Urine Alcohol Level: Definition, Information on Urine Tests, and Other Methods for Detection
25 October, 2023
Urine alcohol tests detect if an individual has consumed liquor within a certain period. The urine alcohol level is the amount of concentration of alcohol found in urine samples. Several methods are used to determine this amount. There are ethyl alcohol (EtOH), Ethyl glucuronide (EtG) and ethyl sulphate (EtS) tests. These detect the amount of ethanol or metabolites in the urine samples. Moreover, lab technicians use methods like gas chromatography and mass spectrometry to analyse the samples.
These tests provide insight into the alcohol consumption of individuals. This is vital because the effects of alcohol may cause injuries and accidents. Thus, workplaces conduct alcohol screenings to deter substance misuse by employees. Furthermore, intake of large amounts of alcohol can impair physical and cognitive abilities and cause accidents. This article will present the functions of urine ethanol level, its applications, how to understand the urine test and the other tests for detecting alcohol concentration in urine.
What is the Urine Alcohol Level, and What is it Used For
The urine alcohol level is the amount of alcohol inside a human urine sample. Alcohol enters urine after the body metabolises the alcohol consumed. The alcohol metabolites are eliminated from the body through urine. Urine testing helps identify people who have consumed alcohol. It is a standard method for detecting substances consumed by individuals.
Moreover, workplaces often use urine screening during pre-employment and various periods during employment. It allows them to identify individuals who may be misusing liquor. This enables them to ensure the safety of people in the company. Additionally, it helps prevent accidents, especially in high-risk industries. Moreover, it mitigates legal risks and saves company resources. This also aids employees with Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) to get early intervention and treatment.
Furthermore, it provides healthcare providers with information regarding the drinking patterns and habits of the patient. This helps them understand and tailor treatment plans for the patient. Lastly, law enforcement also uses these tests as evidence for reckless behaviours, such as drink driving. The effects of alcohol consumption include slower reaction time and impaired judgment.
Factors that May Affect Alcohol Detection
Several factors affect how long alcohol stays in the body. These are some of them:
- The amount of alcohol consumed directly impacts how long ethanol is detected. Heavy drinking lengthens detection windows.
- The type of alcohol also affects alcohol metabolism as some liquors have higher ethanol contents.
- People who regularly engage in binge drinking may have higher alcohol metabolism.
- Those with liver and kidney damage from chronic alcohol abuse may have a slower alcohol metabolic rate.
- Lean body types eliminate alcohol more quickly compared to others.
- Consumption of medications and illicit drugs may delay the elimination of alcohol from the body.
Understanding the Urine Test for Measuring the Urine Alcohol Level
The urine test is the widely used method for testing urine alcohol levels. EtOH is the abbreviated term for ethyl alcohol. The urine test measures the EtOH that has not undergone metabolism. After sample collection, these human urine samples are sent to a lab for testing. There, lab technicians examine the sample for the presence of EtOH.
The analysis uses a variety of specialised lab testing methods. Firstly, during gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS), the sample is heated into gas form. There, gas chromatography separates the compounds in urine. Next, mass spectrometry classifies the ions based on their mass-to-charge ratio. Secondly, liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) is similar to GC-MS. However, it uses a liquid solvent to separate the compounds instead.
Lastly, enzymatic assays identify enzymes and measure the amount of enzyme activities. These tests typically take around four days to a few weeks to produce results. Additionally, other tests screen for Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) levels. These include breath, hair, saliva, and blood tests.
How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Urine
The amount of time alcohol stays in urine samples depends on age, gender, body type, and several factors. Typically, urine tests detect substance use for about 24 hours after intake. However, some tests may show positive results up to 72 hours after a heavy drinking session. Some health conditions may also delay alcohol metabolism.
These detection windows are vital because the body naturally eliminates alcohol over time. Generally, the alcohol burn-off rate is 0.016% or around one standard drink per hour. Moreover, a delay in analysing samples may result in false negative results. After 24 hours, the results of tests may become more inaccurate.
Other Test Methods to Detect Urine Alcohol Level
Ethyl glucuronide (EtG) and ethyl sulphate (EtS) are metabolites the liver produces after metabolising ethanol. They are alternative methods for detecting urine alcohol levels. Similarly to EtOH tests, this method uses specialised techniques to analyse urine samples. Moreover, using EtS and EtG tests has a few advantages compared to the standard urine test.
These tests have a detection window of up to 80 hours. Additionally, it has accuracy rates of up to 70%. Although the accuracy may be reduced after 24 hours, these are still reliable urine testing methods. Moreover, EtS and EtG tests may indicate how much alcohol has been consumed within a certain period.
A high positive result indicates drinking on the day of testing or heavy liquor intake on the previous day. On the other hand, a low positive result usually means light alcohol consumption during the day before or exposure to alcohol-based products. A very low positive EtG test result indicates binge drinking days before the test or light drinking a few days before.
Accuracy of Tests
Urine tests are reliable for detecting the presence of alcohol in the body. However, there are still chances of false negative and positive results. Exposure to products that contain trace amounts of ethanol may result in false positives. This includes mouthwash, cleaning products, antiperspirants, and foods that contain alcohol.
Meanwhile, there are cases wherein too much time elapses between sample collection and testing. This will deliver a false negative result as alcohol metabolites in urine may break down. Thus, it is vital to use a reliable testing service. These services must follow standard protocols to avoid sample tampering and contamination.
Using urine tests for measuring the urine alcohol level of an individual is a reliable method for determining alcohol consumption. Furthermore, EtS and EtG tests are available for a longer detection window of alcohol consumption. These tests help workplaces ensure safety and mitigate legal risks. Additionally, it helps medical professionals identify people with AUD. Lastly, it provides law enforcement evidence for impaired drinking. Altogether, these prevent accidents and the adverse effects of hazardous alcohol intake.
However, these urine alcohol tests are not 100% accurate. Thus, it is essential to select a reliable testing service. Moreover, several individual factors affect the remaining presence of alcohol in the body. This includes the amount consumed, type of alcohol, and age. Furthermore, some may benefit from using other screening methods for detecting alcohol. Using blood tests may add to the reliability of the results. Additionally, BACtrack breathalysers from Breathalysers Australia quickly measure blood alcohol levels.