A Test That Works Too Well

by Rant on October 10, 2006 · 40 comments

in Doping in Sports, Floyd Landis, Media

Note: As I’ve promised, today I’m going to take a look at the article that ZBicyclist mentions in a recent post about a new urine test that is being hyped as a foolproof way to detect alcohol use. Due to copyright considerations, I can’t reproduce the article verbatim, but will quote important passages, paraphrase other sections and discuss what the author is getting at. Along the way, I’m sure I’ll add my own perspective, too. Those comments will appear in red.


Sometimes tests work too well, as Kevin Helliker discovered when he wrote “A Test for Alcohol — And Its Flaws” in the August 12, 2006 edition of The Wall Street Journal. In the article, he talks about a new urine test that “detects Sunday’s gin in Monday’s urine but … may be ensnaring some innocent people too.”

Helliker tells the story of a Harrisburg, Pa. nurse, Nancy Clark, whose nursing license has been suspended for flunking a new type of urine test. Clark is a recovering alcoholic who, the state says, violated an agreement to forego drinking.

The new analysis “is the gold standard of testing,” Shawn E. Smith, a lawyer for the state, argued during a June 7 hearing here on Ms. Clark’s fate.

Ms. Clark counters: “I didn’t drink.”

Helliker goes on:

Throughout history, few questions have prompted more lies than, “Have you been drinking?” For decades, the truth has been obtainable through urine tests and breathalyzers. But since alcohol dissipates from the system in a matter of hours, that truth always has been as fleeting as drunkenness itself. Whether a person is drunk this moment can be documented. But how about last weekend?

Turns out, there’s a new test, known as EtG, which is being used to monitor the urine of millions of Americans for the presence of metabolites of alcohol. This test is being used to keep tabs on people who aren’t supposed to drink — and must provide regular urine samples to prove it.

The test gets its name from ethyl glucuronide, or EtG, a metabolite of alcohol, which remains in a person’s system for up to 80 hours. About 10% of people who had been passing conventional urine tests are now testing positive for alcohol when subjected to the EtG test, according to test administrators.

This test should be of interest to Floyd Landis fans, as it could be used to determine whether traces of alcohol were still in his system after his night out for drinks before stage 17 (assuming there’s any leftover samples to test). Although Landis has said he doesn’t want to focus on this aspect too much, if alcohol can really decrease the amount of epitestosterone in an athlete’s system, the finding of EtG would certainly help bolster his case, at least a bit.

According to Helliker’s article:

About 20,000 urine samples a month are now being tested for EtG, which was introduced about two years ago, and that growth is continuing exponentially. At $25 — compared with about $7 for a standard drug screen — EtG represents an important new source of revenue for the urine-testing industry, whose largest players include Quest Diagnostics Inc. and National Medical Services.

LITTLE ADVERTISED, though, is that EtG can detect alcohol even in people who didn’t drink. Any trace of alcohol may register, even that ingested or inhaled through food, medicine, personal-care products or hand sanitizer.

The test “can’t distinguish between beer and Purell” hand sanitizer, says H. Westley Clark, director of the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s center for substance-abuse treatment. His office intends to study EtG and issue a statement on its use in the fall. “When you’re looking at loss of job, loss of child, loss of privileges, you want to make sure” the test is right, he says.

Doesn’t this lack of specificity strike you as problematic? It does me. If you can’t be certain it came from alcohol abuse, it’s not a very good test. Just as the WADA finding that diet can influence the amount of carbon13 in various hormones when conducting CIR/IRMS testing casts a certain amount of doubt on how specific a test it is for anti-doping screenings.

As Helliker notes, EtG is a molecule that any laboratory can identify, so nobody owns the test. Urine-testing companies are aggressively marketing it to a number of industries, boards or companies that license workers in health care, aviation, law and other professions. These groups routinely require urine monitoring of professionals who are recovering addicts. Some courts use the testing to monitor drunk driving offenders.

As long as the tests aren’t used to monitor federal employees and aren’t sold over the counter, these tests don’t require federal approval. The urine-testing companies leave it up to the courts and licensing boards to figure out how to use test results.

Helliker goes on:

“It’s a powerful tool,” says Doug Lewis, president of United States Drug Testing Laboratories Inc. near Chicago. “But it’s only a tool.”

