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How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System?

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the three steps of processing alcohol

Alcohol acts as a central nervous system depressant. When people consume alcoholic drinks excessively, the CNS becomes more active in neutralizing the depressing effects of alcohol. 

The CNS will react when an individual decides to stop drinking alcohol or reduce its amount. That reaction will impact an individual’s health and experience physical symptoms that begin 6 to 12 hours after their last drink. At 48 hours after their last drink, many people will experience dehydration because of excessive sweating. 

People may also experience delirium tremens, a severe symptom of alcohol withdrawal. An individual will experience withdrawal symptoms such as:              

  • Overheating
  • Seizures
  • Headache
  • Hallucination
  • Tremors
  • Nausea

You will experience these effects when the person’s blood alcohol content (BAC) in your system is high. Alcohol is absorbed quickly from your stomach and digestive tract into your bloodstream. That is why you will have its effect within minutes of having alcoholic beverages. People who drink alcohol will feel relaxed and calm. 

But some individuals are prone to angry outbreaks or violent behavior after having two or more drinks. You might have questioned how long alcohol stays in your body after you stop drinking. This question is quite essential for those who are going through detox. 

If you are planning to go through detox and need helpful medical advice, reach out to The Recovery Team. We provide alcohol detox medication and residential treatment to ease your journey toward a life free from alcohol.

Alcohol Metabolism

 When a glass of wine enters your body, it will begin metabolism. Metabolism is a chemical process that breaks down the substance to use as a source of energy. It is essential to learn about alcohol metabolism and how it can impact your vital organs.

Absorption

Alcohol drinks are not metabolized like food or non-alcoholic beverages. First, a small amount of alcohol is absorbed by your tongue and the mucosal lining of the mouth. Once it is in your stomach, it is absorbed into your bloodstream. Food in your gut can affect the absorption of alcohol in two ways:

  • First, it obstructs the alcohol from contacting the stomach lining. Food absorbs alcohol, and it does not enter the bloodstream.
  • Second, food in the stomach prevents alcohol from passing into the duodenum. Duodenum is the upper portion of the small intestine. The surface of the small intestine is quite large. Alcohol can quickly enter your bloodstream when it leaves the stomach. But, if it is stuck in your stomach, the absorption process will take time.

Transportation

Alcohol is carried to all your organs when it circulates in your bloodstream. The health of a person drinking too much alcohol influences its effect. In a healthy person, blood circulates in 90 seconds, allowing alcohol to affect your vital organs in a short time.

You will feel the extreme effects of binge drinking within 15 to 45 minutes or less. The length of time you will experience the influence of alcohol depends on numerous factors like age, health, amount of alcohol, the ability of the liver to produce alcohol dehydrogenase, and gender. The remaining alcohol enters tissues of the body except for bone and fat. The vast majority of alcohol metabolism occurs in the liver. In the male body, alcohol can penetrate 68 percent of body tissues.

Alcohol Metabolism

Alcohol poisoning can occur due to excessive drinking; our body neutralizes it because it’s a toxin. Around ten percent of alcohol is eliminated from our bodies through sweat, urine, and breath. Alcohol evaporates in the air, so when alcohol in the blood content enters the lungs’ alveoli, it is removed from our body through breathing.

The liver is the vital organ responsible for the detoxification of alcohol. The liver enzyme produces aldehyde dehydrogenase and alcohol dehydrogenase and breaks down alcohol into ketones. Alcohol is identified in our body as a toxic substance, and it is metabolized into carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is then removed from our bodies. Alcohol use disorder can result in liver damage because it has to metabolize excessive alcohol.

 How Long Until Alcohol is Out of Your System?

The sensation of being drunk due to alcohol use varies from person to person. It depends upon a number of internal and external factors. A convenient way of determining an individual’s drinking habit is by measuring blood alcohol concentration (BAC). 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) standard drink is around 0.6 ounces of alcohol. The ounce of alcohol for a standard drink varies in the United States. In most states in America, a person (21 years of age or older) cannot legally operate any vehicle if their blood alcohol content (BAC) is greater than a legal limit of 0.08%. 

