Urine ethanol measurement
What is this test?
This test measures the amount of ethanol in urine. Ethanol is another name for alcohol. This test is used to assess for recent alcohol intake, and is used when alcohol intoxication is suspected.
What are other names for this test?
- Urine ethanol level
What are related tests?
- Serum ethanol measurement
Why do I need this test?
Laboratory tests may be done for many reasons. Tests are performed for routine health screenings or if a disease or toxicity is suspected. Lab tests may be used to determine if a medical condition is improving or worsening. Lab tests may also be used to measure the success or failure of a medication or treatment plan. Lab tests may be ordered for professional or legal reasons. You may need this test if you have:
- Alcohol intoxication
When and how often should I have this test?
When and how often laboratory tests are done may depend on many factors. The timing of laboratory tests may rely on the results or completion of other tests, procedures, or treatments. Lab tests may be performed immediately in an emergency, or tests may be delayed as a condition is treated or monitored. A test may be suggested or become necessary when certain signs or symptoms appear.
Due to changes in the way your body naturally functions through the course of a day, lab tests may need to be performed at a certain time of day. If you have prepared for a test by changing your food or fluid intake, lab tests may be timed in accordance with those changes. Timing of tests may be based on increased and decreased levels of medications, drugs or other substances in the body.
The age or gender of the person being tested may affect when and how often a lab test is required. Chronic or progressive conditions may need ongoing monitoring through the use of lab tests. Conditions that worsen and improve may also need frequent monitoring. Certain tests may be repeated to obtain a series of results, or tests may need to be repeated to confirm or disprove results. Timing and frequency of lab tests may vary if they are performed for professional or legal reasons.
How should I get ready for the test?
To prepare for giving a urine sample, be sure to drink enough fluids before the test, unless you have been given other instructions. Try not to empty your bladder before the test.
How is the test done?
To provide a sample of urine, you will be asked to urinate into a container. Fill the container as much as you can, but do not overfill it. Urine samples may also be taken from a catheter.
Two urine samples, collected 30 to 60 minutes apart may be required for this test.
How will the test feel?
The amount of discomfort you feel will depend on many factors, including your sensitivity to pain. Communicate how you are feeling with the person doing the test. Inform the person doing the test if you feel that you cannot continue with the test.
This test usually causes no discomfort.
What should I do after the test?
After collecting a urine sample, close the container if it has a lid. Place the container where the healthcare worker asked you to put it. Clean your hands with soap and water.
What are the risks?
Urine: A urine test is generally considered safe. Talk to your healthcare worker if you have questions or concerns about this test.
What are normal results for this test?
Laboratory test results may vary depending on your age, gender, health history, the method used for the test, and many other factors. If your results are different from the results suggested below, this may not mean that you have a disease. Contact your healthcare worker if you have any questions. The following is considered to be a normal result for this test:
- Adults and Children: Negative
What might affect my test results?
- Results Increased In:
- Diabetes, resulting from the conversion of urine glucose to ethanol by microorganisms 
- Urinary tract infection 
What follow up should I do after this test?
Ask your healthcare worker how you will be informed of the test results. You may be asked to call for results, schedule an appointment to discuss results, or notified of results by mail. Follow up care varies depending on many factors related to your test. Sometimes there is no follow up after you have been notified of test results. At other times follow up may be suggested or necessary. Some examples of follow up care include changes to medication or treatment plans, referral to a specialist, more or less frequent monitoring, and additional tests or procedures. Talk with your healthcare worker about any concerns or questions you have regarding follow up care or instructions.
Where can I get more information?
- National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence - http://www.ncadd.org
- Alcoholics Anonymous - http://www.alcoholics-anonymous.org.
- Al-anon/Alateen - http://www.al-anon.alateen.org/
 Laposata M: Assessment of ethanol intake: current tests and new assays on the horizon. Am J Clin Pathol 1999; 112:443-450.
 Jones AW: Reference limits for urine/blood ratios of ethanol in two successive voids from drinking drivers. J Anal Toxicol 2002; 26(6):333-339.
 Winek CL & Esposito FM: The validity of urine alcohol analysis in drunk drivers. Leg Med 1987; ::97-106.
 Jones AW: Lack of association between urinary creatinine and ethanol concentrations and urine/blood ratio of ethanol in two successive voids from drinking drivers. J Anal Toxicol 1998; 22:184-190.
Last Updated: 5/4/2018