Some in sobriety enforcement contend any alcohol, however ingested, could trigger a relapse in recovering addicts. “They must abstain from alcohol in any form,” says Kevin Knipe, manager of a Pennsylvania state program for monitoring physicians, nurses, pharmacists and others.

Yet critics worry that growing acceptance of the EtG test is punishing those who haven’t relapsed or aren’t problem drinkers. They argue it’s unfair to demand addicts produce urine free of any trace of alcohol because there is no comprehensive list of products that contain it. Mouthwash and cold medicine are sources of alcohol. It can also be found in pastries, perfume, salad dressing, insecticide, ripe fruit, lunch meat, vanilla extract, ice cream and automotive fuel.

Such critics have gained an unusual ally: the physician who pioneered EtG testing in America. “Use of this screen has gotten ahead of the science,” says Gregory Skipper, an Alabama addiction specialist and recovering addict. He says he has received about $10,000 in consulting fees, mostly from urine-testing firms, in connection with the test.

As Helliker writes, “An unfair monitoring test could dissuade addicts from entering monitoring programs voluntarily. ” The same may well be true for athletes who might not compete due to the current state of the anti-doping regime. He continues with more about Nancy Clark:

After Ms. Clark, the Pennsylvania nurse, confessed her addiction to her supervisor, she entered a state- monitored program, requiring attendance at two 12-step meetings a week. On average, she has attended three a week, her sponsor says. She also has to phone a toll-free number each weekday morning to find out whether a urine sample is required that day.

In five years, she has never failed to call or submit a specimen, according to court testimony. She pays the $120-a-month cost of monitoring. According to testimony, after getting sober, Ms. Clark joined a church, entered its ministerial program, started a program to entertain patients and raised three children.

In 2004, the state of Pennsylvania introduced the EtG test. After flunking it, she says she read the label of every imaginable product — edible and inedible — only to flunk it again. “I don’t know what else I could have done,” says Ms. Clark, 49, who has practiced nursing since 1978. She recently passed a polygraph test asking whether she has drunk alcohol.

In January, the state suspended her license, costing Ms. Clark her job of eight years as an assessor of patient care in a hospital. She is spending thousands of dollars to fight her suspension. Her witnesses include her boss at the hospital, who describes Ms. Clark as indispensable, and Dr. Skipper, who doesn’t believe her positive EtG scores represent proof of drinking.

So an innocent person is out of work due to a test that is not specific enough to determine what the testing companies say it does. Not terribly fair in my book.

As Helliker writes, the purpose of urine testing has always been to prevent — or provide early warning of — relapse. And preliminary evidence, he adds, suggests monitoring programs may increase success: Addicted physicians subject to testing relapse at a rate of 25% over five years, compared with a rate among the general population of 75% in a single year. He goes on:

Despite innocent positives, some courts and licensing boards are digging in their heels. They are arguing that a participant “must produce a negative urine” sample, says Mr. Lewis, the drug-testing company president. “Trying to argue that you’re an innocent victim — good luck.”

Aint that the truth! Trying to prove you’re an innocent victim is difficult in any anti-drug or anti-doping testing regime. Helliker continues:

Indeed, the state of Pennsylvania isn’t saying that Nancy Clark drank, only that she failed to produce clean urine. “This case is not about relapse,” said Mr. Smith, the lawyer for the state, in the June argument against her appeal.

Before the EtG test came along, it was possible for a crafty individual to deceive monitors. Alcohol dissipates from the system in a matter of hours. So a recovering alcoholic could drink on the weekend or even during the work week if he or she stopped early enough. By the time the person’s urine would be collected, any trace of booze would be out of his or her system.

Helliker notes:

Catching such drinkers wasn’t the primary interest of Dr. Skipper when he set about searching for a better screen for alcohol. As director of Alabama’s monitoring-and-assistance program for addicted physicians, he wanted to find more convincing proof of sobriety.

Dr. Skipper, a 56-year-old internist, had a personal interest in such a test: He is a recovering narcotics addict. After entering a chemical-dependency program in 1981, he underwent additional training, received a certification in addiction medicine, and began caring for others. He had a relapse in 1990, and confessed to stealing painkillers from the medical facility where he worked. His license was suspended for a year.

