Some Facts About Alcohol

When most people talk about drinking, they are talking about pre-drinks, drinking games, drinks at the bar, drinks for the dance floor, the list goes on. From those who seek the solace of a daily glass of wine after a long day’s work to those who binge with mates at the weekends, many don’t know the facts about alcohol.

How long does alcohol stay in your system

This is a big issue as the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that 7% of adults, that’s 16.6 million adults, have some kind of alcohol disorder. Just think about that number for a moment. Millions of individuals are struggling with this antidepressant substance in some form or another. Research also reveals 88,000 die annually from alcohol related deaths such as liver failure, poisoning and drunk driving.

This is why it’s important to understand how your body metabolizes alcohol and answer the question how long does alcohol stay in your system? Keeping track of the units you drink may prevent extreme intoxication and minimizes the chances of you becoming hooked on alcohol.

What happens to alcohol in the body?

Alcohol requires no processing in the digestive system so passes straight through with 20% moving straight to the blood vessels. This then gets distributed around the rest of the body and brain. The small intestines absorb the remaining amount before passing them back into the bloodstream. If you’ve had a meal before, this process will take longer and slow down the intoxicating effects of alcohol.
The next stage is for the drink to be metabolized by the liver. In general, alcohol gets metabolized at the same rate regardless of factors such as age, weight, BMI and so on. It largely depends on the health and efficiency of your liver as to whether it’s metabolized at a normal rate or not.

Myth Buster: Even if it’s quicker for one person to get drunk than the other, the main factor determining how long alcohol stays in your body is the health of your liver.

Metabolism Processing Facts

After that first sip, the body undergoes several complex processes to ensure the alcohol leaves the system. It does this mainly through metabolic processes and the other 10% leaves our bodies via sweat, breath and urine.

The facts:

  • 1 ounce of alcohol gets metabolized by the liver every hour on average. However, some individuals have the substance flowing through their bloodstream up to three hours after drinking!
  • Traces of alcohol can still be found in urinary tests up to 36 hours after drinking.
  • Depending on which test is taken, a substance produced by the body’s processing of alcohol can be found up to 80 hours after drinking.
  • When we look at it from a blood level perspective, one ounce causes a BAC (blood alcohol concentration) of 0.015. This means every hour this amount of alcohol will exit the body.
  • When the person starts drinking more than the liver can comfortably handle however, the metabolic process slows down.
  • When levels of alcohol in the blood rise above 0.055, it spills over into body tissues and becomes absorbed by the blood. This then leads to sickness, nausea, depression and loss of memory.
  • Traces of alcohol can often be found in an individual’s hair for up to 90 days after drinking
  • The substance can remain up to a day after consumption in the saliva.

When asking yourself how long does alcohol stay in your system, it’s important to consider the BAC and the rate it drops per hour. This will help you make a predictable estimation of how quickly alcohol enters and leaves our body.

This table from Wikipedia published by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism demonstrates, depending on body weight, how much your BAC will be after a certain number of drinks.

Male
Female
Approximate blood alcohol percentage (by vol.)[6]
One drink has 0.5 US fl oz (15 ml) alcohol by volume
Drinks Body weight
40 kg 45 kg 55 kg 64 kg 73 kg 82 kg 91 kg 100 kg 109 kg
90 lb 100 lb 120 lb 140 lb 160 lb 180 lb 200 lb 220 lb 240 lb
1
0.05
0.04
0.05
0.03
0.04
0.03
0.03
0.02
0.03
0.02
0.03
0.02
0.02
0.02
0.02
0.02
0.02
2
0.10
0.08
0.09
0.06
0.08
0.05
0.07
0.05
0.06
0.04
0.05
0.04
0.05
0.03
0.04
0.03
0.04
3
0.15
0.11
0.14
0.09
0.11
0.08
0.10
0.07
0.09
0.06
0.08
0.06
0.07
0.05
0.06
0.05
0.06
4
0.20
0.15
0.18
0.12
0.15
0.11
0.13
0.09
0.11
0.08
0.10
0.08
0.09
0.07
0.08
0.06
0.08
5
0.25
0.19
0.23
0.16
0.19
0.13
0.16
0.12
0.14
0.11
0.13
0.09
0.11
0.09
0.10
0.08
0.09
6
0.30
0.23
0.27
0.19
0.23
0.16
0.19
0.14
0.17
0.13
0.15
0.11
0.14
0.10
0.12
0.09
0.11
7
0.35
0.26
0.32
0.22
0.27
0.19
0.23
0.16
0.20
0.15
0.18
0.13
0.16
0.12
0.14
0.11
0.13
8
0.40
0.30
0.36
0.25
0.30
0.21
0.26
0.19
0.23
0.17
0.20
0.15
0.18
0.14
0.17
0.13
0.15
9
0.45
0.34
0.41
0.28
0.34
0.24
0.29
0.21
0.26
0.19
0.23
0.17
0.20
0.15
0.19
0.14
0.17
10
0.51
0.38
0.45
0.31
0.38
0.27
0.32
0.23
0.28
0.21
0.25
0.19
0.23
0.17
0.21
0.16
0.19
Subtract approximately 0.01 every 40 minutes after drinking.

