Positive Test for Alcohol: What It Means and Factors Affecting the Result
08 November, 2023
Alcohol testing is a common practice in various settings. A positive test for alcohol typically indicates that the individual who did the testing has recently consumed alcoholic beverages. Several factors may contribute to this, such as the amount and type of liquor they have consumed, their overall health, and the drugs they may intake. However, it is also possible for false positive results to occur because of environmental factors.
Entities may use several types of alcohol tests to trace alcohol consumption. Some examples are breath, urine, hair, and blood tests. Companies, law enforcement, and health professionals typically use these screening methods. Receiving a positive result may result in severe consequences. Thus, it is crucial to have an understanding of what contributes to a non-negative result. This article will present what a positive test means, the factors that contribute to it, and what may contribute to false positive results.
What a Positive Test for Alcohol Means
A positive test for alcohol generally means the individual being tested has consumed alcoholic beverages recently. This can have various implications depending on the context in which the test is conducted. For example, in a workplace setting, this result may deem the employee unfit for their role and face disciplinary action. Meanwhile, in a legal setting, such as during a DUI arrest, it may be used as evidence for impaired driving.
Positives on alcohol tests provide an objective measure of alcohol intake. There are several tests used for alcohol testing. Breath testing produces a quick and accurate measurement of Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) levels. Another option is alcohol urine testing. It uses urine samples to check for alcohol metabolites and offers a detection window of up to 24 hours. An advanced urine test is the ethyl glucuronide (EtG) test, which extends this period to 80 hours.
Furthermore, hair screenings offer the lengthiest detection period of 90 days. This is because hair holds biomarkers of alcohol consumption the longest compared to other samples. Lastly, blood tests are generally considered the most accurate test. However, it also has the most invasive procedure.
Indicators and Cut-off Levels
Many entities use EtG tests to measure alcohol consumption. Typically, the positive cut-off threshold is 500 nanograms (ng) of EtG per millimetre (ml). Here are some guidelines for how to interpret the result:
- High positive results indicate EtG levels higher than 1000ng/ml of urine. This usually means heavy drinking on the same or previous day or light to moderate drinking on the same day.
- Low positive results correspond to 500 to 1,000ng/ml of urine. This indicates heavy drinking within the last one to three days. In addition, it may mean light drinking in the past 24 hours or exposure to products with ethanol.
Contributing Factors to a Positive Test for Alcohol
Several factors may contribute to a positive test for alcohol. Firstly, the amount of liquor consumed. Heavy alcohol consumption may lead to tests detecting ethanol in the body for longer periods. Secondly, the type of liquor consumed. Alcoholic beverages have different concentrations of alcohol depending on the type. One way of determining how much liquor an individual has drank is through the standard drinks guide.
Thirdly, the medical condition of the individual also contributes to a positive ethanol test. People with kidney and liver diseases have lower alcohol metabolism. Additionally, other individual factors like age, gender, and body type affect how quickly the body eliminates ethanol.
Fourthly, the consumption of prescription medication or illegal drugs also affects how quickly the body metabolises alcohol. In addition, they may cause adverse effects as it interacts with the liquor in the body. Lastly, the time when the test is held may contribute to a positive result. It is more likely to test positive shortly after consuming an alcoholic beverage compared to hours after.
Understanding the Standard Drinks
It is helpful to understand the standard drinks guide to consume alcohol responsibly. A standard drink is a unit of measurement that represents the amount of pure alcohol in a beverage. It is always equal to 10g of pure alcohol. This guide helps individuals compare different alcoholic beverages and keep track of their intake.
For example, a small glass of full-strength beer equals 1.1 standard drinks. Meanwhile, a bottle of red wine corresponds to 8 standard drinks. A bottle of champagne typically equals 7.1 standard drinks. Lastly, a high-strength bottle of straight spirits is 22 standard drinks.
Factors that May Cause a False Positive Test for Alcohol
Several factors may cause a false positive test for alcohol. Foremost, alcohol testing is not 100% accurate. This is why many use diversified types of alcohol tests or do confirmatory testing after a non-negative result. A common factor is the consumption of certain foods or beverages that contain ethyl alcohol. This includes certain fruits, bread, and energy drinks.
In addition, exposure to certain products may also cause a false positive result. These include items like breath sprays, mouthwash, cleaning products or cough syrup. Another factor is the current health condition of the individual. People with certain types of diabetes and urinary tract infections may produce false positive results.
Furthermore, device malfunction or contamination of samples may result in false-non-negative results. Thus, it is crucial to use reliable devices to ensure accurate measurements. Additionally, testing services must also ensure proper collection of urine, breath, hair or blood samples. Moreover, they must follow strict protocols and procedures to prevent tampering or contamination.
What to Do After a Possible False Non-Negative Result
A false non-negative result may cause severe and undue repercussions for the individual. It is crucial to stay calm and take immediate action. They may contact the testing facility or their employer to inform them of the potential error. In these cases, confirmatory testing is often done to determine if the previous result was correct.
Furthermore, individuals may consult legal professionals who specialise in alcohol-related cases. They may help understand the best course of action to take and what rights the person has. Moreover, the person may gather proof that supports their claim of a false positive result.
It is vital to understand what a positive test for alcohol means and what contributes to a positive result. This may help the individual prepare for future tests and help them with controlling their alcohol consumption. Understanding the standard drinks guide may also help with limiting liquor intake. Some factors that contribute to positive results are the type and amount of liquor consumed, the medical condition of the person, and the time of the test.
Lower alcohol metabolism means that ethanol stays in the body for longer. However, it does not necessarily indicate intoxication during the time of testing. Furthermore, commonly used products like cleaning products and breath sprays may contribute to a false positive result. Thus, it is vital to use reliable testing services and devices for reliable reports. BACtrack breathalysers are available in Breathalysers Australia for quick and accurate measurements of BAC levels.