Part of the complete guide to understanding addiction
Table of Contents
- How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System?
- How Is Alcohol Processed in Your System?
- How Long Does it Take for the Effects to Wear Off?
- Chart: Blood Alcohol Level Effect on the Body
- Factors That Affect Alcohol Removal Timeline
- How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System for a Urine Test?
- How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System for a Breathalyzer Test?
- Understanding The Effects of Alcohol on The Body
How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System?
Although the effects of alcohol can wear off in a matter of hours, the substance actually stays in your system for much longer. This can become problematic when one needs to pass alcohol tests such as a urine test or a breathalyzer.
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The length of time for which alcohol remains in one’s system depends heavily upon their weight and size. With the knowledge presented in this article, you will be able to determine how long alcohol will stay in your system.
How Is Alcohol Processed in Your System?
What happens to alcohol after ingestion? A small portion of the alcohol first enters the bloodstream through the mucous membrane in the mouth, and is then carried by the blood to all parts of the body 1. Blood-alcohol concentration peaks after about 40 minutes, depending on the person’s size.
The blood-alcohol concentration only decreases at about 0.01% to 0.02% per hour 2. For reference, in most states, someone with a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08% or higher is considered impaired.
About 10% to 20% of the alcohol is then absorbed by the stomach, which is mostly taken up by the small intestine. Alcohol exits the system through sweat, breath, or urine.
The liver takes the biggest hit from alcohol. Its job is to oxidize (fuse with oxygen) the ethanol within alcohol and turn it into acetaldehyde 3 – the chemical responsible for reddening of the face and severe hangover symptoms. Understandably, alcohol addiction can cause severe and possibly irreversible damage to the liver; it leads to scarring, cirrhosis, and eventually liver disease.
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How Long Does it Take for the Effects to Wear Off?
Even though alcohol may remain in the bloodstream for hours or days, its physical effects wear off fairly quickly in comparison. With a blood-alcohol concentration between 0.02% and 0.039%, there is slight euphoria and no loss of coordination . Good judgment and decision-making abilities are still intact.
From 0.040% to 0.059%, the user may feel relaxed, euphoric, and have slightly impaired judgment and memory.
At 0.08%, one may be considered drunk in some or all U.S. states 4. There is a slight impairment of reaction time, balance, hearing, vision, and speech.
With a blood-alcohol concentration between 0.100% and 0.129%, there is a substantial impairment of motor coordination and loss of good judgment. There is also major impairment of reaction time, vision and peripheral vision, speech, balance, and hearing.
Blood-alcohol concentrations from 0.130% to 0.159% cause motor impairment and loss of physical control. There is major loss of vision and balance, and the user feels dysphoric rather than euphoric.
Between 0.160% and 0.199%, the user mostly feels dysphoric and nauseated. At this point, they may be considered “sloppy drunk.”
At 0.20% to 0.249%, the user needs assistance with walking, and experiences total mental confusion. They are nauseous, dysphoric, and could possibly even blackout. They may be considered “wasted” at this point.
Awareness of your blood-alcohol concentration levels can help you determine how and when your symptoms will wear off. For example, if you have a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.100%, you can expect to go through the first 3 stages after consumption before becoming sober. After that, you may not feel the effects or have symptoms of a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.02% or 0.03%, but it will remain in your system just the same.
Chart: Blood Alcohol Level Effect on the Body
Factors That Affect Alcohol Removal Timeline
The level of intoxication you reach during a set period of time through a set percentage of alcohol depends mainly on body size and composition. It can also vary based on age, gender, race, and more. Additionally, external factors such as a lack of sleep, food, water, or tolerance can all affect how quickly or severely one become intoxicated.
People with a smaller body size or lower BMI are more likely to experience the effects of alcohol sooner 5. This is one of the reasons why women tend to feel symptoms of hangover more swiftly than men. (Men also have higher body water levels than women, which causes them to have a wider distribution of alcohol throughout the body.)
Another factor which affects intoxication is age. On average, users under the age of 25 are less likely to experience hangovers than those over 25. Older people can often become easily intoxicated by an amount of alcohol they were able to absorb easily when they were younger. This is a result of physical changes which occur in our brain as we age. Additionally, different races may experience different levels of alcohol sensitivity.
The ease with which one becomes intoxicated can change based on their lifestyle and habits. For example, lack of sleep can cause a user to feel the effects of alcohol sooner than someone who got a full night of sleep.
Additionally, one should always drink water before, during, and after drinking alcohol. This slows the onset of hangover symptoms and may help lessen the effects of a hangover. The same concept applies to food; drinking alcohol on an empty stomach causes one to experience the effects sooner. When your stomach is empty, there is nothing present to absorb the alcohol you are drinking.
How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System for a Urine Test?
Urine tests can typically detect alcohol consumed within the last 3 or 4 days.
A urine test uses a urine sample to check for the presence of alcohol, drugs, and medications. The test detects the presence of ethyl glucuronide, which is a metabolite in alcoholic beverages.
The patient is given a cup for the screening and escorted to the restroom to urinate in private. Beforehand, they often must empty their pockets and have their sleeves checked. Once they are finished, the sample is given to a medical professional and is analyzed. If alcohol has been consumed within 3 to 4 days of a urine test, it will show.
How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System for a Breathalyzer Test?
Breathalyzer tests can detect alcohol consume within the past 12 hours.
Breathalyzer tests are one of the most common ways of measuring alcohol levels in one’s system; they detect the presence of alcohol through the breath. A breathalyzer is a tiny machine that is used to measure a user’s blood-alcohol concentration. Because of its compact size, it is often used by police forces to check for drunk driving.
Breathalyzer tests are quick and simple. A mouthpiece is attached to one end, and the user blows air into it. It will then read ethanol levels in the breath. If you have consumed alcohol within the last 12 hours, it will show up on a breathalyzer test.
Understanding The Effects of Alcohol on The Body
The amount of time alcohol remains in your system depends on your blood-alcohol concentration. Your blood-alcohol concentration depends on how much alcohol you drink, and can change drastically based on your gender, age, and race, as well as how much food, water, and sleep you receive.
Different alcohol tests can give different results about intoxication and alcohol levels. Understanding each of them will ultimately help you determine how long alcohol can stay in your system.
If you or a loved one suffer from an addiction or alcohol use disorder, rehabilitation and total recovery are always possible. You can live a clear-headed, meaningful, focused life with those who love you most. Reach out to Avenues Recovery today to begin your journey home.