The test most commonly used to test for long term use or abuse of alcohol is EtG hair testing. Ethyl glucuronide (EtG) is produced by the liver when a person drinks alcohol and it deposits itself in the hair. EtG testing measures the presence of EtG in a follicle of hair.
EtG hair tests can detect long term alcohol use.
EtG, or ethyl glucuronide, can be found after it travels to a person’s urine or hair. It is a metabolite —a byproduct of ethanol (the type of alcohol in beverages). It is produced by the liver when ethyl alcohol (or ethanol) is processed and metabolized there. 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 alcohol, even relatively small amounts, glucuronide binds with ethyl alcohol and EtG is formed.
EtG is deposited and builds up in the hair of a person who uses alcohol regularly and can be detected up to 90 days after use. It does not detect the presence or amount of alcohol in the bloodstream, so EtG testing cannot be used to see if a person is currently intoxicated. Instead, EtG hair tests are generally best used only to determine whether a person has used alcohol chronically over a period of time. EtG urine tests tend to be more accurate for the purpose of monitoring over a specific period of time, but do not cover the length of time a hair test can cover.
The amount of hair required to administer the test is as little as a half inch, and the best results come from samples extracted closest to the scalp. As hair grows longer, the EtG is less present and less accurately measured by the test.
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