Occasionally, it is necessary to determine the amount of alcohol present in the body for reasons like medication, police case investigation, or desintoxication purposes.
Thus it is worthwhile to understand the facts on how long alcohol stays in your system including body, urine, blood, saliva, perspiration, breath, and hair follicles.
Alcohol drinking habits of people vary from person to person. Usually, the period of drinking may last for an hour or goes on for several hours.
- Blood alcohol concentration (BAC Testing);
- Saliva and breath (Breathalyzer);
- Urine (Drug test);
- Hair follicle testing.
Hair follicle testing is the most accurate means to detect alcohol and drug in your system. This method helps to detect the alcohol up to 3 months after ingesting the alcohol (4).
Factors That Decide The Retention Of Alcohol In the Body
Alcohol that enters the digestive system quickly gets absorbed into the bloodstream which then travels to all parts of the body and brain.
However, food present in the intestine and stomach can slow down the uptake of alcohol into the bloodstream.
The amount of alcohol in the body drastically increases when someone starts consuming alcohol quicker than the liver can metabolize it.
How long does alcohol stay in your system depends on factors such as gender, age, body type, genetics, metabolic health, medication, disease, and food?
Gender or Sex
Generally, men have a better capacity to metabolize the alcohol in the blood.
A man will have a lower blood alcohol level (BAC) after an hour of drinking compared to a woman who also has drunk the same amount of alcohol.
It is because of the higher levels of the enzyme Hydrogenase found in men. Besides this, a woman also has higher percentages of alcohol-retaining fat cells than a man.
Individuals belonging to different genes have both ALDH and ADH encoded in different forms which results in different levels of alcohol absorption and retention in the body.
Eating food before or while drinking reduces the uptake of alcohol. It is because the stomach enzymes give priority to the food instead of processing the alcohol.
On the contrary, people who drink on an empty stomach or without having food while drinking will have a higher level of blood alcohol.
In addition, high-protein foods are very effective in delaying the processing of alcohol in the intestine.
Individuals with healthy metabolism can process and eliminate alcohol faster from the system.
The metabolic health of individuals depends on liver health, food habits, lifestyle, stress level, sleep, and exercise.
A few of the medications may influence the inhibition of metabolizing the alcohol by interfering with enzymatic activity.
Some of the commonly used medications for cold/flu, sedatives, and antidepressants increase the absorption of alcohol in the smaller intestine and increase the retention of alcohol in the body.
Intoxication effects and retention of alcohol are higher in individuals who are suffering from diseases that dehydrate the body.
A person with a dehydrated body makes the liver less active in degrading and eliminating alcohol. It also reduces the enzymatic activity needed for the faster metabolizing of alcohol in the blood.
For this reason, drinking a lot of water is the best remedy for overcoming alcohol hangovers.
How Long Does Alcohol Stay In Your System?
Several variables determine the amount of alcohol that stays in your system for how long period.
The alcoholic content may remain in a noticeable amount in the blood and urine up to 80 hours after drinking.
Traces of alcohol remain in the hair follicles up to 3 months after you stopped drinking alcohol.
Once in the bloodstream, alcohol leaves the system in two ways:
- 10% leaves through breath, perspiration, and the urine
- The remaining 90% is metabolized internally.
The crucial and immediate factors that decide the retention of alcohol in your body are:
- Type of alcohol used;
- Amount of alcohol consumed;
- Foods consumed during or before drinking;
- Dehydration level of the body;
- The metabolic rate of the body.
It also depends on all general factors like age, sex, body weight, genetics, and others we have already discussed above.
The retention of alcohol in the body may be longer in people with weak liver or abnormal heart rhythms.
Chemical reactions caused by alcohol may also contribute to the longer retention of alcohol in the body.
All these factors discussed above are also responsible for determining the level of intoxication from liquor experienced by the person.
People under severe physical or psychological stress get quickly intoxicated and retain alcohol in their bodies for a longer period.
How Long Does Alcohol Stay In Your Urine?
A urine test is the most commonly done test for measuring the alcohol present in the body.
The body begins to quickly excrete the alcohol through urine when about five percent of the absorbed alcohol reaches the kidney.
Alcohol also inhibits the production of vasopressin, a hormone that helps conserve body fluids. As a result of this, urination increases and the individual feels the urge to urinate usually within 30 minutes after consuming the alcohol.
Up to 80 hours of drinking some amount of alcohol would be present in the urine especially when the person has consumed alcohol in excess.