Dr. Skipper says he has been clean and sober since Nov. 16, 1990. He continues submitting voluntary urine samples, and advises other recovering physicians to do the same.

In 2001, Dr. Skipper, along with Swiss psychiatrist Friedrich Wurst, conducted research that showed a strong connection between alcohol consumption and the presence of EtG in a person’s urine. This research created a great deal of interest among U.S. urine testing laboratories, as well as their clients.

Due to very limited funds, Dr. Skipper and his colleagues conducted limited research, mostly focused on whether drinkers could somehow avoid producing EtG. And with the exception of some rare cases, it turns out that drinkers can’t avoid producing EtG. What they didn’t focus on was whether EtG could show up from contact with other potential sources, like mouthwash, food, or hand sanitizers.

After examining the results for about 1500 specimens, Dr. Skipper believed that any level of EtG above 100 ng/ml of urine proved that the subject had consumed alcohol. Some urine-testing companies went further, saying any EtG in the urine is proof positive of drinking. A news release for Quest Diagnostic’s Northwest Toxicology unit boldly stated, “EtG is not detectable in urine unless an alcoholic beverage has been consumed.” Helliker state that according to a Quest spokeswoman, before introducing the test, the company had “evaluated it on some people here at the lab.”

So Dr. Skipper set a very low threshold, believing that it would be a definitive indication of alcohol use. Unfortunately, as we’ll see in a bit, he was wrong. But now that his “standard” is out there, others have latched onto it and won’t let go. And others have taken this to an extreme, saying that any amount is a positive test. This begins to sound like the “strict liability” standard for the anti-doping process. If it’s there, you’re guilty. Even if you’re not.

Helliker talks about a Lorie Garlick, a California pharmacist who is in recovery from narcotics addiction. He notes:

To comply with an agreement with the California Board of Pharmacy, [the pharmacist] says she attended 12-step meetings and avoided drugs and alcohol. When her urine tested positive — twice — for EtG in 2005, she went online and discovered the new screen was touted as definitive proof of drinking.”The first thing that went through my head was that there must have been a mix-up at the lab — my urine got swapped with somebody else’s,” says Ms. Garlick, who says she never drank. Her license has been suspended and she hasn’t worked in more than a year. The California Board of Pharmacy didn’t return phone calls.

She found a Web site with a chat room for addicts claiming to have been victimized by EtG. Its founder: Dr. Skipper. “I’d been hearing from people saying they were innocent, and I wanted to research that,” he says.

Dr. Skipper started to think that incidental exposure to other products could lead to higher levels of EtG than he had expected. One product that he suspected could cause elevated levels of EtG was sweeping through hospitals nationwide: hand sanitizers. Call it the Purell effect.

Although the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the use of alcohol-based sanitizers in hospitals, schools and day-care centers, the issue of whether alcohol in these sanitizers could be absorbed into a person’s system hasn’t been deeply studied, Helliker quotes physician John Boyce, who served as chairman of the CDC’s hand-hygiene task force, as saying. And Pfizer Inc., owner of Purell, the dominant brand, also hasn’t studied the issue.

Helliker’s article goes on:

A small study of 24 people that Dr. Skipper helped perform found that use of Purell could result in EtG showing up in urine. It concluded alcohol in the sanitizer can enter the body through inhalation, rather than through the skin. That study, presented in May at the scientific conference of the American Society of Addiction Medicine, hasn’t been published or peer-reviewed.

Interesting. So Dr. Skipper found that there were possible causes of false positives. I wonder how much study of false positives has been done on CIR/IRMS? No, wait, USADA is looking for people to study CIR/IRMS and validate the procedure (as “the king” noted in a comment on another post at this site). And WADA has research that shows a 3+ percent false positive rate on the tests just due to diet.

Dr. Skipper conducted an experiment, with the pharmacist as the subject. At his suggestion, she entered a treatment center and stayed two days under the supervision of counselors instructed to search her and her belongings for any products containing alcohol. Ater washing her hands repeatedly with Purell during the day, a urine sample she provided gave an EtG score of 770 (each morning, a sample returned a minimal or non-existant value for EtG). The result is more than seven times Dr. Skipper’s original cutoff value that he believed represented proof of alcohol consumption. A single alcoholic drink could produce a peak EtG level of perhaps 6,000 nanograms, 60 times Dr. Skipper’s original cutoff.

