Just as with drug testing, there are several ways to test for alcohol use: breath alcohol testing, blood alcohol testing, EtG urine and hair testing, and saliva testing. The reasons for the test and the questions you are seeking to have answered will determine which method is the best in any set of circumstances. There are a variety of business and legal applications for alcohol testing and each has strategic implications that point in favor of different testing methods.
ARCpoint Labs of Chattanooga’s highly trained personnel can consult to help determine what methods are best suited to your business goals and circumstances. Contact ARCpoint Labs of Chattanooga today for a customized solution for your business and organizational alcohol testing needs.
Breath Alcohol Testing
Breath alcohol testing (BAT), is a commonly used method of alcohol testing because It is convenient and accurate, and it is a good indicator of immediate impairment or intoxication. In addition to law enforcement uses, it is a common way to test for on-the-job or post-accident impairment or intoxication.
Breath alcohol testing measures the concentration of alcohol (ethanol or ethyl alcohol) in the air in the lungs. It is not a direct measure of the concentration of alcohol in the bloodstream, but because of the way alcohol is metabolized, it is a very reliable indicator of blood alcohol levels. Ethanol molecules are relatively small, so they cross through cell membranes quite easily and with limited resistance. When a person drinks alcohol, it is absorbed into the bloodstream and then distributed to various tissues throughout the body. It encounters very few barriers and goes just about everywhere in equal concentrations, including the lungs.
A breath alcohol test determines immediate levels of alcohol in the person’s system, but cannot be used to determine longer term use. Typically, a breath alcohol test can detect the presence of alcohol in a person’s system for approximately 12-24 hours, depending on several factors.
Blood Alcohol Testing
A blood alcohol test (BAC) directly measures the concentration of alcohol (ethanol) in the blood. Because of this, it is considered the most accurate method of testing for alcohol. Because alcohol is quickly and easily absorbed into the blood, it can be measured within minutes of drinking an alcoholic beverage. This makes it a reliable indicator of the probable level of current impairment or intoxication. It takes about an hour after drinking for the amount of alcohol in the blood to reach the highest level. But other factors, like food in the stomach can increase how long it takes for the level to peak.
Because of the speed with which the body metabolizes alcohol, a blood alcohol test, like a breath alcohol test, can only detect the presence of alcohol for about 12-24 hours after drinking. A false positive for alcohol may be indicated if the person being tested has diabetes or a yeast infection.
EtG Testing for Alcohol – Urine & Hair
EtG testing of urine or hair is used to test for exposure to alcohol within certain time frames. It is not a measure of current blood alcohol levels. Nor is it a reliable or accurate indicator of current intoxication or impairment levels. So it tends to be used in different situations than breath or blood alcohol testing. It might be used to determine ongoing compliance to a program of abstinence such as in the context of rehabilitation or some child custody cases.
EtG, or ethyl glucuronide, is produced in the liver when ethanol (the type of alcohol in beverages) is ingested and processed. Glucuronide, a compound made in the liver, binds with toxins so they can be excreted in the urine. When someone drinks, even relatively small amounts of alcohol, glucuronide binds with ethyl alcohol (ethanol) and forms EtG. EtG then, is excreted in various ways from the body, including sweat, urine, and bloodstream. Thus, it can be detected in the urine or in the hair.
EtG Urine Tests: EtG urine tests are sometimes referred to as the “80 hour test” because EtG is usually detectable in urine for up to 80 hours after drinking – sometimes as long as 5 days. EtG tests are not good for determining how much someone drank or whether or not they are or have been intoxicated. Rather, this test is used to determine and document abstinence for someone who is prohibited from drinking at all. This might include someone prohibited from drinking by law (for example a person on probation or parole), or someone who is not supposed to drink by agreement or by virtue of enrollment in a rehab program. EtG testing can determine whether they did, in fact, drink or not over the past few days. (In certain specific cases, a diabetic with a urinary tract infection, can generate a false positive for alcohol with an EtG urine test.
EtG Hair Tests: Ethyl glucuronide is also carried out of the body through the blood. As a result it is deposited and builds up in a person’s hair. EtG can be detected in hair for as long as 90 days. However, EtG hair tests are generally best used to determine whether a person has been chronically exposed to alcohol over a period of time. Although it can determine single use over a period of time, it is not the best test to for that scenario.
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