About one standard drink is consumed by every person every hour. In addition to age, gender, body composition, and overall health, there are several factors that can influence how long individuals feel the effects of alcoholic beverages.
Scroll down to see the infographic of how alcohol affects your body and another one about the factors affecting the rate at which alcohol is processed.
How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System?
Your body retains alcohol for different lengths of time depending on several factors. Many people worry about how long alcohol will stay in their system after a long night of drinking. It takes time for the body to process alcohol. A standard drink is metabolized in about an hour. When it comes to determining exactly how long alcohol can be detected in the body, many factors are considered, including the type of drug test being used.
- Blood – At about 0.015 per hour, alcohol is excreted from the bloodstream. Alcohol can be detected in the blood for up to 12 hours after consumption.
- In urine, alcohol can be detected on the basis of the ethyl glucuronide test (EtG) for up to 5 days, or using the traditional method for up to 12 hours.
- Hair follicle drug tests can detect alcohol in hair for up to 90 days, the same as other drugs.
Understanding How Your Body Processes Alcohol
Alcohol is digested and metabolized by the body in a pretty straightforward way. As a result, the length of time a drink stays in someone’s system is more dependent on how much they drink than anything else.
The alcohol in your stomach and small intestine travels to the digestive system after you swallow it. The stomach absorbs about 20% of alcohol, while most of the remaining 80% passes through the small intestine and is then absorbed directly into the bloodstream. As soon as alcohol enters the bloodstream, it is rapidly transported throughout the body, which explains why alcohol affects so many different systems in the body. It is the liver that accounts for the vast majority of alcohol metabolism in the body.
A standard drink can be digested by the liver within an hour. A person who consumes more alcohol than this will become saturated, which will cause the additional alcohol to accumulate in their blood and tissues until they can be detoxified. The brain and tissues of the body can be damaged if this happens too many times or too fast.
When alcohol is not consumed so quickly as to cause alcohol poisoning, the human body is very effective at processing it. The body metabolizes and absorbs 90-98% of the alcohol it consumes. Alcohol remains in the body after drinking, so it is excreted through sweat, urine, vomit, and feces.
Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC)
An individual’s Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) is the amount of alcohol in the bloodstream. BAC is measured in units of mass of alcohol per volume of blood as a percentage of ethanol present in the blood. You can measure the level of alcohol in your blood with blood alcohol test.
Most people will have a blood-alcohol concentration of .015% after consuming one ounce of alcohol. Having a blood alcohol concentration of .015% means someone will not have any alcohol left in their bloodstream after 10 hours have passed. You should keep in mind that alcohol stays in your system longer if you drink more.
A person’s blood-alcohol level starts to rise once their blood-alcohol level exceeds .05% to .055%. Therefore, feelings of calm, happiness, and relaxation begin to change into depression, irritability, and disorientation. The sense of balance may be off and the ability to move may be impaired at .08% to .09%. Additionally, a person may not be able to metabolize the alcohol fast enough at this point, which may lead to vomiting. When someone’s blood alcohol content (BAC) level is 0.08% or higher, they are considered legally intoxicated and prohibited from driving.
We already reviewed for you what are the different types of BAC testing.
The factors affecting the rate at which alcohol is processed
Some people experience alcohol’s effects for longer periods of time than others, because they may be metabolizing alcohol at a constant rate. Several factors can cause blood alcohol concentrations to fluctuate among different people, including:
Alcohol stays in the liver for a longer period of time before it is metabolized or moves into the bloodstream – increasing intoxication time and liver damage risk with aging. Moreover, as you age, your body’s water content decreases, leading to a more significant increase in BAC. Furthermore, the liver is more likely to be affected in older people since they are more likely to take medications. All of these factors contribute to the body’s slower processing of alcohol.
Because women metabolize alcohol differently than men, alcohol will stay in their systems longer. As a result of a higher body fat percentage and lower body water percentage in women, this is a common phenomenon. It follows that if two people of the same height and weight drink the same amount of alcohol, their bodies will dilute it differently. Drinking alcohol right before menstruation increases the body’s ability to process alcohol due to hormone imbalances. In addition, studies have shown that women have a lower level of the enzyme used to break down alcohol in the stomach, acetaldehyde dehydrogenase.
The absorption of alcohol can be greatly affected by food consumption prior to drinking. Alcohol is rapidly absorbed into the body if it is diluted by food and the stomach is emptied slowly into the small intestine. If someone drinks on an empty stomach, their peak BAC could be 3 times higher than if they had eaten before drinking. The consumption of regular meals and snacking while drinking may help induce enzyme activity in the liver and reduce the alcohol absorption rate.
Alcohol processing rates are also influenced by a person’s size and composition. A person with more body fat is likely to have a higher blood alcohol concentration since fatty tissue can’t absorb alcohol as well as muscle tissue. Accordingly, an individual with a larger BAC will be taller than someone with the same body composition but a shorter stature.
The metabolism of certain medications can be influenced by alcohol, thus affecting the body’s ability to process alcohol. Alcohol is rapidly absorbed from the small intestine and liver if certain medications reduce stomach emptying into them. As a result, the body experiences intoxication more quickly and the BAC level rises. Specific drugs and alcohol interactors include:
- Xanax, an anti-anxiety medication.
- Adderall, a medication for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
- Cold and flu medicines.
- Chlorpropamide, a diabetes medication.
So, what’s a standard drink?
Due to nonstandard drink measurements, people often underestimate how much they’ve consumed. As a rule of thumb, one standard drink is equal to one 12-ounce beer, one-and-a-half ounces of liquor (whiskey, vodka, etc. ), or one five-ounce glass of wine.
Don’t drink and drive
When excessive alcohol consumption is prevented by understanding BAC and the rate at which alcohol is metabolized by the body, dangerous consequences will be avoided. For those who have trouble drinking safely and in moderation, it may be time to seek professional assistance. You can contact our car accidents lawyer to see if we can help you in your situation.