So clearly the original threshold, 100 nanograms, is way too low.

Dr. Skipper believes that this doesn’t affect the test’s value. A negative EtG score would still provide definitive proof of sobriety. But, Dr. Skipper says he has always believed a low-level score should be considered a warning sign, not proof of guilt. Helliker goes on to say, “In [Dr. Skipper’s] experience, most secret drinkers offered no defense when confronted with EtG scores.”

Dr. Skipper now believes that incidental exposure to alcohol could result in EtG levels as high as 1,500 nanograms, much more than the threshold value that was costing many addicts their professional licenses.

In August 2005, Dr. Skipper wrote an open letter to state boards that monitor health- care workers, calling on them “to refrain from taking action against an employee or licensee based on urine EtG testing alone.”

Unfortunately, Dr. Skipper’s warnings have been largely ignored. Licensing boards and other organization still punish recovering addicts for producing positive EtG scores — even very low level scores.

Helliker continues:

Most laboratories are now recommending cutoff levels of 250 or 500 nanograms. But they say it is up to their clients to decide whether a level above that amount represents proof of drinking or some other exposure to alcohol.”The industry needs to do some population studies to get a sense of what a reasonable cutoff is,” says Dr. Clark of the federal substance- abuse office.

Establishing an EtG cutoff high enough to spare the innocent may involve allowing the guilty occasionally to slip through, concedes Dr. Clark. But the only ethical option is “to err on the side of due process,” he says, noting that a true addict will get caught soon enough anyway.

Helliker ends the story talking about a home-health nurse in Wichita, Kan., who ran afoul of the Kansas state disciplinary board when she the mistake of drinking a martini at a going-away party for a colleague, even though she had a patient to visit after the party.

She was caught, confessed and put into a program that included monitoring of EtG in her urine. One day she received a notice of a positive along with the following note, Helliker reports:

“Please be aware that [over-the-counter] medications that contain alcohol can cause a positive alcohol screen,” wrote Mary Carder, executive director of the Kansas Nurses Assistance Program, which oversees monitored nurses in Kansas. “You should also be cautious of any foods, sauces, pastries etc. that may have alcohol.”

The whole experience, including a positive EtG test when she hadn’t been drinking and the warning she received that another positive test and her license would be suspended has left her so worried that she’s going back to school to pursue another career.

As you can see, this test works too well, and it’s often being used without any critical thinking about what the results actually mean and what may have caused those results. It’s an awfully good thing nothing like that happens in cycling, isn’t it? 😉

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pelotonjim October 11, 2006 at 6:52 am

Wow scary. Did any one see any problem in giving a nurse a test that can confuse hand sanitizer with Bud? Last time I checked, nurses live by Purell.

I think this is a symptom of our society. We fall in love with new technology and adopt it faster than it is ready. That’s OK with a new version of Windows or a new cell phone. Shouldn’t we show restraint until new tests are ready and fully vetted?

pelotonjim October 11, 2006 at 8:28 am

And another thing. (You got me all lathered up, Rant). Since when did we put our collective brains on hold. If the computer spits out something, it must be right. This happened to me over the weekend at Sears. I returned an item and the register returned the wrong item at a lower price. A fluke. The sales associate said that there was nothing she could do since that is what the computer said should happen. The department manager agreed that there was probably a mistake but she had to go by the computer. Finally I found someone who was not an automaton.

I think the drug testing agency applies the same people. Computer says you drank, therefore, you are fired. I can’t argue with the computer. It is God!

Well, there is something called context. That is something our brains are still capable of doing. Take the computer output as input! Think for a minute. Get more input. Make a reasoned decision.


Rant October 11, 2006 at 9:59 am

Exactly. These tests need to be fully proven before they’re put into general use. And the people implementing these things need to put in some room for common sense (which I’m afraid is none too common). When people can’t fix what is clearly a mistake in the computer, something has gone seriously wrong.

Debby October 11, 2006 at 12:05 pm

This is very very scary. A lot of innocent people are having their lives ruined, with no apparent recourse.