 

So basically, a man weighing 180 pounds would reach a BAC of 0.10 after consuming 5 drinks per hour. On the other hand, a woman weighing 140 pounds would need to drink only 3 per hour to reach the same BAC.

Myth buster: despite what you’ve heard about binge drinking, large amounts of alcohol consumption in a short space of time can cause the substance to remain in your body longer. As your BAC is raised much higher than usual, it could take 9x as long for your body to dispose of the drink.

Percentage of alcohol myth busted

What else influences how long alcohol stays in your system for?

There may be other factors involved in the absorption of blood and how effectively it is metabolized by your body. These are:

  1. Alcohol percentage

How potent the alcohol is will largely dictate the concentration found in your blood. For instance, drink beers and you’ll consume only around 3-6% volume of alcohol compared to vodka where you’d consume 40%. This means you only need a small amount of vodka to get your BAC level to 0.08. So the higher the percentage, the more alcohol it contains and they longer it takes to leave your system.

  1. Is it carbonated?

Carbonated drinks have a higher absorption rate so will get you drunk much quicker. These beverages push the alcohol from the lining of the stomach and into the blood slowing down the detox process.

  1. Individual differences

Things such as: age, body fat-muscle ratio, body mass, medications, genetics, metabolism, food intake and even how stressed you are can affect how quickly alcohol leaves your system. These individual factors will vary among people.

For example, younger people have more metabolizing enzymes which decrease with age. Those with low body fat percentage compared to body mass (height and weight) will be able to handle beverages more proficiently then those with a higher body fat percentage. Drugs will also influence the intoxicating effects of alcohol and how quickly it’s absorbed.

As for genetics, this plays a large part over someone’s metabolism and how well their system handles alcohol. It’s the variants of genes that release specific enzymes needed to break down alcohol and help the body detoxify.

Even something seemingly as insignificant as your state of mind can have an impact. The more stressed an individual, the more stress hormone cortisol is released which speeds up the metabolism.

 Blood alcohol concentration myth

Myth Buster:

People often think if they have a higher tolerance to alcohol, they can flush it from their bodies quicker. Despite these individuals appearing to have the ability to handle the intoxicating effects much better than their counterparts, tolerance has no link to BAC. In fact, those who have a higher tolerance have more chance of experiencing withdrawal symptoms.

How you can decrease blood alcohol concentration

You’re more in control then you think when it comes down to alcohol. To lessen the amount of BAC and make sure it doesn’t go over the 0.08 mark (the legal limit), there are some precautions you can take.

It’s time to stop worrying and questioning how long does alcohol stay in your system. Instead, take these practical steps next time you’re out and about or planning to drink.

  • Curb the binge drink habit: drinking tons in a short space of time can raise your BAC to a very high level. Remember, your liver can only metabolize one normal sized drink every hour.
  • Opt for drinks with lower alcoholic volume: some beverages are stronger than others. Mixing drinks that contain whisky or vodka have a greater amount of alcoholic volume than beers.
  • Eat before drinking: always line the stomach with protein-rich food before you start to drink. This will lengthen the time it takes to hit the peak BAC level.
  • Know your own limits: knowing when to say no will serve you and your body well. You should never feel pressured to ‘keep up’ with those around you. Remember the differences for males and females too. It may help to set limits before you even start drinking taking into consideration your body mass and gender.
  • Keep fit: the better shape you are in the more muscle you have, the more fat you shed and the quicker your metabolism. All of which helps your body handle alcohol more efficiently.
  • Make your drink last longer: smaller sips not only save you money but ensure you don’t go back for the next sooner than you should. Some things in life are best savored, right?

Looking for help with your detox?

We all need a helping hand at times and at BLVD Treatment Centers, we offer residential and outpatient services. Tailored to fit your specific needs, you can seek solace in the undivided attention of our experienced counselors.

When opting for the residential rehab option, you can take advantage of:

If you’re still unsure of whether you’re an alcoholic or not, try taking this quiz for a confidential answer. Either way, you’ll get the help and support you need at one of our centers located in: Hollywood, Portland, Orange County, San Diego, West Los Angeles, Give our team a call to see how we can help on 8885376671.

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