How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System?
Knowing the answer to how long does alcohol stay in your system may help change your thoughts and behaviors relating to alcohol consumption.
Table of Contents
What Defines a Drink?
People who drink, and even those who do not, can be misinformed about alcohol and its effect on the body. Many believe alcohol is harmless, and the greatest danger it poses is a hangover. Unfortunately, this mindset is not true. The truth is that alcohol addiction is serious and, in some cases, life-threatening.
A drink is defined differently based on gender in America. The reasons for this definition include general body size, weight, and metabolism. Generally, men can handle more alcohol than women due to their weight and size.1
A drink has several definitions. It is one 12 fluid ounces of beer or wine cooler. For wine, a drink is 5 fluid ounces. A mixed drink is 1.5 fluid ounces of 80-proof hard liquor, such as gin, whisky, or run. According to the US’s official dietary guidelines, the alcohol consumption recommendation for each biological sex include:
Consuming more than a single drink in an hour may result in alcohol abuse or alcohol addiction. These “fun” situations can quickly become harmful and even life-threatening.
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Is Alcohol Addictive?
Statistics on Alcohol Abuse
Alcohol addiction can be dangerous, and it can greatly alter the lives of both those suffering from the addiction and their loved ones. Knowing the facts and being educated about alcohol’s effects can help change these statistics for the future.
How Long Does It Take for Alcohol to Kick In?
While this aspect depends somewhat on the individual, the effects of alcohol in the body usually start within 10 minutes of consumption. However, someone drinking may not feel anything for up to 30 minutes. As soon as you take a drink, alcohol enters your bloodstream.
Signs of Being Drunk
Knowing what intoxication looks like can save lives. The following signs and symptoms of intoxication tend to get worse the more a person drinks alcohol:
These are just a few signs of intoxication. Many more exist and may be specific to each individual. For example, some individuals become extremely affectionate or humorous when they drink. Other people may become extremely mean or violent. These effects are not typical signs of alcohol abuse.
How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System?
An alcohol urine test is quick and cost-efficient. For most people consuming alcohol, the substance is detected in urine 12 to 24 hours after ingestion. However, alcohol detection is possible up to 72 hours after heavy drinking.
It is possible to detect alcohol in your saliva up to 24 hours after you ingested it. Typically, any alcohol in your system is metabolized after 24 hours and is no longer detectable in your saliva after that point.
Hair samples also contain traces of alcohol. Unlike the other body components, an alcohol test can detect the substance in hair up to 90 days after ingestion. Microscopic testing is required with hair samples to determine when someone consumed the substance.
In general, alcohol stays in your system for 12 to 36 hours. However, it is not unheard of for it to be detected 80 hours later, depending on the detection system used. Alcohol addiction can extend the length of time that alcohol detection is possible.
Factors that Affect Alcohol Detection
A typical misunderstanding about how long does alcohol stay in your system pertains to the ability of others to detect it. Individual factors determine the ability to detect alcohol within a specific period.
Individuals with higher percentages of body fat require more time to become intoxicated. However, the amount of alcohol in their body tissue is much higher than that found in individuals with lower body fat who may get drunk faster. The alcohol detection period may last longer in bodies with a higher percentage of body fat.
Use of Other Substances
Drinking and using drugs at the same time affect alcohol detection. Even the interaction between alcohol and prescription medications can affect alcohol detection time. Alcohol is a depressant and mixing it with other depressants can keep it in the body’s system longer.
Additional factors are known to affect alcohol detection including hydration, sleep, and prescription medications. The amount of alcohol and the speed at which it is consumed will impact the alcohol detection timeline.
Myths About How to Get Alcohol Out of Your System
MYTH: Sweat It Out
TRUTH: You cannot sweat alcohol out of your system. Approximately 90% of alcohol consumed ends up in the liver—no need to step on your treadmill when you get home.
MYTH: Eat, Eat, Eat
TRUTH: Food does not absorb alcohol. What happens is that a valve between the stomach and intestines remains closed while you eat (and drink) to allow food to digest.
MYTH: Caffeine Makes You Sober
TRUTH: Coffee and energy drinks do not affect getting alcohol out of your system. People believe this myth because these beverages can make you feel more awake and alert.
How is Alcohol Metabolized?
The Dangers of Alcohol PoisoningAlcohol poisoning is a grave situation. People can die from drinking too much alcohol or from the sudden withdrawal of alcohol. First-time and binge drinkers are at particular risk of alcohol poisoning. Symptoms of alcohol poisoning can include:7
If you or someone you know exhibits these symptoms after alcohol consumption, contact medical help. The individual suffering from these symptoms should be monitored until help arrives.
- 1. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/understanding-dangers-of-alcohol-overdose
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