Rant October 11, 2006 at 12:38 pm

Yes, it is. If what’s happening to Floyd Landis is an injustice or a travesty, then this has the potential to be many times worse. There needs to be some regulation and standardization in the development of these kinds of tests, and there needs to be some recourse that people accused can follow in order to clear their names. After all, just because someone is accused of something doesn’t make him/her guilty.

ZBicyclist October 13, 2006 at 9:50 am

I blogged earlier on the WSJ story, as you noted above.

Great follow-up here. It’s a good example of where businesses (e.g. Quest) carry the science too far in the name of revenue. Substitute “politics” for “revenue” and the application to the Landis case is straightforward.

Chole November 13, 2006 at 6:26 pm

Since [when] is what I, or any other licencsed professional for that matter; subject to anyone’s judgement. My thoughts are if I am not subject to being called in to work, ( well I am called into work, but w/o the ability to decline.) why is what I do in the comfort of my own home anyone’s business? If I am not hurting anyone they should butt out.

Fearful Dancer December 18, 2006 at 5:03 pm

I just found out about this test last week and it scares the hell outta me.
I’m currently in a DUII program and now I’m wondering if I should cease eating and bathing.
According to what I have seen in related articles there could be thousands of common products that can produce a result above 500/ng

Fearful Dancer December 18, 2006 at 5:09 pm

This will undoubtedly end in a class action lawsuit that I will happily join if I come up positive in any test.
I have been clean and sober since June 10th of this year and I will be damned if someone’s “glitchy” test costs me my freedom in any way. I have worked for too long to fail at this point and I’m not about to…

Fearful Dancer December 18, 2006 at 5:29 pm

FYI “Febreeze” contains alcohol, so do: nail polish removers, many makeup products, moisturizers, detergents, fruit juices, vinegar, salad dressings, antifreeze, don’t overheat on the freeway!!! The worst of all are foods that can ferment; breads with wheat, barley malt and yeast, grape juice, apple juice, wild rice, oats, brown sugar, molases and even vanilla extract!!! Read everything twice!!!

Fearful Dancer December 18, 2006 at 5:37 pm

By the way there are plenty of sports medicine and arctic exposure studies that suggest that the body naturally produces it’s own alcohol when your core body temperature drops suddenly… Bundle up this winter, your freedom may depend on it…

Rant December 18, 2006 at 7:37 pm

Fearful Dancer,

Thanks for the comments. Interesting (and important) information to know.

– Rant

-Matt- December 21, 2006 at 8:24 pm

I am currently in dui court in utah. I have been in this program recovering for 20 months now. It is only a 15 month program. Last month I came up possitive for ETg. 1268 ngs. to be exact. The cut off is 600. any thing above, the judge and staff say there is no other way than injesting alcohol to get that high of a reading. I find out what they are going to do as far as a sanction on this matter Jan. 2nd 07. sounds like they will set me back in the program 3 more months. In dollars, that is about 1100.00 more dollars out of my pocket. I feel it is time to throw in the towel and just cut my losses now… Any helpful info, please e-mail me at captainkite10@yahoo.com Thanks.

Nancy January 11, 2007 at 12:31 pm

Looks like in the words of the immortal Ricky Ricardo….’looks like the labs will have some MAJOR ‘spaining to do’!!! It is soooo great to see the table turned!

Condemned Counselor February 11, 2007 at 8:28 am

I agree with all of the previously stated. I am a substance abuse counselor who has not failed a UA for over 3 years, and was placed on probationary status, to include 5 years worth of drug testing, including this EtG test. I am scared to death of this test, and I cannot give this test to clients with out feelings the same way. A positive EtG test could mean numerous different exposures to EtG may have happened, or perhaps they may have had a beer or two, what ever. But the issue is the test cannot differentiate between hand sanitizer, anti-freeze, vanilla extract, and vodka definitely has major credibility issues with me. I have read that the EtG test is being administered to high school students areound the US as well. May the UA gods have mercy on us all.

vickie May 18, 2007 at 6:10 pm

I am new to the ETG TEST. I am currently in a program for a dui offense, that uses the test.For three months I have tested negative. I take the test twice a week, recently I had a positive. I have not drank any alcohol or ate any thing that I have had not been eating, Any suggestions or info on spices that could test positive . Thanks for all the info on your site.

