Seasonal and Regional Influences on Alcohol Consumption: An Analysis of Near-Real-Time Urine Drug Test Results in Those Seeking Health Care

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2021 Oct 1;227:108908. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2021.108908. Epub 2021 Jul 21.


Aims: To examine the probability of detecting alcohol via urine drug testing (UDT) as influenced by age, gender, seasonality, geography, COVID-19, and time in those seeking health care.

Methods: A cross-sectional study of UDT results from January 1, 2013, to December 31, 2020, was conducted using adult patient specimens submitted for testing by health care professionals as part of routine care. The UDT analysis used LC-MS/MS to detect two alcohol metabolites, ethyl glucuronide and ethyl sulfate. Seasonal adjustment of positivity rates was accomplished using the STL method; trend analysis was performed on seasonally adjusted rates. Logistic regression was used to associate demographic features, and an interaction term for collection year and U.S. census division was included to help understand the changing nature of alcohol use over time and across divisions.

Results: Alcohol positivity rate shows strong seasonal changes with an oscillating profile that peaks in the summer and is at a low point in winter. The highest predicted positivity rate for alcohol was in male patients, 45-64 years of age, and from a primary care setting. Alcohol positivity peaked in 2016 and declined the following year. While remaining relatively steady since 2017, a small but significant increase was noted after the COVID-19 emergency declaration on March 13, 2020. The probability of being alcohol-positive varies significantly by geographic region, and not all regions are changing at the same rate.

Conclusions: Alcohol positivity in UDT in patients seeking health care is influenced by multiple factors and has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Keywords: Alcohol use; COVID-19; Influences on alcohol positivity; Patients seeking health care; Urine drug testing.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology
  • COVID-19*
  • Chromatography, Liquid
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pandemics
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations*
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Seasons
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry


  • Pharmaceutical Preparations