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Alcohol Test

Accurately measure blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to ensure safety, compliance, and informed decision-making regarding alcohol consumption and impairment.

Collection method

Typically blood (venipuncture)

Test preparation

None

Restrictions

Ages 18+ only; Could vary by provider

Turnaround time

Typically 48-72 hours

Book a alcohol test near you

Alcohol Testing

Alcohol tests are usually given at medical facilities, such as hospital emergency rooms, urgent care centers, and walk-in clinics. If you need to locate a provider that offers alcohol testing, use Solv to narrow your options to only the highest-rated providers and book an appointment online right away with no phone call necessary.

What is an alcohol test?

An alcohol test is a test that measures the amount of alcohol or ethanol you have in your body. It can be done as a blood test, urine test, or breathalyzer test. An alcohol test is commonly used to determine whether you have been drinking alcohol and the amount you drank.

What is an alcohol test used for?

An alcohol test can be used for a wide range of purposes. According to the National Library of Medicine (NLM) legal evidence is one of the most common reasons to get an alcohol test.

You may have an alcohol test to confirm whether you have been driving under the influence (meaning that you were operating a moving vehicle while your blood alcohol level is above the legal limit). In most states, you could get a DUI charge if your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08% or higher.

Other reasons why you may need an alcohol test, according to the NLM include

  • An alcohol test may also be used as part of a court case or parole agreement, an investigation into a criminal or motor vehicle accident, or to check for underage drinking.
  • Some employers may require you to have an alcohol test before they hire you or may ask you to submit to random alcohol testing so they can check to see if you are drinking alcohol while working.
  • If you have an accident at the workplace, your employer may require you to have an alcohol test to determine whether alcohol was involved.
  • Checking for alcohol poisoning or monitoring the success of treatment for alcohol poisoning or alcohol use disorder.
  • A hospital may also use an alcohol test on you or your children if alcohol poisoning is suspected, such as if your children consumed a high amount of cold medicine.
  • A substance abuse treatment center may do an alcohol test to determine whether you have been staying abstinent from alcohol.

Who should get an alcohol test?

You may need an alcohol test if you are showing symptoms of intoxication. According to the NLM, signs and symptoms of intoxication include:

  • Poor balance and coordination
  • Stumbling and/or falling
  • Slurred speech
  • Slow and deliberate movement
  • Speech that is quick, slow, or fluctuating
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Being overly friendly
  • Being loud
  • Using foul language
  • Belligerence
  • Argumentative
  • Red, watery eyes
  • Sweating
  • Droopy eyelids
  • Lack of eye focus
  • Flushing of the face
  • You may also need an alcohol test if you are suspected of driving while intoxicated, according to the NLM. For example, if you get pulled over by a law enforcement officer due to unsafe driving behavior, the officer may require you to get an alcohol test. The NLM adds that an alcohol test may also be needed if you or your child are showing symptoms of alcohol poisoning.

    In addition to the symptoms outlined above, the NLM reports that alcohol poisoning may cause:

    • Confusion
    • Irregular breathing
    • Low body temperature
    • Seizures

    Visit a hospital emergency room, urgent care center, or walk-in clinic if you’re not sure whether you need an alcohol test. A healthcare professional at one of these facilities can confirm whether an alcohol test is needed.

    What to expect with an alcohol test

    An alcohol test can be performed as a blood test, urine test, or breathalyzer test. Your experience will vary, depending on which type of test you have done.

    During an alcohol blood test, a trained professional will use a tiny needle to draw a small sample of blood from a vein in your arm or hand. Your blood will be collected into a test tube or vial and evaluated in a lab to determine whether alcohol is present, along with the amount of alcohol you consumed.

    During an alcohol urine test, a sample of your urine is collected in a sterile collection cup. The urine collection may be done with supervision from a trained professional, but your modesty should be protected. The urine sample is then sent to a lab to determine the presence and amount of alcohol.

    During an alcohol breathalyzer test, you will exhale into a breathalyzer device that will immediately measure the amount of alcohol concentration in your breath. This test is performed by a trained professional such as a law enforcement officer or healthcare worker—or can be done by yourself with a personal breathalyzer device.

    What preparation is needed for an alcohol test?

    There is no special preparation needed for an alcohol test, according to the NLM. However, the University of Rochester Medical Center suggests telling the testing provider about all medicines, herbs, vitamins, and supplements you are taking, as they may affect your results.