AshBri August 9, 2007 at 9:54 am

I myself am currently in a substane abuse class for a first offense dui..i just got tested yesterday for the first time and im freakin out now that i have done some research about this test…i recently got over having a severe cold and problems with my asthma…so of course i was takin every cold medicine imaginable…without checkin for alcohol contect including my daily asthma medication…if i fail whats gonna happen..is that considered violation of probation?

Rant August 9, 2007 at 10:39 am


I really don’t know what would happen. It’s probably a good idea to check what’s in the medication you took. And it’s probably a good idea to consult your attorney for answers to any legal questions.

– Rant

KJ August 16, 2007 at 3:26 pm

This is very scary! My partner is on a DUI probation and was given at EtG test that came back positive at 800, exceeding the limit of 500. Immediately their PO listed them as in Violation of Probation and put in for a warrant for their arrest. I know for a fact that there had been no alcohol consumed, since this individual can’t drive and are with me 24/7. It is now costing another attorney fee of $2,000 to fight this.

This individual is a printer and comes in contact with cleaners that contain alcohol in some manner or form on a daily basis. With this said, it is impossible in this line of work to not test positive. So what this means, is that possibly on a monthly basis for the next 7 months they could have a VOP and risk being re-arrested! At $2,000 per violation to retain an attorney you are possibly looking at a $14,000 attorney bill.

I cannot believe that our court system is using this as a “standard”.


Stephanie August 22, 2007 at 10:08 am

I dont know what to say about this test but SCAARRRRYYYY!!!! I am getting ready right now to go in and do my first drug urine test and I am almost sure that the ETG test is considered for this. After all the research, I am not sure if I really want to do this but I guess I have to because of a recent first time DUI. I have not been drinking but alot of the foods and products that they say cause a positive result are actually in my daily life….such as hairspray, mouthwash, vinegar on my salads, salad dressings, vanilla extract, etc. This is not fair to use this test if it can cause false positives. Is it even worth being good for???? Wish me luck, Stephanie

Bill Jacobs August 22, 2007 at 1:02 pm

The only way to score 6,000 or above on an ETG is to DRINK A DRINK, the only way to score 1 to 700 is to consistently inhale ALCOHOL (which is taking ALCOHOL into your body) or have drank alcohol several days before. ALL of the above is “ingesting” alcohol, which people in monitoring programs agree not to do.

I see hundreds of people whine about “false positives”, including the infamous I tested positive for cocaine because I had sex with my boyfriend and I didn’t know he was using cocaine “the transfer of fluids fairy tale”.

“ADULT” ADVICE: If you are being monitored for ALCOHOL, don’t inhale the vapors of products with ALCOHOL, also don’t sit in a small closet with several people smoking POT, or inject yourself with a SYRINGE full of something that you “didn’t know what it was.”

People unjustly accussedparanoid about testing, usually have a problem.

Stephanie August 22, 2007 at 3:41 pm

Hey Bill, I have a question for you……..If someone says they are not drinking but they really are….and nobody really knows for sure….how can u be sure that the person actually had a drink? Do u have proof? Just curious. If that person really drank, then what would the time span be for that to get out of the system so that they couldnt say that they really didnt have a drink? Say if they were lying? A person could have had a drink 1 week ago and still test negative or positive by the way all these blogs are going. All I am saying is that since I am not drinking, is there still possible ways of getting a positive result from inhaling hairspray, using vinegar or even eating something with vanilla extract in it? If I was to get a positive result and I KNOW FOR A FACT that I havent been drinking then theres no fighting that in court of course. One more question, what do u mean TO INHALE ALCOHOL? Cause after u say that, u say TAKING ALCOHOL IN YOUR BODY. Wouldnt inhale and drinking it into your body be two different things? Thanks and Have a nice day, Stephanie