Normally, significantly significant traces of alcohol can easily be detected in the urine up to 36 hours after drinking.
Ethyl Glucuronide (EtG) test is the most popular and advanced urine testing method to discover and measure the amount of alcohol retained in the body (10).
Ethyl Glucuronide is a biomarker that determines whether the body has metabolized any alcohol recently.
The EtG Urine Alcohol Test detects ethyl glucuronide in the urine, which confirms alcohol ingestion as long as 3-4 days after intake, or about 80 hours after the liver metabolizes alcohol (11).
The urine analysis includes physical, chemical, and microscopic examination of the urine that can clearly indicate the presence of alcohol in it.
How Long Does Alcohol Stay In Your Blood?
In a healthy individual, the liver usually processes about one ounce of alcohol per hour.
If you quickly gulp down a lot of alcohol within an hour or two, the alcohol level in the blood quickly rises as the liver cannot metabolize the excess amount of liquor.
The unprocessed alcohol present in the blood is called “BAC” or blood alcohol concentration (12).
When the alcohol level in the blood rises beyond 0.055, body tissues begin to absorb the extra alcohol. It may result in physical and mental discomforts such as depression, nausea, vomiting, irritability, memory loss, and disorientation.
An ounce of excess alcohol consumed can increase the BAC level to 0.015.
The liver can process only 1 ounce of alcohol per hour, which means only 0.015 levels of BAC can be reduced per hour.
A blood alcohol level of 0.08, the legal limit for driving, takes 5.5 hours to leave the system.
Now let us see how long does alcohol stays in your blood.
If an individual has a BAC of 0.08 then the following time duration will be required for the alcohol to leave your system:
- After 1 hour – your BAC would be 0.065
- After 2 hours – your BAC would be 0.05
- After 3 hours – your BAC would be 0.035
- After 4 hours – your BAC would be 0.02
- After 5 hours – your BAC would be 0.005
How Long Does Alcohol Stay In Your Breath?
A device called Breathalyzer is commonly used for measuring the alcohol content in your breath (13).
Now, how long does alcohol stay in your breath?
It depends on two important factors:
- how much alcohol is consumed
- how long before it is consumed
After every hour, the liver reduces the BAC level by .015 that equals 1 ounce of alcohol.
A person who has drunk only an ounce of alcohol will have zero or an insignificant amount of it in the breath after an hour of drinking.
For another example, if an individual had an alcohol level of .20% BAC, the alcohol content in the breath may remain up to 13 hours.
When Does Alcohol Leave Fully Your System?
The liver metabolizes the alcohol in the blood (BAC) at the rate of .015 in an hour.
One standard drink adds about .015 alcohols to your bloodstream regardless of body size and gender.
If you had 3 standard drinks within an hour, it might take up to 4 hours for the alcohol to leave your system.
Therefore, if you have consumed a lot of alcohol it may take many more hours to leave your system.
If your BAC is .08%, it will take approximately 51/2 hours for all the alcohol to be eliminated from the body.
Alcohol content leaves the body of men faster than women because of a higher amount of enzyme hydrogenase present in men.
Traces of alcohol in blood, saliva, perspiration, and breath stay up to 48 hours depending on the amount of alcohol you have consumed.
In urine tests, the alcohol content can be traced up to 80 hours.
Hair strands can retain the alcohol particles up to 90 days after you have stopped drinking alcohol.
How To Get Alcohol Out of Your System Fast?
If you are thoroughly intoxicated with alcohol to the point of physical impairment, it is necessary to get the alcohol out of your system fast.
Contrary to general belief, drinking a lot of fluids like water and juice will not expedite the expulsion of alcohol from your body. Of course, it is beneficial for getting rid of dehydration caused by alcoholic drinks.
BAC level will reach zero only when the liver has fully metabolized the alcohol content in the blood.
Drinking a lot of water after hard drinks prevent alcohol from saturating in the body tissues. It may help in the excretion of alcohol through urine and perspiration.
Most of the drug test does not fully show up the alcohol in your system.
There is no guaranteed treatment or natural solution for cleansing your body of alcohol.
However, the most efficient ways to get alcohol out of your system are:
- Drink a lot of pure water;
- Consume Vitamin B supplements;
- Do a minimum of one hour of active exercise daily;
- Eat fiber-rich vegetables and low-calorie foods;
- Eat foods that nourish the liver;
- Avoid drinking coffee, tea, and sugary beverages;
- Sleep for 8 hours or more at night.
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