    How can I find an alcohol test provider near me?

    An easy and convenient way to find an alcohol test provider in your area is to use Solv.

    Solv features a directory that narrows your options to only the highest-rated providers in your area. It also gives you the ability to make an appointment directly from the website.

    What’s the difference between an alcohol blood test and an alcohol breath test?

    A blood test checks for the presence and amount of alcohol in your blood. An alcohol breath test (also known as a breathalyzer test) checks your breath for the presence and amount of alcohol being metabolized by your body. According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, although both very accurate, a blood test is more accurate than a breathalyzer test.

    Understanding alcohol test results

    Results from an alcohol test may vary based on factors such as your age, gender, and health history, reports the University of Rochester Medical Center. They also add that your test results may even be different depending on the lab you used.

    The BAC level in your test results may also be given in different ways, says the University of Rochester Medical Center. According to the university, alcohol tests from law enforcement agencies report BAC as grams per deciliter (g/dL) or percent, and healthcare workers report BAC using milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or millimoles per liter (mmol/L).

    The NLM reports that the timing of an alcohol test may also affect your results, as these tests are accurate for only six to 12 hours after the last drink. The University of Rochester Medical Center adds that BACs will be different for each person based on factors including metabolism, body weight, and the amount of alcohol that was consumed.

    According to the NLM, here’s what results from an alcohol test could mean:

    Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC)

    Alcohol Test Results

    0.0%

    Sober

    0.08%

    Legally Intoxicated

    0.08% - 0.4%

    Legally Intoxicated and very impaired; you may have difficulty speaking and walking. Other symptoms of “very impaired” include nausea, confusion, and drowsiness

    0.4% or higher

    Legally Intoxicated and at risk for serious complications such as coma or death

    Talk to the alcohol testing provider if you need help interpreting the results of your alcohol test or if you have questions about your results. The NLM suggests talking to a lawyer if you have concerns about your alcohol test results.

    How to get an alcohol test

    In many instances, an alcohol test is ordered or performed by:

    • A law enforcement officer
    • Parole officer
    • Employer
    • Hospital emergency staff
    • Staff at an alcohol treatment center,

    These individuals or organizations will usually facilitate the test if it is suspected that you may be intoxicated or suffering from alcohol poisoning.

    Another way to get an alcohol test is to use Solv to look for testing providers in your area. Solv has a directory that allows you to easily find places near you that offer alcohol testing. Then, you can contact the testing provider to make an appointment or schedule an appointment directly from the website.

    Can I get an at-home alcohol test?

    Yes, you can get an at-home alcohol test. There are various types of at-home alcohol tests available on the market, including breathalyzer devices, saliva tests, and urine tests. These tests can provide an estimate of your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level, which is the amount of alcohol present in your blood.

    It is important to note that the accuracy of at-home alcohol tests can vary, and they may not be as reliable as professional testing conducted by a healthcare provider or law enforcement agency. However, they can still provide a general indication of your BAC level, which can be helpful if you need to determine whether it is safe for you to drive or operate heavy machinery.

    Cost of an alcohol test

    The cost of home alcohol tests can vary depending on the type of test and the brand. Here are some rough estimates from FindLabTest.com giving an average cost for different types of home alcohol tests:

    • Breathalyzer devices: $30 to $150
    • Saliva tests: $5 to $20 per test
    • Urine tests: $10 to $30 per test

    Medical-grade alcohol tests vary in price depending on location and insurance coverage. The national average for medical-grade alcohol testing is $55 to $149.

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3

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Safe and secure

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Reviewed by physicians

Reviewed by physicians

Board-certified physicians review your results before you receive them.

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Alcohol Testing FAQs

Find answers to the most commonly asked questions about lab tests.

