair, and nails, but the urine test is the most widely used. The main purpose of the EtG test is to document alcohol abstinence. Learn why EtG tests are used, how accurate they are, and the truth behind EtG test facts and myths. EtG Test Uses The EtG test is used to detect alcohol abstinence in situations that do not allow drinking. These may include: Alcohol treatment programs Court cases (for example, child custody) DUI or DWI programs Liver transplant patients Probation programs Professional monitoring programs (for example, airline pilots, healthcare professionals, attorneys) Schools or the military It's important to note that the EtG test is not recommended for use in workplace testing programs as it does not measure current impairment from alcohol. Detection Time Frame The EtG test strips are quite sensitive and can detect even low levels of EtG in the urine. (Remember, the test measures EtG specifically—not alcohol.) The test can confirm that there has been alcohol in the body up to five days after consumption. In studies of participants without alcohol use disorders, EtG has been detected in urine samples for up to 80 hours (3.3 days) after heavy alcohol exposure. How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System? EtG Test Accuracy There are some limitations to this test. The EtG test strips can produce a positive result from exposure to the alcohol that's present in many daily use products. Environmental or home products that contain alcohol include: AftershaveBreath spraysCleaning productsCosmeticsFoods prepared with or flavored with alcoholHair dyeHand sanitizersHygiene products like antiperspirantMouthwashes There are hundreds of household products that contain ethanol, according to the Consumer Product Information Database, and exposure to them could possibly lead to a false positive on the EtG test. But the EtG test strips accurately detect when a person has recently consumed alcohol 70% or more of the time. One study showed that for moderate to heavy drinking, this number jumps to 85%. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) lists EtG as a test that can help rule in or rule out whether someone has been drinking with high accuracy. EtG Test Results The following cutoff values have been proposed for test results. High Positive A "high" positive EtG test (for example, >1,000ng/mL) may indicate: Heavy drinking on the same day or the previous dayLight drinking on the same day as the test Low Positive A "low" positive EtG test (for example, 500 to 1,000ng/mL) may indicate: Heavy drinking within the last one to three daysLight drinking within the last 24 hoursRecent intense exposure to environmental products containing alcohol (within the last 24 hours) Very Low Positive "Very low" positive EtG test (for example, 100 to 500 ng/mL) may indicate: Heavy drinking within the last one to three daysLight drinking within the last 12 to 36 hoursRecent exposure to environmental products containing alcohol How EtG Is Eliminated From the Body EtG is eliminated from the body over time after you drink water and other fluids that flush it out when you urinate. Although drinking water does help flush EtG out of your system, it's a myth that you can use this method to reliably manipulate drug test results. While you may try drinking a lot of water to flush EtG out of your system in the days leading up to a drug test, you should know that this is not always effective. Laboratories may detect any tampering with urine samples. Research has suggested that by measuring urinary creatinine (a chemical compound and waste product of urine), health professionals can identify when a urine sample has been diluted or when someone tried to disguise their EtG levels by drinking a lot of water. It's also a myth that one drink won't show up on the EtG test. Whether the test detects one drink depends on many factors like how recently you drank, your metabolism, and the alcohol percentage of your drink. But if you drank any alcohol in the past five days, there is a high chance the EtG test will detect it. Remember, EtG tests don't measure the number of drinks you had. Its job is to indicate whether you've had any alcohol at all—not the specific amount. A Word From Verywell All in all, the EtG test is considered a highly useful test for detecting recent alcohol consumption. But like any test, there is the possibility for a false positive. This is why a positive test should be confirmed either with another test or with verification from the person that they did indeed drink alcohol. Hopefully, as the research on EtG and other alcohol use indicators unfold, there will be increasingly accurate ways to distinguish between true alcohol use and exposure to alcohol in environmental products. How a CDT Test Detects Dangerous Alcohol Consumption 8 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Dahl H, Voltaire Carlsson A, Hillgren K, Helander A. Urinary ethyl glucuronide and ethyl sulfate testing for detection of recent drinking in an outpatient treatment program for alcohol and drug dependence. Alcohol Alcohol. 2011;46(3):278-82. doi:10.1093/alcalc/agr009 Staufer K, Yegles M. Biomarkers for detection of alcohol consumption in liver transplantation. World J Gastroenterol. 2016;22(14):3725-34. doi:10.3748/wjg.v22.i14.3725 McDonell MG, Skalisky J, Leickly E, et al. Using ethyl glucuronide in urine to detect light and heavy drinking in alcohol dependent outpatients. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2015;157:184-187. doi:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2015.10.004 Grodin EN, Nguyen X-T, Ho D, Bujarski S, Ray LA. Sensitivity and specificity of a commercial urinary ethyl glucuronide (EtG) test in heavy drinkers. Addictive Behaviors Reports. 2020;11:100249. doi:10.1016/j.abrep.2020.100249 Berger L, Fendrich M, Jones J, Fuhrmann D, Plate C, Lewis D. Ethyl glucuronide in hair and fingernails as a long-term alcohol biomarker. Addiction. 2014;109(3):425-31. doi:10.1111/add.12402 Shukla L, Sharma P, Ganesha S, et al. Value of ethyl glucuronide and ethyl sulfate in serum as biomarkers of alcohol consumption. Indian J Psychol Med. 2017;39(4):481-487. doi:10.4103/IJPSYM.IJPSYM_71_17 FSS Solutions. ETG and ETS: Ethanol Biomarkers. Dasgupta A. Direct alcohol biomarkers ethyl glucuronide, ethyl sulfate, fatty acid ethyl esters, and phosphatidylethanol. In: Alcohol and Its Biomarkers. 2015:181-220. doi:10.1016/b978-0-12-800339-8.00008-0 Additional Reading Jastrzębska I, Zwolak A, Szczyrek M, Wawryniuk A, Skrzydło-Radomańska B, Daniluk J. Biomarkers of alcohol misuse: recent advances and future prospects. Przegla̜d Gastroenterologiczny. 2016;11(2):78-89. Jatlow P, O’Malley SS. Clinical (nonforensic) application of ethyl glucuronide measurement: Are we ready?. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2010;34(6):968-975. doi:10.1111/j.1530-0277.2010.01171.x Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The role of biomarkers in the treatment of alcohol use disorders, 2012 revision. 2012;11(2). By Buddy T Buddy T is an anonymous writer and founding member of the Online Al-Anon Outreach Committee with decades of experience writing about alcoholism. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Get Treatment for Addiction Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.