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DUI EtG Testing

If you are convicted of operating while intoxicated (OWI) in Michigan, you may be required to abstain from alcohol as a condition of your probation. There are a few different methods by which your alcohol consumption may be monitored, including alcohol-detecting tethers such as the SCRAM anklet.

The most common method, though, is random testing based on a color code system. If your color is called and you are required to test for alcohol use, you will typically be given either an EtG or a PBT alcohol screen.

Over the past several years, EtG (short for ethyl glucuronide) testing has become increasingly popular as a means of monitoring alcohol use by people who are court-ordered to abstain from drinking following a drunk driving conviction. These tests can supposedly detect alcohol metabolites in the body for up to several days after drinking.

Ethyl glucuronide, also called EtG, is a by-product of the body's metabolization of ethyl alcohol, the kind found in alcoholic beverages. The presence of EtG in your body can be an indication that you have consumed alcohol.

How EtG Testing Works

Unlike breathalyzers and blood tests that look for the direct presence of alcohol in your bloodstream and are meant to determine the level of intoxication at the time of the test, an EtG test can supposedly detect alcohol metabolites in your body for up to three days after drinking.

In theory, this is similar to the way marijuana testing works—even if you are not under the influence of marijuana (or in this case, alcohol) at the time of testing, the presence of certain metabolites can indicate that the substance has been used.

The idea is that if you have been ordered by the court to abstain from drinking, an EtG test will reveal whether you have actually consumed alcohol or not—even if the drinks were consumed more than two days ago.

However, the EtG test has been known to produce false-positives, and scientists, doctors, and officials at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration have questioned the reliability of the results.

Potential Causes of False-Positive Results

Because the EtG test is designed to detect even minuscule amounts of ethyl alcohol metabolites, false-positive results can occur from contact with products containing alcohol or alcohol vapor or ingestion of food that contains alcohol. For example, a positive EtG screen could potentially result from:

  • Use of topical hand sanitizer
  • Exposure to certain cleaning products
  • Use of over-the-counter medications
  • Ingestion of communal or sacramental wine
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