The person will experience various symptoms at various BAC levels:

  • 0.02 percent is the lowest volume of BAC. This level results in relaxation, excitement, and difficulty in making decisions.
  • At 0.05 percent of blood alcohol content, an average person will exhibit behavior such as difficulty in communicating, poor vision, and speaking louder. Such individual is dangerous to people around them.
  • At 0.08 level, concentration and self-control are reduced. A person at this level should avoid operating machinery or driving a vehicle.
  • Around 0.10 percent BAC, people will struggle to control their body functions like standing and walking.
  • Around 0.15 percent BAC, individuals will exhibit signs of sickness due to binge drinking and will be unable to make a decision or make sense of events around them.
  • When a blood alcohol level is above 0.20 percent person has no control over their body’s movement. They won’t notice if they are injured in that condition because pain receptors are not responsive. This BAC level causes nausea and blackouts.
  • At 0.30 to 0.39 percent, breathing and bladder functions are diminished, which puts your life at risk. A person faces difficulty in breathing and may die.
  • At 0.40 to 0.49 percent stage higher BAC and beyond, an individual requires the attention of a medical professional because a person may experience symptoms of heart attack or stroke.

Even after the side effects of alcohol wear off, alcohol is still active in your system for long periods. It also depends on the test used to detect alcohol blood levels. For example, using a breathalyzer test, alcohol is traceable in the breath and saliva. It is detectable for up to 24 hours after your last drink. 

One can detect alcohol in the bloodstream for up to 12 hours. It is active in urine for up to five days. According to National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, there are a few factors that affect how long alcohol takes to wear off:

  • Type of drink and percentage of alcohol in it.
  • Eating food or drinking water slows down alcohol metabolism.
  • Drinking alcohol on an empty stomach also impacts metabolism.

For How Long Does Alcohol Stay in your System?

Various tests can reveal the presence of alcohol in your body for several hours, days, or months after heavy drinking. Alcohol abuse can have severe consequences on your health. If you know someone going through alcohol addiction, you can help them by contacting us. At our treatment facility, we provide Individual Therapy that builds a healthy relationship between a patient and a therapist.

Urine Test

A urine test is best to detect ethyl alcohol within 6 to 12 hours after drinking. The ethanol in alcohol is detected by using a urine test. For this test urine sample of a patient is used. Ethyl glucuronides are alcohol metabolites that appear in urine after alcohol intake. 

However, EtG tests sometimes show false positive results. Urine tests are not suitable to perform at a traffic stop because results will not be correct due to a number of factors. If a person is banned from drinking by the court and relapsed, then this test is beneficial to detect that. 

Breath Test

A breath test can confirm alcohol consumption within the last 12 to 24 hours. A breathalyzer is a compact gadget that measures blood alcohol content when you blow into it. It shows results immediately. According to National Highway Traffic Safety BAC limit for adults is 0.08 percent because driving abilities are impaired at that level. A percentage above 0.08 is considered unsafe for operating technical machinery. 

Police use breath tests during a traffic stop to determine the alcohol blood level in an alleged person’s blood. In the United States “zero tolerance” rule is introduced for drivers under 21. Teenage drivers have been banned from driving any vehicle with any visible amount of alcohol in their bodies.

Hair Test

The most reliable method of detecting alcohol intake is examining your hair’s ethyl glucuronide and fatty acid ethyl esters. Both of them indicate alcohol consumption when there is a high BAC level. Usually, the hair alcohol test is employed for legal purposes such as DUI cases, parental custody cases, clinical services, and underage driving investigations. 

This test can detect alcohol consumption for up to 90 days. The hair test result is more accurate when hair is analyzed carefully. People who use chemical treatments on their hair because this chemical can have the presence of alcohol that will give wrong results.

Blood Test

A blood test will reveal alcohol in your bloodstream for up to six hours after consuming your last drink. A blood alcohol test is used for medical and legal purposes. When you drink a glass of wine, your stomach and small intestine absorb your blood. As your BAC level rises, it will be detectable during the blood test.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does liquor stay in your body?

A healthy liver can process one drink in an hour, so one drink will stay in your system for an hour. The alcohol content can be detected through various tests, and each test is valid for a specific time. It also depends on the quantity of alcohol and whether your urine, blood, saliva, or breast milk is being tested.

What is the half-life of alcohol?

The half-life of alcohol is around four to five hours. You need five half-lives to remove alcohol from your system. Alcohol metabolism will take more time if a person is going through alcohol intoxication. Alcohol metabolism depends on the strength and amount of drink you consume. One standard drink has 14 grams of alcohol, and it takes 60 to 90 minutes to reach a high level of alcohol in your blood. Then your body begins to break it down. 

Get Help at The Recovery Team

Alcohol intoxication can put your life in danger. Alcohol impacts your life and makes it difficult for your loved ones to communicate with you. Addiction causes you to separate yourself from those who care. Learn to live again at The Recovery Team. We provide programs and services for those struggling with alcohol addiction and mental health disorders. Contact us today at (800) 817-1247.