How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System?

The human body is a pretty remarkable machine, made up of intricate systems that work together to keep you healthy and moving. 

When you introduce a substance like alcohol into your body, it affects lots of these systems and can change the way your body functions, both short-term and long-term. How does alcohol work and move through your body? And how long does alcohol stay in your system? These are great questions, and it’s really important to understand how alcohol impacts your body.

If you are concerned that you may have alcohol use disorder and are looking for alcohol rehab in Florida or New Jersey, the compassionate team at Legacy Healing Center is ready to help you take the next step.

When you drink alcohol, the alcohol begins to be absorbed through your stomach lining into your bloodstream. Within five minutes, the alcohol has reached your brain1. Within 10 minutes, it can begin to affect or impair your brain. Within 20 minutes, your liver begins to process and metabolize the alcohol. 

While most alcohol is processed through the liver, some is processed through the kidneys, lungs, and even your skin2. Because of these other systems involved, alcohol is detectable in urine and breath odor, skin odor. As you drink, the alcohol reaches its peak concentration in your bloodstream at about 60 to 90 minutes, then it begins to break down.

When you are ready to free yourself from long-term or excessive alcohol use, do it safely with medically supervised alcohol detox. We can help manage the symptoms of withdrawal and help you reach your goal of long-lasting recovery.

How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System?

There is a basic formula for how quickly the body processes alcohol. The half-life (how long it takes the body to get rid of half) of alcohol is approximately four to five hours. So theoretically, if you drink a 12-ounce beer, your body will metabolize half of it within five hours. 

This means it should take approximately 25 hours to completely clear the alcohol out of your body. However, how long alcohol stays in your system can depend on a lot of factors.

The kind of alcohol you consume, as well as how much and how quickly, all influence how long the alcohol stays in your system.

A serving of alcohol is:

  • 12 ounces of beer
  • 5 ounces of wine
  • 1.5 ounces of 80-proof spirits (i.e. rum, vodka, whiskey, tequila, etc.)3

Because the alcohol content isn’t consistent across all drinks, your body metabolizes them differently. That’s why you feel intoxicated more quickly from a shot of liquor than a beer. It’s also easier to drink more than intended with stronger drinks.

The speed at which you drink also affects how long it stays in your system. The body can only process alcohol at a certain rate. If you consume alcohol faster than your liver can metabolize it, you become intoxicated and your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) increases.

Did you know your age affects how long alcohol stays in your system? The older you get, the slower you metabolize alcohol. This could be because of lower production of the liver enzyme that breaks down alcohol, the lower water content in your body as you age, or the likelihood of additional medications that can influence alcohol’s impact and ability to be processed.

Fair or not, your gender affects how long alcohol stays in your body. Women naturally have lower water content, higher body fat percentages, and lower liver enzymes. This means even if a man and woman of the same age and weight consume the same amount of alcohol at the same rate, they will metabolize differently3.

Women will have alcohol in their systems longer. Hormones also can play a role. In fact, women process alcohol more slowly and thus become intoxicated faster in the days immediately preceding menstruation.

These are just a few of the factors that can influence how long alcohol stays in the system. Other factors include

  • Food consumption
  • Water consumption
  • Body size
  • Family history
  • Body composition2,4

Blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is the measurement of how much alcohol is in your bloodstream. For example, a BAC level of 0.10 means your blood supply contains one part alcohol for every 1,000 parts blood.5 (The legal threshold for intoxication in the U.S. is most commonly .08.) Alcohol can be detected through a variety of tests. Depending on what test is being administered, the alcohol can be detected for various lengths of time.2

  • Blood tests, usually done in a medical setting to determine a person’s BAC, can show alcohol up to 12 hours since it was consumed.
  • Breathalyzer tests are commonly administered by peace officers such as police or deputies. Alcohol can be detected up to 24 hours since the last drink.
  • Saliva tests can reveal the recent use of alcohol up to 48 hours later.
  • Urine tests may show alcohol has been consumed up to five days after.
  • Hair follicle test could be accurate and show alcohol use up to 90 days later.

Now that you have a better understanding of how long alcohol stays in your system, you may also wonder how alcohol impacts your life or the life of a loved one. If you are ready to ask for help, contact us. At Legacy Healing Center, we are committed to helping you break the chains that alcohol may have on you. We are Ladies and Gentlemen, caring for Ladies and Gentlemen.

Resources

  1. Northwestern Medicine. (n.d.). How alcohol impacts the brain. Northwestern Medicine. Retrieved May 12, 2022, from https://www.nm.org/healthbeat/healthy-tips/alcohol-and-the-brain#:~:text=Alcohol%20in%20Your%20Body&text=Alcohol%20reaches%20your%20brain%20in,your%20liver%20starts%20processing%20alcohol 
  2. hollowc2. (2021, December 3). How long does alcohol stay in your system? Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved May 12, 2022, from https://health.clevelandclinic.org/how-long-does-alcohol-stay-in-your-system/ 
  3. Brown University. Alcohol and Your Body | Health Promotion | Brown University. (n.d.). Retrieved May 12, 2022, from https://www.brown.edu/campus-life/health/services/promotion/alcohol-other-drugs-alcohol/alcohol-and-your-body 
  4. MediLexicon International. (n.d.). How long does alcohol stay in your system? Medical News Today. Retrieved May 12, 2022, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319942#how-long-does-alcohol-stay-in-the-system 
  5. What is Bac? What Is BAC? | Office of Substance Use Programs Education & Resources. (n.d.). Retrieved May 12, 2022, from https://super.stanford.edu/alcohol-drug-info/buzz-buzz/what-bac 

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