Bill Jacobs August 23, 2007 at 12:50 pm

Dear Stephanie, I have a friend that is overweight and a diabetic. He eats everything in sight. Every time he takes the traditional urine test, the test detects sugar and thinks it’s alcohol and gives a positive result. They then run the newer ETG test which specifically detects whether the body has taken in ethyl alcohol and the result is negative. For him, he feels blessed that the ETG test proves 100% the non-existence of alcohol intake in his body. If I were you I’d relax, eat normal foods and if you are not actively drinking you will not get one of those whopping 6.000 scores. Now for the common sense part. If you stand in a fog of alcohol vapor, your lungs will absorb it into your blood and you’ll get “drunk”. The subtle point is it’s up to you not to do this, you don’t promise the Judge that you will not drink “Jack Daniels”, you promise the courts that you will not take alcohol into your body. Yes, at that point you are expected to be an adult and read labels. Don’t use ethyl alcohol based hand sanitizer(don’t breath the vapors), don’t use alcohol based mouthwash and dont drink alcohol based cough syrup(NYQUIL is 40 proof). Your body absorbs these through the mouth/stomach or through the lungs by inhaling the vapors. I have only heard of inadvertent alcohol exposure barely showing up (100-700 score) whereas a mix drink or a big drink of NYQUIL (just a mix drink that tastes bad) will score a whopping 6,000 score. If for some reason you bathed in hand sanitizer and got a positive low score (100-700)the judge is gonna quiz you. If you have your act together you will probably be fine, but even Sister Teresa with a score of 7000 is a sunk skunk.

Stephanie August 23, 2007 at 5:11 pm

Hey Bill, Thanks for the reply….I now understand what u are saying. I also have a friend that went through this and she did end up drinking and a week later it showed up negative. How is that? Does it leave the body that fast? I never was one to have to have a drink. It would be nice to have one or two on occasion but I cant do that until November of 2008. All this is just a big shock for me. I got my first DUI the beginning of this year. I have never had to answer to anyone and to be quite honest with u, it really sucks. But again with the ETG, isnt it true that if someone has a drink and a week later goes for an ETG test then it will be out of the system by then? Thanks for your time. Stephanie

Stephanie August 28, 2007 at 6:49 am

I just wanted to let everyone know that I am not gonna use this website anymore. Please dont leave any responses for me. Thanks and have a great day

Gene November 14, 2007 at 2:04 pm

For all of you disbelievers I am a false positve victim. I work on electronic circuit boards and one of the ways to removed solder flux residue from a board after soldering on it is to scrub it with a brush dipped in alcohol (smelling the fumes). If you want to know what inhaling alcohol is like try taking a cotton ball soaking it in rubbing alcohol and clean your forhead and around your nose for acne. When your eyes tear up and your sinuses start to run you have been inhaling alcohol. I was not aware of how sensitive the test was or I would not have been so careless with alcohol (not the beverage type). I am in a situation right now where I either fight this or lie to them and say I had a break down and drank alcohole wich is what they want me to say and start over in the program. But once I say I did I won’t be able to recant my testimony. My drug court date is Nov. 26, 07. Wish me luck

Gene November 14, 2007 at 2:10 pm

For all of you disbelievers I am a false positve victim. I work on electronic circuit boards and one of the ways to removed solder flux residue from a board after soldering on it is to scrub it with a brush dipped in alcohol (smelling the fumes). If you want to know what inhaling alcohol is like try taking a cotton ball soaking it in rubbing alcohol and clean your forhead and around your nose for acne. When your eyes tear up and your sinuses start to run you have been inhaling alcohol. I was not aware of how sensitive the test was or I would not have been so careless with alcohol (not the beverage type). I am in a situation right now where I either fight this or lie to them and say I had a break down and drank alcohol which is what they want me to say and start over in the program. But once I say I did I won’t be able to recant my testimony. My drug court date is Nov. 26, 07. Wish me luck

Rant November 14, 2007 at 2:29 pm


Sorry to hear about your misfortune. Best of luck on the 26th.

Jessica November 19, 2007 at 2:07 pm

I too am a false possitive victim. I work in the health care field and am around hand sanitizer and rubbing alcohol all day. In addition I have been using vinegar for salad dressing. I have not had an alcoholic beverage in over 10 months and am in a Intensive out pt. program. I have tested negative for the last four months, until they switched to etg testing. This test is so grossly unreliable. My score was over 500. They are now doing a GC/MS on my last two samples after I told them I was suing. I sure hope this test can distinguish between exposure and consumption. Will find out after the holiday.
Thank-God I am not court ordered or I would be in a world of hurt. I really feel for those false possitives that have to deal w/ the system. I already paid in advance cash for my tx. program and will not be able to get a refund if I cannot complete it. I am so mad I just want to quit, but I also want my moneys worth and to complete what I started.
This test is absolute b.s. and should be pulled from the labs. Good luck to everyone fighting this crap and I
will let you know what happens.

