How long does alcohol stay in the body?

It’s not uncommon for drinking sessions to last anywhere from one hour to as long as 5-6 hours. Before chugging on several drinks, there are a few things you should know. How long will the alcohol stay in your body? How long does the alcohol stay in the body for a urine or drug test? Can it be eliminated quickly from your body? To answer all these questions, we first need to know how our system processes alcohol.

Alcohol is one of the few things that doesn’t really need to broken down in the body for digestion. When one consumes alcohol, a tiny percentage of it is eliminated from the body via sweat, urine or breath. About 20% of the consumed alcohol, moves around the body by entering the blood vessels. The larger portion is absorbed by the intestines and then goes directly into the bloodstream.

You may have noticed that it’s harder to quickly feel a buzz on a full stomach. If you eat substantial amounts of food either before or while drinking, the internal activity of alcohol retention is slowed down. This is the why it takes you less time to feel intoxicated when you drink on an empty stomach.

Once alcohol moves into your bloodstream, it’s carried to your liver in order to be metabolized.

What is the rate of alcohol metabolism in your body?

People that drink alcohol feel intoxicated at different times, depending on their drinking capacity and the food content in their bodies. However, a healthy liver metabolizes alcohol at the same rate for everyone, irrespective of his or her weight, gender or nationality.

Generally, the liver metabolizes 0.015 of blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level per hour. Most people’s BAC level will rise by 0.015 from one ounce of alcohol. What this means is that, for every hour that you spend without consuming any alcohol, 0.015 of it disappears from your body.

For example, Person A at present has their BAC level at 0.15. To find out how long it would take to metabolize 0.15 of blood alcohol concentration, you simply need to divide it by 0.015. That’s how many hours it would take for the alcohol to leave his or her system. In this case, that’s 10 hours.

This time frame of course only applies to people with no health issues and a well functioning liver. Someone with a history of liver problems would process alcohol differently.

Despite the fact that the rate of metabolism is the same for everyone, alcohol metabolism isn’t the only thing that influences the complete elimination of alcohol from a person’s system. A couple other variables that affect it include:

  • The rate of alcohol consumption
  • The kind of alcoholic beverages being consumed
  • Food content in the stomach, especially fat rich food
  • Person’s body/muscle mass

Alcohol Absorption In Your Body

The blood vessels attached to the small intestines, absorb Alcohol. When the body contains more alcohol than what the liver can metabolize, (BAC level higher than 0.55) the excess alcohol gets stored in the bloodstream.

An individual’s water content affects the rate of absorption. The accumulation of alcohol is different for men and women. The water content in men is higher (61%) than women (52%). The higher the water content is, the easier it is to dilute the alcohol in the human body. Hence most women are more prone to damage from alcohol than men.

The process of liver metabolism greatly influences the way a person feels after having a drink. If they continue having one drink after another, without giving the body the time it needs to metabolize the previous drinks, the body reacts negatively. When someone’s BAC level goes higher than .05, the toxins in the alcohol give rise to the unwanted effects.

One or two standard drinks of alcohol can make the consumer feel calm and relaxed. When the BAC level is at .05 – .055, these happy feeling start transforming into that of irritation and impairment from alcohol consumption. If alcohol is consumed beyond this point, serious damage to the brain is also a possibility.

Alcohol detection tests in your body

Are you wondering how long the alcohol stays in the human body in terms of alcohol testing? The answer for this one isn’t simple or universal for all. It depends on a variety of things such as the amount of alcohol consumed, the kind of test being conducted etc.

Urine Tests

Traces of alcohol can be found in an individual’s urine, hours after the last consumption. The urine tests search for alcohol metabolites. Most of the urine tests are powerful enough to be able to find alcohol for as long as 48 hours after the last drink. Then there are other stronger tests, made using advanced technologies that can measure the alcohol content in the urine for about 80 hours after consumption of the last alcoholic drink.

Breath Tests

Alcohol can be detected by a person’s breath for up to 24 hours. A breathalyzer is used to measure the BAC in via the person’s breath. This is the preferred form of testing by the law enforcement, due to the handheld nature of the device. A rate of 0.08 BAC or higher is considered to be illegal in terms of driving. However, laws associated with drinking and driving are different in every state. The rate of allowed BAC is much lower in most places. Any level that is over 0.02 is generally categorized as unsafe for driving.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the breathalyzer is known to give out faulty results. Studies have shown that the device displays results that are much higher than the actual BAC level. The cause for this discrepancy varies. A person’s body temperature, acid reflux and traces of blood in mouth, can all affect the results. The breathalyzer also detects ketones in the body – a naturally produced compound, and falsely recognizes it as alcohol. The chemical nature of alcohol and ketones does have similarities, which causes this error.

Hair Tests

Traces of alcohol can be found in the roots of the hair for as long as 90 days after drinking.

Blood/Saliva Tests

Traces of alcohol can be found for 10-24 hours after the last drink, by testing the blood or by taking a saliva swab.

How much alcohol does my drink contain?

A regular alcoholic drink as per the United States standards contains 14 grams/0.5 ounces of pure alcohol in it. This means a regular can of beer, a glass of wine or spirit, all contain almost the same amount of pure alcohol.

The liver can metabolize one ounce of pure alcohol per hour. A standard drink that has less than 5% of pure alcohol can be metabolized in one hour. However, the more drinks you consume, the longer it takes for all of the alcohol to disappear from your body.

A big glass of wine  – about 250 ml, will take close to 3 hours to be broken down by our systems. A pint of beer will take about two hours. This time frame is influenced by additional factors mentioned above, thus making it impossible to know when the body is completely free from alcohol by calculations alone. To get a close approximation of the alcohol content in your body at any given time, consider investing in a portable breathalyzer. They are much more accurate than online calculators while also being portable and easy to use.

How long do alcohol toxins stay in the body?

Alcohol is a widely available depressant. People can easily access it whenever they please. Alcohol detoxification is an important step in freeing the body from the harmful toxins. People who constantly drink may face strong withdrawal symptoms when they decide to rid the body of the toxins from alcohol. Professional medical consultation is highly recommended in such cases where the individual has a heavy dependence.

The time taken by the body to be toxin free depends on how long you’ve been drinking for and how often. If you’re not a very heavy drinker, the detoxification process might make you feel uneasy in the beginning but the withdrawal symptoms will be milder. Once this phase is over and the toxins have disappeared, your health will peak and your body will thank you. Give yourself anywhere from a couple of weeks to a few months, to be completely alcohol free.

How Long Does Alcohol Stay In Your Body?

The body expels alcohol by following a natural process that can barely be changed by your actions. What you can do is drink responsibly and in moderation, to avoid the negative effects of alcohol. A couple of drinks every week isn’t going to do much harm but binge drinking certainly can.

Avoid the stress of dealing with a DUI and assign a designated driver, every time you drink outside of your home. A few hours may have passed since your last consumption and you might think you are absolutely buzz-free. But remember that if you’re stopped by the law enforcement, chances are that the alcohol could be still detected by their breathalyzer. Avoid driving after drinking any amount of alcohol to be completely safe.