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How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System?

What is Alcohol?

Alcohol is a drink made from fermented grains and fruit. All alcohol drinks also have ethanol in them, technically making alcohol drinks a type of drug. 

When it comes to drug types, alcohol is a depressant. A depressant is a drug that slows down the body’s vital functions. If your body’s vital functions slow down, it can cause you to have slowed speech, slowed reaction time, unsteady movement, confusion, and more. 

Most people who drink alcohol feel the depressant qualities that it has when they drink past their limit. In fact, when people only drink small amounts of alcohol, they actually feel stimulated, or buzzed, rather than slowed down. 

What Are the Effects of Alcohol?

  • Lowered inhibitions 
  • Slurred speech 
  • Poor coordination 
  • Confusion 
  • Memory loss 
  • Difficulty concentrating 
  • Difficulty breathing. 

How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System?

In the human body, alcohol is metabolized, or broken down, in the liver. For the average adult male, the liver can metabolize around 1 drink per hour. The body organically eliminates another 10% of alcohol through breathing, sweating, and urinating. 

When it comes to determining how long alcohol will stay in your system, there are many factors to consider. Some of these factors include how much alcohol you drank, your gender, how much you weigh, and how much you ate that day. Regardless of these factors, there is a general time range that alcohol tends to stay in when in certain bodily systems. 

Alcohol stays in your blood system for up to 6 hours after you drink. 

When it comes to your breath and saliva, alcohol can stay in your system for anywhere from 12 -24 hours. 

Alcohol also stays in your urine for anywhere between 12-24 hours after drinking. 

When it comes to your hair, alcohol can stay in your system for up to 90 days. 

Infographic about how long alcohol stays in your system

How Does the Body Digest and Metabolize Alcohol?

When alcohol goes through the digestive tract, it first hits the stomach and small intestine’s tissue linings and the liver. Once digested and metabolized, alcohol runs through the body’s bloodstream and then eventually goes to the brain. 

The liver is the bodily organ that metabolizes alcohol. In the body of the average adult male, the human liver can metabolize around 1 drink of alcohol per hour. 

Because alcohol is a liquid drug that the liver can metabolize quickly and essentially send straight to the body’s bloodstream and brain, it does not take long for alcohol to hit your system and make you feel its symptoms. 

How Long After Drinking Alcohol Will You Feel Its Effects?

It takes the average healthy person around 15 to 45 minutes after drinking alcohol to feel its symptoms. One of the main ways to measure how much alcohol an individual has consumed is to measure that person’s blood alcohol level, or BAC. 

If you are a man with little to no alcohol tolerance, you will begin to feel the symptoms of alcohol when your BAC reaches 0.05%. The average individual’s ability to drive is significantly impaired once his or her blood alcohol level reaches 0.07%. Once an individual’s blood alcohol level reaches 0.10%, he or she is intoxicated. 

Why Does Everyone Process Alcohol Differently?

Gender, weight, age, medication, diet, consumption speed, and health issues will all affect how fast your body processes alcohol. In turn, these will affect how fast it will take your body to get to different blood alcohol level percentages. 

One thing that affects how fast your body processes alcohol is gender. In fact, the female body processes and metabolizes alcohol quicker than the male body does. 

Female bodies process and metabolize alcohol quicker than male bodies do is that women have a higher liver volume per unit of lean body mass. Because the liver is responsible for the metabolization of alcohol in the human body, having a higher liver volume causes the female body to metabolize and send alcohol to the bloodstream and the brain quicker than the male body. 

Something else that affects the rate at which your body processes alcohol is weight. The more body weight you have, the more body mass that can absorb some of the alcohol that you drink prior to it reaching your liver, bloodstream, and brain. This means that a heavier person can consume more alcohol than a smaller person without it affecting him or her. 

Age also affects the rate at which the human body processes alcohol. For example, the body of a young adolescent is much smaller and less developed than the body of an adult. As a result, the body of a young adolescent will process alcohol much quicker than that of an adult. This means that it will likely take a smaller number of drinks for a young adolescent to feel intoxicated than it would for an adult. 

The more high-protein food you eat, the more substances that you have in your stomach that can absorb the alcohol that you consume. By having the food in your stomach absorb some of the alcohol that you consume, you are allowing less alcohol to go through your body’s bloodstream and brain. As a result, you will not get drunk as fast if you eat high-protein food around the time that you are drinking. 

The speed at which you drink also has a large effect on how fast your body processes alcohol. For example, if you drink multiple drinks in one hour, your body will have to process large amounts of alcohol at one time. This will cause you to have a higher blood alcohol level. 

On the other hand, if you slowly but surely have drinks throughout the day, your body will not have to process as much alcohol per hour. In return, your body will have a lower blood alcohol level. 

Diseases, such as that of genetic enzyme deficiencies, can lower your body’s ability to process alcohol. As a result, drinking too much alcohol can be harmful to people with certain types of diseases. If you have a disease that you think may affect your body’s ability to process alcohol, speak with your doctor about your concerns prior to drinking. 

How Long Does It Take to Sober Up?

Despite what people may say, drinking water or coffee, or taking a shower will not help you sober up. As long as your alcohol consumption rate is larger than your alcohol elimination rate, only time will sober you up. 

We Are Here to Help!

If you are looking for a place to receive treatment for alcohol use disorder that focuses on both substance use issues and mental health, look no further than Sana Lake Recovery Center! 

Here at Sana Lake, not only do we provide co-occurring recovery services that focus on both substance use issues and mental health, but we also craft all our treatment programs to the individual. 

With alcohol addiction treatment programs that range from residential, to medication-assisted, partial-hospitalization, intensive outpatient, outpatient, detox, sober living, and more, we’ve got you covered. 

At Sana Lake, we make sure to care, nurture, protect, and empathize with our members and put their needs first. With multiple locations in areas such as O’Fallon and Dittmer, Missouri, Sana Lake is the leading recovery center in the Midwest. With a certified and caring staff of professionals that work around the clock for our patients, feel free to contact us for help or a referral, or to schedule a tour with us anytime. 

At the end of the day, we are here to help you have a successful recovery. 

Picture of Ashley Murry LCSW
Ashley Murry LCSW
Ashley Murry, LCSW, is the Chief Clinical Officer at Sana Lake Recovery. She oversees clinical operations, ensuring effective treatment strategies and compliance. Before this, she was Program Director at Gateway Foundation, managing care programs and collaborating with state departments. Ashley has also served as Director of Clinical Services at Treatment Management Company, improving staff retention and clinical standards. She holds a Master's in Social Work from the University of South Florida and a Bachelor's in Social Work from Saint Leo University. She is licensed in Florida, Arizona and Missouri.
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