Jessica November 22, 2007 at 7:35 pm

I went to my I.O.P. group on Tues. and they got the GC/MS tests back on one of two of my false possitives that were over 500ng. It was negative!! I am so happy not to have to worry about this nonsense as well as trying to prove that I am not a liar when I am indeed telling the truth.
The very best thing of all is that this tx. center that I go to, is no longer using the etg on any of their pt.s anymore because the center director could not believe that after how high my test was it came back negative. I really feel like this hedache of a hassle was worth it now that it may save many more false possitive pt.s. I really suggest to anyone who is truly not using and showing possitive to insist for a GC/MS test to clear their name. Good Luck to everyone else and I hope you never have to go through being called a liar when you have been on the right track.

Rant November 22, 2007 at 7:58 pm


Great news, indeed. Best of luck to you in the future.

Zert December 26, 2007 at 4:11 am

I’m also a victum. I have been researching many web sites and it’s bs.

My question .. my test was preformed Sept. 24, 2007. My PO violated me November 27, 2007. I went to court Dec. 10, 2007 and my case was continued to January 15, 2008. I contacted the lab and asked what test do they do and my only answer was “We screen”. I have asked for the ls/ms heck anything .. but how long is your urine good?

One site said 14 days if kept at 4 degres C or 22 degrees C. Do you or anyone know the answer to thayt? Oh and for kickers the Nov. 27 was my last check in day.

Pretty low


Ann February 10, 2008 at 6:40 pm

Is there anything out there that will clear my system of alcohol

Rant February 10, 2008 at 6:47 pm

All I know of is time. After a while, it passes out of your system. Other than that, I don’t know of any treatments or methods to clear it out any faster.

ali March 14, 2008 at 6:15 pm

Got a question. I did not realize that odoul’s had alcohol. Thought I was being good. I had half of one yesterday at 5:00pm and then was called to test today at 3pm. Will it show up in my urine.

Rant March 14, 2008 at 6:23 pm

O’douls has what — about 0.5% alcohol. It might show up, but given how little is in there compared to a regular beer (usually around 5 or 6 percent alcohol), I can’t imagine that it would trigger a positive result. I wouldn’t spend too much time worrying about it. You had basically one-tenth or one-twentieth the amount in a regular beer.

ali March 16, 2008 at 2:30 pm

I have friend that asked me if she drank two glasses of red wine on Saturday at 5pm and then was tested on Tuesday at 4:30 pm would it show up on her test. I have done alot of research and can’t find anything based on the time-excretions and levels. Will it show between 1-250, 1-500, 1-750 ect. Does metabolism have anything to do with it. She ran 8 miles on Sunday and 3 miles on Monday because she is training for a marathon. The test was taken at about 70 hours of consumption. Everything I have read says that it will show up if she had consumed heavily, or even moderately but I would consider that minor amounts. I figured it was about 22g of ethanol ingested. One 5oz glass contains 11.1 ethanol. I know this is really detailed.

panopoulos November 1, 2008 at 10:11 pm

I drank a bottle and one split of champagne within three hrs. Had an ETG 84 hrs later and passed. But, I drank LOTS of water along with caffeine. Caffeine is a diuretic & will cause you to urinate. Good luck; I was scared to death.

Tim Shepard March 10, 2009 at 1:54 pm

My ex told the judge I am an alcoholic because I drink a 6 pack of Coors Light now and again.I am looking at losing joint custody of my kids for a reading of 220nG/mL. I didn’t drink anything for 5 days. But they didn’t tell me that Listerine gargle will totally make you fail this test.

This is killing me.

sam April 18, 2009 at 8:49 pm

Bill Jacobs you are excused. Seems that it’s easy to be sanctimonious until you’d find your professional license in jeopardy due to the insufficiently researched etg “golden standard.”
I’d love to see how “relaxed” you’d be should you find yourself in recovery and facing a multitude of financial and legal consequences in addition to complying with mandated parameters of a state licensee contract.
Some ADULT Advise for you: I hope you never have to “walk the mile in my moccasins…”

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