Looking at the Testing for Alcohol Before and During Employment

Whether you landed a new job or management is cleaning up the office, workplace drug testing is a common scenario. Most people can confidently assert that no illegal drug will show up on their tests. However, alcohol is different because it is both legal and widely consumed.

But, and here is the question you came for: Does alcohol show up on a drug test for work?

Short and simple: alcohol can show up on a drug test for your employer, but they often don’t screen for it. It takes about 12 hours for alcohol to clear your system and give you a negative result, but it will depend on what type of test your employer issues.

Changes Healing Center can help you get the help you need for upcoming drug testing so that you pass with flying colors. Keep reading to learn more about how much alcohol you can drink before testing for work or otherwise, and why to choose Changes for support if drinking (or drugs) has become a regular concern!

24 Hour Alcohol Detox And Rehab Helpline.

Drug Testing and Alcohol Consumption: Will This Test Derail Your Career?

The question for many employees is whether they will face repercussions for drinking alcohol when they take a routine drug test. In reality, there are no hard and fast answers about what shows up on a panel for workplace drug testing, or probation drug testing for that matter (though these tests are often more sensitive). Some will detect alcohol while others scan specifically for illegal drugs and prescription medications.

With that in mind, you should inquire with your employer whether alcohol is considered part of a drug-free environment. Keep in mind that they may also order an alcohol test if there is an accident in the workplace and they have reason to believe it is due to substance abuse.

If alcohol falls under the scope of their drug tests, then you should refrain from alcohol consumption. Even if it is social, it could show up on an alcohol test for 1-3 days.

What Jobs Test for Alcohol in their Pre-Employment Drug Test?

Just because your employer mandates drug tests for all employees doesn’t mean that they are going to scan your urine tests for alcohol use. However, certain industries will have much more stringent rules for alcohol consumption. You could be subject to drug testing at a moment’s notice and it might just include alcohol.

This is especially true for anyone who works in certain government positions or in sectors that can influence public safety. For example, the Department of Transportation doesn’t officially scan their workers for alcohol, but they have the right to test you at any time.

What Do Drug Tests Typically Test For?

Drug Test

Drug testing is common in industries that you may not expect. Even basic entry-level positions often have requirements as far as sobriety is concerned. In most cases, these tests aren’t looking for legal substances like prescription medication or even alcohol.

Most often, they are testing for five key substances:

However, an employer can add any drug screening that they want to your testing. They can make these tests a prerequisite for your job offer, which can feel extremely stressful if you aren’t sure what they are testing for. The best thing you can do is have an open conversation with your employer about whether alcohol is included in their screening.

How Long Will You Test Positive for Alcohol?

Once you know that your workplace drug testing is going to include an alcohol screening, you should ensure that scheduled testing occurs after the substance clears your system. The half-life of alcohol is much shorter than other drugs which is good news for a pre-employment drug test or a routine check.

Alcohol’s half-life is typically five hours and it requires approximately five half-lives (25 hours) to clear your body.

That means that if you wait roughly one full day from your alcohol use to your drug tests, then you may be in the clear. Urine drug testing has the shortest detection window at just twelve hours after the last drink. The same is true of a blood test.

Hair drug tests can also scan for alcohol use and may have more long-term consequences than urine tests. They can show your substance use for up to 90 days. This could pose problems for employers who are trying to find someone who doesn’t drink at all.

What if You Have Positive Drug Tests for Alcohol?

Positive Drug Tests for Alcohol

Many people worry about the results of their alcohol tests and what it means for long-term employment. Unless you work in an industry that forbids alcohol consumption altogether, there may not be any long-term consequences of having a positive result.

Unlike illicit drugs that are typically tested for in the workplace, alcohol is completely legal (as long as you are of age). This means that you can legally consume alcohol during your off-hours so long as you ensure that enough time elapses between alcohol consumed and the start of your shift.

Most industries require 4 to 24 hours between your last serving of alcoholic beverages and the start of a shift. For example, the FAA requires eight hours from “bottle to throttle.”

If you work in these industries, they may implement breath testing when you clock in to ensure that you are sober enough for duty.

What Can Help if I Need to Test Negative for Alcohol?

Maybe you’re worried because you just found out that your employer considered alcohol part of their drug-free environment. The problem is that you’ve been drinking socially in the evenings with friends and now you need to ensure that it doesn’t show up on a urine test, even if you haven’t had any other drug use.

