How long will Alcohol Show Up in the Urine Drug Tests?

A healthy individual may experience the effects of alcohol within 15 to 45 minutes after the intake. Alcohol traces may show up in your urine for nearly 12 to 24 hours after the last consumption. It may vary based on various factors that include age, weight, gender, amount of intake, usage frequency, time taken by the body to process alcohol, etc.

Alcohol is generally a central nervous system depressant that has a short life span in the body. Once the drug enters the body, it gets metabolized at the rate of 20 mg/dL per hour. Even though alcohol stays in urine for a shorter period of time, the urine drug tests can detect the traces of alcohol usage days after the effect has worn off.

What Happens When You Consume Alcohol?

Once you consume alcohol, it gets absorbed directly into the bloodstream immediately after it reaches the stomach. A significant portion of alcohol gets absorbed in the upper gastrointestinal tract through the tissue lining of the stomach and small intestines.

The alcohol in the bloodstream travels all over the body and impairs the activity of the brain. This may lead to alteration of senses, lack of control, perceptions, and emotions. A healthy person may experience the effects of alcohol intake within a range of 15 to 45 minutes. Alcohol abusers may become tolerant to alcoholic effects inducing them to consume more. This may lead to addiction.

Nearly 5% to 10% of alcohol only leaves the body through urine and sweat. The remaining 95% percent of alcohol reaches the liver and gets broke down. It involves a certain process.

  1. Liver cells transform alcohol into acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde is a toxic chemical that is responsible to create hangover symptoms.
  2. The acetaldehyde is converted to acetate.
  3. The acetate will get converted to carbon-di-oxide and leaves the body.
  4. In the meantime, the alcohol in urine and blood will stay for a much longer time in the body that will help the tester to identify the alcohol usage through the specimen.
  5. Ethanol’s half-life is 4 to 5 hours, meaning, a healthy individual’s body will take nearly 4 to 5 hours to eliminate at least 10 mg/dL of alcohol consumed.
Alcoholic beverage consumedMetabolization time
A small amount of liquor1 – 2 hours
Beer ( Small amount)2 – 4 hours
Wine (Large amount)3 – 5  hours

Some symptoms of alcohol intoxication include

  1. Euphoria
  2. Ataxia
  3. Lack of inhibition
  4. Mumbled speech
  5. Lack of co-ordination
  6. Lack of concentration
  7. Poor decision making
  8. Semi-conscious state
  9. Lack of sexual desire
  10. Breathing problems

Severe effects of alcohol addiction may lead to

  1. Heart attack
  2. Cardiac arrest
  3. Alcohol poisoning
  4. Coma
  5. Stroke
  6. Death

How long can Alcohol Last in Your Urine?

The tester can find out alcohol traces in your urine if he/she tests your urine within 24 hours after your last consumption. The time frame may vary based on certain factors like age, gender, usage frequency, etc.

As previously discussed, only a maximum of 5% to10% leaves via urine. Alcohol may remain in the urine for 12 to 24 hours after your previous intake. For heavy abusers, it may stay for an extended period.

Breastfeeding and Alcohol

According to a trusted source, babies exposed to alcohol may have reduced motor skills and low levels of growth and development. Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers should keep themselves away from alcohol as it would directly impact the child’s health.

As the alcohol enters into the bloodstream and spreads to the entire system, it is not a wonder that it would contaminate the purity of breast milk. Mother’s milk contains 75% protein and nitrogenous substances. Alcohol contamination would spread to the mother’s milk too and cause severe effects on the child during breastfeeding.

The infant’s liver is not 100% mature to break down alcohol. Due to mother’s milk contamination, alcohol abuse may cause serious side effects, including drowsiness, changes in sleeping patterns, impaired motor skills, etc.

Accuracy of Urine Testing for Alcohol

  1. Urine drug testing is a popular, cheap, and invasive way to detect alcohol in an individual’s system.
  2. It can detect alcohol at the rate of 99% accuracy than other drug testing samples like blood or a hair test.
  3. The amount of alcohol in the urine sample is 1.33 times greater than in the bloodstream.
  4. Alcohol can sometimes remain in the urine for more than two days after ingestion and can detect the body’s precise amounts of drug levels.
  5. A urine drug test might sometimes indicate the drug levels more than the drug consumed.
  6. So, it is best to have at least two urine samples collected thirty minutes before the drug test to indicate accurate results.

The changes in results may be due to the usage of non-qualitative drug test kits.

Detection of Alcohol Byproducts in Urine

Alcohol can stay in your urine for less than a day, but the byproducts like Ethyl Glucuronide (EtG), Ethyl Sulfate (EtS), can remain in your urine for more than three to four days after your last consumption.

EtG/EtS tests are highly reliable than traditional urine drug testing because they can detect the drug traces more accurately and precisely. This helps the courts and organizations make a clear decision about the rehabilitation program or other medications.

They have certain drawbacks like higher cost, inability to determine the amount of alcohol, failure to decide on the ethanol consumption from alcoholic drinks, and alcohol from other products like medications, other general products, etc.

False-positive in Urine Drug Testing

Urine drug test, especially ETG urine drug tests, can show false positives due to various reasons. For instance, a person who uses mouthwash can show up false positive in the ETG urine drug test for high levels of ethanol in his urine.

False positives occur in urine drug testing. You can prevent them by asking for a confirmatory test using the same sample using the Gas Chromatography/ Mass spectroscopy (GC/MS) test. You may use non-alcoholic mouthwashes and other products to reduce the occurrences of false positives during your drug test.

Way Forward

The amount of alcohol that can stay in your urine depends on various factors. It is better to prevent or reduce alcohol intake to clear your urine drug test. If you feel that you are addicted to alcohol intake, visit a medical professional and get yourself enrolled in a trusted alcohol rehabilitation program.

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