Alcohol Consumption: How Long It Stays In Your System

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Factors like body weight, age, gender, and the strength of alcohol affect the duration of alcohol in the body. Blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is the concentration of alcohol in the blood. Every hour, 0.015 percent of alcohol is passed out from a person's body. Alcohol stays in urine for 12–36 hours while it stays in one's breath for up to 24 hours.

A friend’s party, college graduation, breakup stories – whatever the reason may be, adolescents and grown-ups turn to alcohol for enjoyment or as a coping mechanism. Alcohol consumption is never a good habit; however, drinking it in moderation may not be as harmful as binge drinking.

If you’ve been caught for drunk driving even hours after you have had your last drink, then, you should know that alcohol stays in the human body way longer than you think.

There are several factors that affect the duration of alcohol in an individual’s body. Let’s examine these factors in brief.

Factors Affecting Alcohol’s Stay In The System

Age Is A Factor That Affects Alcohol's Stay In The Body

Everyone metabolizes alcohol at a different rate. There are several factors that affect the duration of alcohol in the body. Some of these factors are as follows:1

  • Body weight: A person who weighs more will have lower alcohol content in the blood than an individual with a lower body weight for the same amount of alcohol.
  • Gender: Women metabolize alcohol more slowly than men do. Therefore, women may have higher alcohol content in the body than men for the same number of drinks.
  • Age: As you grow older, your metabolism slows down. Therefore, older individuals will have a higher alcohol content in their body than younger individuals for the same amount of alcohol.
  • Food consumed: Drinking on an empty stomach results in rapid absorption of alcohol. Food prolongs the time alcohol spends in your stomach.
  • Type and strength of alcohol: The type and strength of the alcohol consumed also affects the absorption of alcohol. For instance, carbonated alcoholic beverages increase absorption while oily alcoholic beverages can slow the absorption.
  • Medications: Certain medications may increase alcohol absorption in the small intestine. Some may even cause you to feel intoxicated faster.

Apart from these mentioned factors, alcohol absorption and its stay in the body may also be affected if you have liver-related health conditions.

Before understanding the duration of alcohol present in different parts of the body, let us examine what blood alcohol level (BAL) or blood alcohol concentration or content (BAC) means.

Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC)

Alcohol Stays In Your Body For Hours After The Last Drink

Blood alcohol concentration or content (BAC) is the same as blood alcohol level (BAL). It is also sometimes known as blood ethanol concentration. It represents, as the name suggests, the concentration of alcohol present in your blood. BAC is expressed as the weight of ethanol, in grams, in 100 milliliters of blood.2

This means, for a BAC of 0.05, every 100 milliliters of blood contains 0.05 grams of alcohol in it. Most states in the US consider driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at or above 0.08 percent as a crime.3

The following are the specific effects of alcohol based on the BAC level.4

BAC LevelEffects On The Body
0.020–0.039 %No loss of coordination, slight euphoria, and loss of shyness
0.040–0.059 %Feeling of well-being, relaxation, lower inhibitions, and sensation of warmth. Some minor impairment of judgment and memory, lowering of caution.
0.06–0.099 %Slight impairment of balance, speech, vision, reaction time, and hearing. Reduced judgment and self-control. Impaired reasoning and memory.
0.100–0.129 %Significant impairment of motor coordination and loss of good judgment. Speech may be slurred; balance, peripheral vision, reaction time, and hearing will be impaired.
0.130–0.159 %Gross motor impairment and lack of physical control. Blurred vision and major loss of balance.
0.160–0.199 %A state of feeling unwell; nausea may appear.
0.200–0.249 %Needs assistance in walking; total mental confusion. Unwell feeling with nausea and vomiting; possible blackout.
0.250–0.399 %Alcohol poisoning. Loss of consciousness.
0.40 % and moreOnset of coma, possible death due to respiratory arrest.

Duration Of Alcohol In Blood, Urine, And Breath

Breathalyzer Use Alcohol In Breath To Detect Alcohol Levels

Alcohol stays in your body longer than you can imagine. The presence of alcohol may be measured by blood, breath, or urine tests.5

How Long Alcohol Stays In Blood

Once alcohol is consumed, a part of it enters the bloodstream due to the absorption by the small intestine. After this, alcohol is taken to the liver to be metabolized. On average, the liver can metabolize one ounce of alcohol every hour. From a single ounce of alcohol, the blood alcohol content rises to 0.015; that means, every hour that much alcohol is passed out of an individual’s body.

How Long Alcohol Stays In Urine

The presence of alcohol can be detected through urine tests. Alcohol stays in urine for about 12 to 36 hours, depending on the alcohol consumed. Some tests can even detect alcohol content in urine for up to 48 hours.

How Long Alcohol Stays In Breath

Alcohol stays in your breath for up to 24 hours after your last drink. This is what the breathalyzer device uses to detect drunk driving. The device detects alcohol content from the driver’s breath. The device produces four results: zero, pass, warn, and fail. Those who fail the test are arrested.6

Alcohol can also be detected in an individual’s hair for about 90 days after the last drink. A saliva test can also detect traces of alcohol 10 to 24 hours after the last drink.

Here are some tips to control the amount of alcohol that may be present in your body. Follow these tips to reduce alcohol’s troublesome effects on your body.

Some Tips To Control Blood Alcohol Concentration

Sipping On Drinks Can Keep Your Alcohol Intake To A Minimum

The following tips will keep your alcohol consumption and, in turn, the alcohol content in your body low.7

  • Sipping on alcohol instead of gulping it down and choosing alcoholic beverages like beer with a low alcohol content can keep your alcohol intake to a minimum.
  • Do not drink on an empty stomach. Food can slow down alcohol absorption in the body.
  • Keep a track of how much alcohol you are drinking.
  • Keep yourself active while having your drink. Just sitting will only cause you to drink more. Keeping active will reduce the number of drinks.

So, alcohol consumption can do more harm than good for your body. It is always best to avoid the habit; however, if you are a social drinker or enjoy a drink or two with your friends, make sure you drink responsibly and moderately.

References   [ + ]

1.How long does alcohol stay in your blood?. National Health Services (NHS) Choices.
2, 4.Blood Alcohol Concentration. University Of Notre Dame.
3.Alcohol Impaired Driving. Governors Highway Safety Association.
5.How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System?. American Addiction Centers.
6.Berger, Abi. “Alcohol breath testing.” BMJ: British Medical Journal 325, no. 7377 (2002): 1403.
7.Tips to Try. Rethinking Drinking.

Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.

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