Alcohol can be detected in urine for a variable period of time depending on several factors, according to the American Addiction Center. Some of these factors include:
  • Amount of alcohol consumed
  • The frequency of consumption
  • Age, weight, and metabolism
  • The type of test used
Generally, urine tests can detect alcohol for up to 12-24 hours after the last drink, but in some cases, it may be detected for up to 72 hours or more. It's important to note that urine tests do not measure current impairment from alcohol consumption but rather the presence of alcohol in the system
The legal blood alcohol limit for driving can vary by state or country. In the United States, each state sets its own legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit for driving, which can range from 0.00 to 0.08%. Other countries may have different BAC limits for driving. To find out the legal blood alcohol limit for driving in your state or country, you can search online for the information. The Governors Highway Safety Association and The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration both offer state-by-state guides to impaired driving laws.
Alcohol can be detected in a breathalyzer test for a variable amount of time, depending on several factors, including the amount of alcohol consumed, the person's age, weight, and metabolism, and the type of breathalyzer used. Generally, breathalyzer tests can detect alcohol for up to 24 hours after the last drink, but in some cases, it may be detected for up to 48 hours or more, according to the American Addiction Center. It's important to note that breathalyzer tests are not always the most accurate way to detect alcohol use. Other types of tests, such as blood tests, may be more reliable for certain purposes, notes the American Addiction Center.
The NIAAA states that it takes about one hour for the body to metabolize one standard drink of alcohol, but this can vary based on factors such as weight, gender, and the amount of food consumed. Therefore, if someone has had several drinks the night before, it is possible that they could still have a measurable amount of alcohol in their system the next morning, depending on the timing of their last drink and the type of test used. It's important to note that the legal limit for driving or other activities varies by state and country, and it's never safe to drive or engage in activities that require alertness and coordination after consuming alcohol.
According to the American Addiction Center, the accuracy of breathalyzer tests can be affected by factors such as:
  • The device's calibration
  • The person's breath temperature and lung capacity
  • Recent use of some substances like mouthwash or breath fresheners
Yes, alcohol can be detected in a hair follicle test, although this type of test is not typically used to detect recent alcohol use according to the American Addiction Center. Hair follicle testing is more commonly used to detect drug use over a longer period of time, as the drugs or their metabolites can remain in the hair for several months after use.
The amount of time that alcohol stays in the bloodstream can depend on several factors, including the amount of alcohol consumed, the person's age, weight, and metabolism, and the sensitivity of the test used. According to the American Addiction Center, alcohol can be detected in the blood for up to 12 hours after the last drink. However, this can vary depending on individual factors and the sensitivity of the test. For example, some highly sensitive tests can detect alcohol for up to 24 hours or more after the last drink.
An alcohol test may also be known as a blood alcohol level test, ethanol test, ethyl alcohol, and blood alcohol content, according to the NLM. It may also be known as a blood alcohol test or BAC, as noted by the University of Rochester Medical Center.
There is very little risk to having a blood alcohol test, says the NLM. You may experience some bleeding, bruising, lightheadedness, or an infection at the needle insertion site, according to the University of Rochester Medical Center.
According to the NLM, a blood alcohol test is only accurate within six to 12 hours after your last drink. Therefore, your results should be accurate as long as you take the test within that time frame.
A large number of factors can affect the results of an alcohol test, according to the University of Rochester Medical Center. Some of these factors include:
  • Metabolism
  • Health history
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Body weight
  • Certain medications
If you are taking an alcohol test in a hospital emergency room, your healthcare provider may order additional tests to screen for chronic alcohol toxicity, says the University of Rochester Medical Center. Liver function tests, CT scans, and complete blood counts are some of the many tests you may take.
If the results from an alcohol test show that you are legally intoxicated, the consequences will vary based on the situation. For example, if you are legally intoxicated at work, you may be fired. Ask the testing provider for more information regarding the consequences if you are found to be intoxicated.

This publication is not intended to solicit the purchase of laboratory testing from any individual consumer.

Dr. Rob Rohatsch, MD

Updated on Jan 25, 2023

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Rob Rohatsch, MD
LinkedIn

Dr. Rob Rohatsch currently serves as Chief Medical Officer for Solv Health. Dr. Rohatsch brings his extensive background in multi-site ambulatory medicine operations, on-demand healthcare, and consumerism to Solv, where he helps drive strategic initiatives in a cross functional executive role. He brings comprehensive healthcare expertise ranging from medical group operations to revenue cycle management and clinical expertise.

Dr. Rohatsch completed his military service in the US Air Force and earned his MD from Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University. Dr. Rohatsch served on the Yale School of Medicine faculty teaching at the medical school and is currently on faculty at the Haslam School of Business at the University of Tennessee teaching in the Executive MBA Program. He also serves on several boards and chairs The TJ Lobraico Foundation.

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