Experts suggest that you eat something with your drink which helps the body to break down alcohol faster. Drinking a carbonated beverage is another way to push alcohol through the small intestine and get it out of the body faster.

Get Proven Detox And Rehab Options Now!

The Reality of False Positives on Alcohol Drug Tests

A false positive might be a concern for anyone who abstains from alcohol but gets tested routinely. In certain fields, you may experience a high exposure to other substances that contain alcohol such as hand sanitizer, mouthwash, and even antiperspirant.

In a recent study, researchers tested people for alcohol after exposing them to hand sanitizer every five minutes for ten hours each day, three days in a row. The result was false positives due to the chemicals in the hand sanitizer. This could spell problems for nurses and other healthcare professionals.

The same study shows that detecting alcohol on a test could require more specific screenings to decide whether an employee has the same metabolites in their system as someone who drinks more alcohol. Ethyl sulfate levels were lower in those who didn’t drink which could be an indicative test following a false positive for employees who want to prove their sobriety.

Get Substance Abuse Treatment Before Giving Samples

Enroll in a Medical Detox First

Many people are aware that their alcohol consumption and substance abuse are getting out of hand, and they know that it could cost them their careers. If this describes you, then it may be time to seek professional help for drinking before giving blood, breath, saliva, or urine samples.

By seeking help through an inpatient treatment facility, you can postpone those tests until the alcohol leaves your system. At the same time, you will be safe from the temptation to turn to the bottle again and can kickstart your recovery properly.

Enroll in a Medical Detox First

If a person consumes alcohol regularly, they may have some uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms that they need to manage. A medical detox could be the solution to remain comfortable while you allow the substances to leave your system. Because symptoms can be extreme, it’s best to detox under the care of a medical team.

You will have around-the-clock medical supervision and access to safe medications that can offset the most significant symptoms. Plus, counselors are available to help you work through cravings, anxiety, mood issues, and more while you reside with us.

Alcohol contributes to more than 178,000 deaths in the United States each year. Set yourself up for success with difficult withdrawal symptoms in a medical detox.

Transition to Inpatient Care for Alcohol and Illegal Drug Use

No matter what type of substance abuse you may be facing, inpatient care programs are typically the next step. At this point in the recovery process, you will reside in our state-of-the-art facility and benefit from robust interventions all day long. You’ll have access to one-on-one therapy, group therapy, and complementary therapies.

You will have no opportunities to consume alcohol or other substances as long as you are with us. This ensures that you will have a negative drug test when you graduate.

This may be something you want to consider before a pre-employment drug test is sprung on you. The employer may not be able to hold the position open for the 30 to 90 days that you will be in a treatment facility like ours. If you know that you’re facing an impending career change, get help first.

Does Alcohol Show Up on a Drug Test for Work? Getting Outpatient Support Options for Drinking

Transition to Outpatient Care

Once you feel ready to step down to outpatient care, it may be time to offer up another sample for your employers. This can permit you to come back to work, even if just on a part-time basis. Meanwhile, you will still have the care and therapeutic interventions of an outpatient program.

In other words, you will spend hours each day in our facility but return to your bed, work, family, and other responsibilities in your off time. This is a great way to practice sobriety before you leap back into your life again. It gives you time to practice and process what you have learned.

By this point, your urine sample should test clean so that you can submit to pre-employment screening or routine drug and alcohol tests at your job.

Reach Out For Help At Changes Today!

Get Proven Help for Alcohol at Changes Healing Center Today

When you are worried that your employers will detect alcohol on a drug test, it might be time to face up to the fact that you have a drinking problem. Changes Healing Center wants to walk alongside you as you think about taking the all-important step into sobriety. We can provide a place for you to heal and grow in our comfortable facility.

Our warm and welcoming enrollment team is waiting to answer your questions today. Allow us to verify your insurance benefits with a quick phone call so that you know your options.

Rest assured, all calls are confidential, so please reach out to us today!


  1. Hallare J, Gerriets V. Half Life. [Updated 2023 Jun 20]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2024 Jan-. Available from:
  2. Federal Aviation Administration. (n.d.). Alcohol and flying brochure.
  3. Frawley Birdwell, A. (n.d.). A positive test without drinking?. The POST.
  4. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Medical complications: Common alcohol-related concerns. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.