As with drug testing, the test method you need depends on the reasons for the test, how quickly you need the results and what information you are looking to learn from the test. Alcohol testing can be done by breath test, blood test or urine test. Each test provides slightly different information. In the sections below, we detail information about how each test is performed, what information it provides, and other reasons to help decide which type of test you need.
Of course, ARCpoint Labs of Vancouver, WA trained personnel are always available for consultation to make trained recommendations based on their experience. Call or drop in to our location. No appointment necessary during our regular business hours.
Breath Alcohol Testing
Breath alcohol testing, sometimes abbreviated as BAT, is a commonly used method of alcohol testing. It is a convenient and accurate way to measure the concentration of alcohol (ethanol or ethyl alcohol) in the air in your lungs. It is not a direct measure of the concentration of alcohol in your bloodstream, but because of the way alcohol is metabolized, it is a very reliable indicator of blood alcohol levels.
This is because of the way alcohol is distributed throughout your body. An ethanol molecule is relatively small. This allows it to cross the membranes of your body’s cells quite easily and with limited resistance. When you take a drink of alcohol, it is absorbed into your bloodstream and then distributed to various tissues throughout your body. It encounters very few barriers and goes just about everywhere in equal concentrations, including in your lungs.
A breath alcohol test determines immediate levels of alcohol in your 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 (BAC)
A blood alcohol test measures the amount of alcohol (ethanol) in your body. Because of the how quickly and easily alcohol is absorbed into the blood, it can be measured within minutes of drinking an alcoholic beverage.. 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 max out.
Because of the speed with which alcohol is metabolized in our bodies, 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 you have diabetes or a yeast infection.
Most states DUI enforcement gives you the choice between submitting to a breath test or a blood test. Some attorneys recommend that their clients facing suspicion of driving under the influence choose to undergo the blood test. While both tests are considered very accurate, a blood test gives two samples. That gives the person under suspicion a chance to have an independent test performed on a sample taken at the same time and perhaps find problems with the test administered by police.
EtG Testing for Alcohol – Urine & Hair
EtG, or ethyl glucuronide, is a byproduct of ethanol (the type of alcohol in beverages) when it is metabolized in the liver. Glucuronide, a common biological compound made in the liver, binds various toxins and drugs in the body so they can be excreted in the urine. When someone drinks, even relatively small amounts of alcohol, EtG is formed and 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 were intoxicated. Rather, this test is used to document abstinence for someone who is prohibited from drinking at all, such as by law, by agreement or by virtue of enrollment in a rehab program, and can determine whether they did, in fact, drink or not over the past few days.
EtG Hair Tests. Ethyl glucuronide can also build up in a person’s hair, and can be detected for as long as 90 days. However, EtG hair tests are generally best used only to determine whether a person has been chronically exposed to alcohol over a period of time. It is not the best test to determine one-time use over a period of time.
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