How long does alcohol stay in your liver? To answer this question, it’s important to first understand what goes on inside the body when you consume alcohol.
Alcohol doesn’t really need to be digested by the body in the literal sense. What this means is that it doesn’t need to be broken down into digestible form to be processed. That’s not to say that it doesn’t follow a process of elimination.
A small amount of the alcohol (20%) goes through the digestive organs and into the blood vessels, which then move around the person’s body. A larger percentage (80%) of the alcohol enters the bloodstream and is then transferred to the small intestines.
This is a same general process that’s occurs in every body. Things like the gender and nationality of the individual drinking the alcohol in this case, is of little importance. The speed, at which all of this happens, depends on a number of factors. Some of the variables that do influence it are, his or her age, body mass index and the presence of food in the stomach during the time of drinking alcohol.
You may have noticed that when you drink on an empty stomach, the time it takes to feel the “buzz” is cut short as compared to when you drink after or while eating a large meal. That’s because the alcohol absorption rate is slowed down due to the presence of food in the body.
If drinking at a normal pace, the alcohol travels to the liver via the bloodstream, to be metabolized. The time taken for a healthy liver to metabolize alcohol is pretty much the same for everyone. However, if the consumer has a history of liver and health problems, then the person’s rate of metabolism will be significantly different.
Rate of Alcohol Metabolism in Your Liver
Liver is known to metabolize 1 ounce of pure alcohol (regular wine glass, regular beer, one shot) every 60-90 minutes. For a normal person, the BAC (blood alcohol level) rises by 0.015 for every ounce of alcohol consumed. Simply put, every hour, about 0.015% of alcohol will exit a healthy individual’s body. If a person has 0.015% of blood alcohol level from drinking one ounce of alcohol, it will take about 2 hours for it to be metabolized.
Additional alcohol drank on top of that will take time to get processed and will remain in the blood till the liver finishes metabolizing the alcohol it received earlier. That brings us to the next point – Absorption of Pure Alcohol.
Two other huge factors play an important role in determining how long alcohol stays in the liver.
#1: The amount of alcohol being consumed
#2: How fast the alcohol is being consumed.
The time people spend drinking ranges from about an hour to sometimes 5-6 hours. It’s common among social drinkers to down multiple drinks one after another and suddenly feel a “bad buzz”. This feeling spreads around the body when too much of alcohol is being drunk in a short span of time. The person isn’t allowing the existing alcohol to be metabolized in the liver and is instead saturating their bloodstream with more alcohol. This causes the tissues in the body to retain the alcohol and give the person the feeling of intense sickness. Making a healthy body go through this multiple times can cause serious damage to the person’s health.
While the time taken by the liver to metabolize alcohol is more or less the same for men and women, the absorption rate can vary.
Studies have shown that the chemical build of every individual, affects the alcohol absorption. It was found that men have more water content (61%) as compared to women (52%). Water content is what primarily dilutes the alcohol in the system. So naturally, since the water content is higher in men, the retention of alcohol in the blood will be less. Women on the other hand are more prone to alcohol damage due to their lower water content.
Can I get rid of alcohol in the liver faster?
Sadly, we can’t control the process of metabolism in our bodies or do anything to speed it up besides drinking alcohol in moderation. Alcohol will only exit the body through natural processes by the liver and via sweat, urine and breath. While chugging on water while and after drinking alcohol will certainly help you keep the buzz under control, it will in no way accelerate the metabolism rate. Sleep too might make you feel better, but does nothing to change the internal processes. Other beverages like energy drinks and coffees or the act of taking a cold shower, will merely give your senses a slight jolt without affecting anything else. Waiting and giving the body the time it needs, is the only way to reduce the blood alcohol concentration level in your body.
Can alcohol get detected after metabolism?
The short answer to this is – Yes, it definitely can. The metabolism process is only a way for the alcohol to exit your body and help you sober up and be unimpaired. Alcohol will still show up in tests.
Approximate time frames for various tests are:
Blood test: Alcohol can be detected in a person via a blood test for up to 12 hours after the last drink.
Breath: A Breathalyzer can find traces of alcohol in a person’s breath for about 24 hours after consumption.
Saliva: Swab testing can reveal the presence of alcohol for up to 24hours.
Urine: When metabolism occurs, a certain substance called Ethyl Glucuronide is produced that can be detected by urine tests for up to 80 hours after the last consumed drink.
Hair: The hair follicles can test positive for alcohol for about 90 days after the last drink
To sum it up, a person of a legal drinking age can safely enjoy an occasional drink if they consume it in moderation and give their body enough time to metabolize the alcohol and sober up. Best to avoid any activities like driving, even if you feel sober and “buzz free”, to avoid dealing with the stress of receiving a DUI.