How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System?

When individuals consume alcohol, it’s primarily broken down in the liver. The liver can metabolize about one drink per hour. Although individuals become intoxicated from alcohol at different rates, a liver that is healthy will metabolize alcohol at the same rate regardless of an individual’s weight, sex, or age. However, there are other factors that influence how long alcohol stays in an individual’s system. On average, alcohol can be detected in the blood for up to 6 hours and 12-24 hours in the urine, breath, and saliva. It is detectable in the hair for up to 90 days.

How Does Your Body Metabolize Alcohol?

Alcohol moves through the digestive system, but it does not go through the later stages of digestion like food. Most of the alcohol an individual consumes will be absorbed into the bloodstream through the tissue lining when it is in the upper gastrointestinal tract. When it’s absorbed into the bloodstream, it will travel throughout the body and to the brain. On average, it takes about 30 seconds for alcohol to enter the bloodstream.

Food can slow the absorption of alcohol. If food is in the stomach, it will prevent alcohol from contacting the lining of the stomach and slow the transition from the stomach to the upper portion of the small intestine, which is where it is absorbed into the bloodstream.

How Long Does it Take to Feel the Effects of Alcohol?

Most healthy adults will start to feel the effects of alcohol after 15 to 45 minutes. With men who have little to no tolerance, the effects of alcohol will start to show when their blood alcohol content (BAC) reaches 0.05%, and their driving is significantly impaired at 0.07%. Most of these men are clearly intoxicated when their blood alcohol content is 0.10%.

If a 150-pound female consumes an estimated four drinks in one hour, she will probably have a BAC that is close to 0.10%, which is intoxication.

How to Tell When You are Drunk

There are numerous signs of intoxication. The higher an individual’s BAC, the higher the chances he or she will display the following signs:

  • Reduced inhibitions
  • Confusion
  • Slurred speech
  • Problems concentrating
  • Breathing problems

Individuals who are intoxicated are at an increased risk for motor collisions, violence, homicide, suicide, and risky behaviors, which may include unprotected sex. Those who consume alcohol on a regular basis are also at an increased risk for trying other substances.

How Long Will it Take to Get Alcohol Out of Your System?

Alcohol dehydrogenase is the enzyme that breaks down alcohol in the liver. Other than alcohol being processed in the liver, an estimated 10% of alcohol is lost through urine, sweat, and breath.

A standard alcoholic beverage is usually defined as:

  • 1.5 ounces of distilled alcohol (vodka, whiskey, rum, etc.)
  • 5 fluid ounces of wine
  • 8-9 ounces of malt liquor
  • 12 fluid ounces of beer

There are certain factors that determine how quickly the body breaks down alcohol, which include:

  • Weight
  • Metabolism
  • Age
  • If food is in the stomach
  • If any medications were taking prior to consumption

There are common misconceptions that alcohol will break down faster through drinking water or sleeping. These actions will not eliminate alcohol from the blood faster, but they may make individuals more alert. Some individuals believe that drinking coffee will help the body rid itself of alcohol faster, but this isn’t true. BAC will continue to elevate if the rate of alcohol consumption is greater than the rate of elimination.

How Much Alcohol is Lethal?

When an individual consumes dangerously high amounts of alcohol, it can lead to alcohol poisoning or alcohol overdose, and both are fatal. With alcohol overdose, life-supporting functions, which include breathing and pulse, can become dangerously slow and even shut down completely.

As an individual’s BAC rises, he or she may start to feel the negative effects of alcohol intoxication.

  • When BAC is between 0.06% to 0.15%, speech, memory, balance, and coordination are impaired.
  • Between a BAC of 0.16% to 0.30%, significant impairments in speech, balance, coordination, and decision-making are present. At this stage, there is an increased risk of vomiting, blackouts, and loss of consciousness.
  • At a BAC between 0.31% and 0.45%, there is an increased risk of alcohol overdose, which is caused by suppressed heart rate, respiratory function, and body temperature.

The risk of alcohol poisoning and overdose increase when individuals binge drink. Binge drinking is sometimes considered four drinks in two hours for a woman and five drinks in two hours for a man. Furthermore, the risk of overdose increases when alcohol is mixed with other substances, such as painkillers, anti-anxiety medications, and sleep medications.

What are the Risks of Substance Abuse?

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that an estimated 14.5 million individuals in the United States who were over the age of 12 had an alcohol use disorder in 2017. In addition, alcohol-related fatalities were the third-leading cause of preventable deaths in the United States. An estimated 88,000 individuals in the United States die every year from alcohol poisoning, driving while intoxicated, liver failure, and other accidents.

How long does alcohol stay in your system? Now that we’ve answered this question, we hope you have an understanding of how your body processes alcohol and the dangers of consuming too much alcohol. It is also important to keep in mind that alcohol consumption leads to tolerance and could even lead to dependence. Those who need help with substance abuse can benefit from the help of a trusted treatment program. Treatment plans are typically individualized to meet an individual’s unique needs.

If you or someone you know needs help overcoming substance abuse, please feel free to contact our admissions staff at St. John’s Recovery Place. We applaud your courage to seek help, and we welcome the opportunity to provide you with an effective treatment plan. The road to recovery is never easy, but with sustained dedication, it is definitely within your power to change your life.

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