How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System?

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.

How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Blood?

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

How Long Does Alcohol Stay on Your Breath and Saliva?

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

How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Urine?

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

How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your Hair?

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

What is Alcohol?

Alcohol is a drink made out of 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 Symptoms of Alcohol?

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

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 Symptoms?

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. 

What Affects How Fast Your Body Processes Alcohol? 

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. 

Gender: Why Do Women Process Alcohol Differently?

One reason why female bodies process and metabolize alcohol quicker than male bodies do is that women have less water in their bodies than men that are of the same size do. As a result, women have higher blood alcohol levels than men do after drinking the same amount of alcohol. 

Another reason why 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. 

A third reason why female bodies process alcohol quicker than male bodies do is that female bodies have less alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH). Alcohol dehydrogenase is the enzyme in the liver and stomach that breaks down alcohol. 

The female liver and stomach have less ADH in it than the male liver and stomach. When digested and metabolized, alcohol is not broken down as well in the female body as it is in the male body. As a result, a higher percentage of consumed alcohol in a female body gets sent to the body’s bloodstream and brain than that which gets sent to the bloodstream and brain of a male body. 

Finally, the female body processes and metabolizes alcohol quicker than the male body does because female bodies have a higher proportion of body fat in them than male bodies do. Because alcohol isn’t technically dissolved in fat, a higher percentage of consumed alcohol gets concentrated in the bloodstream of the female body than it does in the mail body. 

How Weight Affects Blood Alcohol Levels

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. 

Your Age Affects Blood Alcohol Levels

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.

How Fast You Drink Alcohol

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.

Medications Affect While Drinking Alcohol

Drinking alcohol while taking medication can greatly affect how fast your body processes alcohol. This is because the drugs within many medications, whether they be over-the-counter or prescription, can have adverse and unpredictable effects on you when you take them while drinking alcohol. 

If you are concerned about the effects your medication will have on you while drinking, speak to your doctor about how much you can or cannot drink while taking all the medications that you are on.

Underlying Health Issues

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. 

Diet

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. 

On the flip side of that, drinking on an empty stomach can irritate your digestive symptom and cause your body to process alcohol quicker. This means that a larger portion of the alcohol that you consume will reach your bloodstream and brain if you drink on an empty stomach.

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. 

Types of Treatment for People Suffering From Alcohol Use Disorder

Detox

There are various forms of treatment for those suffering from alcohol use disorder depending on where you are in your recovery journey. If you are just starting recovery and still need to detox yourself from alcohol, you need to attend a detox center. 

Medication-Assisted Treatment

If during and after detox, you need medication to help you deal with the withdrawal symptoms of stopping alcohol use, you can receive medication-assisted treatment. 

Residential Treatment

If you are early on in your recovery and want intensive treatment but do not need constant access to a hospital, you can receive residential treatment. Residential treatment allows you to live in a treatment facility long-term.

Partial Hospitalization Treatment

If you are receiving treatment for addiction to alcohol and a mental health disorder and need some hospital assistance but still want to be able to go home at the end of the day, you can attend a partial-hospitalization program. A partial-hospitalization program is an addiction program that allows you to spend part of your day in the hospital retrieving treatment and the other part of your day at home.

Intensive Outpatient Treatment

If you are at the point in your recovery where you no longer need detox or round-the-clock assistance, but still want intensive care treatment for your alcohol addiction, you can receive intensive outpatient care. Intensive outpatient care is when intensive medical, psychosocial, and pharmaceutical services come to your home for several hours a day to treat you for your addiction in the privacy of your own home. 

Outpatient Treatment

If you are far enough in your recovery process where you do not need any home assistance, medical or hospital assistance, or supervision, but still want to keep up with your recovery, you are a perfect candidate for outpatient treatment. Outpatient treatment is addiction treatment that you receive when you go to a treatment facility during the week for a few hours or so at a time and then go home. Your outpatient treatment schedule will be dependent on your needs. 

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, holistic, 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. Located in serene 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.

References:

https://www.drugfreeworld.org/drugfacts/alcohol.html

https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa46.htm

https://alcohol.stanford.edu/alcohol-drug-info/buzz-buzz/factors-affect-how-alcohol-absorbed#:~:text=Body%20weight%20deterines%20the%20amount,who%20drank%20the%20same%20amount.

Article Reviewed by David Sherman, MD

David Sherman, MDDavid Sherman, MD is a Fellow of the American Society of Addiction Medicine (FASAM) and board certified in Addiction Medicine with the American Board of Preventive Medicine. He is a native Missourian and graduated medical school at the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Medicine. Dr. Sherman completed a two-year fellowship in Addiction Medicine at the University of Florida in Gainesville. He leads a highly trained staff of master level certified addiction professionals. Men and women from all over Missouri and the United States come to Sana Lake Recovery Center to get the care they need and deserve.