Although the prohibition proved to be a less than effective method in curbing alcohol consumption, the elixir’s introduction into our society is one that’s caused less than desirable effects. Despite its legality, alcohol continues to be one of the most dangerous drugs in existence. One such reason is access – for someone looking to stop, they must contend with other factors that illicit drug addicts or prescription drug users won’t have to see. The non-stop marketing advertising for alcohol can disturb a former addict in their home. 

Despite the inherent dangers attached to alcohol consumption, it remains one of the most commonly abused drugs today. According to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 85.6 percent of people over the age of 18 reported drinking alcohol at some point in their life, while another 69.5 percent said they drank in the past year, and 54.9 percent reported drinking in the past month. 

It may lead you to wonder, how long does alcohol stay in your system? Well, the drug is broken down by the liver, which metabolizes roughly one standard drink per hour for men. Other factors that include gender, weight, age, and the amount of food eaten might affect how fast your body processes alcohol. The rate of absorption can’t be increased by drinking water or sleeping. 

How Long Alcohol Stays in Your System?

The length of time alcohol remains in your system is dependent on what you’re measuring. Here’s how long alcohol stays in the following:

Blood: Up to six hours

Breath: 12-24 hours

Urine: 12-24 hours

Saliva: 12-24 hours

Hair: 90 days

How Is Alcohol Metabolized?

benefits of not drinking alcohol

Despite alcohol passing through the digestive system, it doesn’t undergo extensive digestion in the digestive tract, similar to food. When entering the upper gastrointestinal tract, most of the alcohol will be absorbed straight into the bloodstream through the tissue lining of the small intestines and stomach. Once it enters the bloodstream, it’s carried through the body and travels to the brain. 

The mechanism of absorption may be delayed when food is in the stomach. Food absorbs alcohol, which inhibits it from coming into contact with your stomach lining, and slows its transit from the stomach into the first portion of the small intestine. Without food, it’s rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream.

How Long Does it Take for Alcohol to Take Effect?

A healthy individual will experience the effects of alcohol within 15 to 45 minutes. A man with a low to no tolerance will start exhibiting characteristics of intoxication when their blood alcohol levels (BAC) reach 0.05%. At 0.07%, their ability to drive will be significantly impaired, and at 0.10%, they will be extremely intoxicated. 

A woman weighing 150 pounds will achieve a BAC of 0.1% if she consumes roughly four drinks in about an hour. Of course, results vary based on tolerance, if she ate food, etc.

How to Determine if You’re Drunk

Once your BAC skyrockets, you’ll begin displaying signs of intoxication. Some people can consume alcohol and feel its effects within five minutes, while others may not notice it for a bit longer. Again, it’ll depend on if you’ve eaten, your age, weight, gender, and alcohol tolerance. For those wondering how alcohol intoxication appears, some of the signs include:

  • Slurred speech
  • Lowered inhibitions
  • Confusion
  • Impaired coordination
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Trouble with memory
  • Breathing issues (decreased respiratory effort, respiratory depression)

Those who are drunk put themselves at increased risk of the following:

  • Violence
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Risky behaviors, including unprotected sex, leading to pregnancy or STDs
  • Suicide or homicide

Despite individuals getting intoxicated at different rates from different amounts, healthy livers will metabolize the drug at a reasonably uniform rate despite sex, race, or weight. The liver is not the only factor that determines how fast the alcohol will leave your body.

Alcohol is absorbed 30 seconds after consumption, and after five minutes, it’ll enter the stomach, where a small amount will remain. It’s then expelled through sweating and breathing. After 20 minutes, 90 percent of the alcohol consumed will reach your small intestine and pancreas and then into the liver to be metabolized. 

How Long To Get a Drink Out of Your System?

Alcohol is mostly broken down in the liver through the actions of alcohol dehydrogenase. The liver can usually metabolize one standard drink for men at 100mL per hour. On top of the liver processing, an estimated 10 percent of alcohol is eliminated through our breath, sweat, and urine. 

A standard drink can be defined as:

  • 8-9 ounces of malt liquor
  • 12 ounces of regular beer
  • Five ounces of wine
  • 1.5 ounce shot of distilled spirits (tequila, gin, rum, whiskey, vodka)

Factors involved in how fast alcohol is broken down include:

  • Weight
  • Age
  • Metabolism
  • Gender
  • The amount of food someone consumed
  • Whether the person uses medication
  • Type and strength of alcohol

Does Drinking Coffee or Water Help You Sober Up?

Unfortunately, the myth that someone can have a cup of joe or chug some water after a long night of drinking is false. The breakdown and elimination of the substance are not sped up by sleeping or drinking water, and a shower or coffee won’t help you. Although you’ll feel more alert, it will not eliminate the substance from your system. As long as your consumption rate remains more significant than the speed of elimination, the BAC will continue rising. 

When Is Alcohol No Longer Detected On a Drug Test?

The amount of time it takes for alcohol to be detected in your system is solely dependent on the type of test used. As was mentioned above, the times vary between the measuring device. The following times can help you determine how long until the alcohol is purged from your system.

  • Blood: Up to six hours
  • Breathalyzer: 12-24 hours after your last drink
  • Saliva: 12-24 hours after consumption
  • Urine: For older methods of testing, it will be detected 12-24 hours after consumption. However, newer methods can detect alcohol for up to 72 hours or longer.
  • Hair: Up to 90 days

Since alcohol is metabolized quickly, most clinicians will rely on their observations for alcohol use – including the smell of alcohol, slurred speech, stumbling, or a breathalyzer test to determine if someone is intoxicated or has drunk recently. 

Risks of Alcohol Abuse

As you know, despite its legality, alcohol consumption, even in small doses, can be dangerous. Alcohol-related deaths register as the third-leading cause of preventable death in the United States, with an estimated 88,000 deaths each year. These include overdose, liver failure, drunk driving, and other accidents. 

If you or a loved one is battling with alcohol addiction, it may be time to reach out for the help you need. Alcohol addiction is challenging because of the triggers and easy access, but it’s possible to change your life today.

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