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How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System?

By Sabina Rose
Food Pyramid -

After grabbing a few drinks with your friends you might wonder about the alcohol levels in your body. So the question is, how long does alcohol stay in your system?

how-long-does-alcohol-stay-in-your-systemKnowing more beforehand about how long alcohol stays in your system could help you plan ahead as to whether you would need to call a cab or not. The short term effects of drinking alcohol are disorienting on their own. Since the alcohol in your system is a Central Nervous System depressant, a person will suffer impaired judgment and senses, depressed reflexes, difficulty in balancing and in cases of alarmingly high consumption, unconsciousness and even respiratory depression. Hence it is safer to monitor your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) and know how long alcohol stays in your body to prevent any accidents.

For how long does alcohol stay in your system?

So the question that people often ask: “How long does alcohol stay in your system?”. First of all, to understand the amount of time alcohol will stay in your body, you should know a little bit more of what happens when you consume a drink.

Upon consuming an alcoholic drink, it travels down your gastrointestinal tract. 20 percent of the alcohol is absorbed in the stomach within 5 minutes, while the other 80 percent is absorbed in the small intestine in approximately 20 minutes. After this process, 10 percent of the absorbed alcohol is lost from the body through sweat, breath and urine. However the remaining 90 percent remains in your body and impair your senses by flowing through your bloodstream.

Your blood alcohol concentration reflects on how fast you metabolize the alcohol, giving you a hint as to how long alcohol stays in your body and affect your senses. There are several factors, and these include:

  • Gender – It is not just a cliché, research shows that women suffer from more neurotoxicity than men after consuming the same amount of alcohol. This is due to the fact that women have less water in their body as compared to men.
  • Weight – Since muscle tissue has more water content than fat tissue, body build and weight can also affect how long does alcohol stay in your body.
  • Age – Individuals aged from 20 to 30 can metabolize alcohol faster than those belonging to other age groups. Research shows that the effect of alcohol consumption in adolescents is far more damaging than that on adults.
  • Time passed since last drink – If you decide to go back home immediately after having alcohol, driving your car is a very bad idea. Metabolism of alcohol takes some time and puts strain on your liver. It takes quite some time for its effects to wear off too. The longer time lapsed after your last drink, the more clearer your senses will be.
  • Concentration of alcohol in your drink – Vodka and gin are distilled spirits, which means they have a higher content of water. Consequently these drinks are less likely to give you a hangover since the concentration of alcohol is less in them.
  • Carbonated or non-carbonated – Non-carbonated drinks like wine are absorbed more slowly into your system.
  • Empty or full stomach – Alcohol is slowly absorbed when your stomach is full. Most people prefer to consume alcohol in a healthy manner with dinner. However on an empty stomach, alcohol can have disastrously bad effects.
  • Drug interaction – Taking aspirin or paracetamol before alcohol consumption actually slows down the absorption of alcohol so that your senses are less impaired.

How long does alcohol stay in your blood?

After the alcohol has been absorbed in to your blood, it will travel to other organs. Through the capillaries, it reaches the epithelial layer first, from which some of it lost as sweat. It spreads to permeate all of the tissues in the body and dissolves in the water within these cells as it begins its influence.

As the alcohol spreads it reaches nervous tissue, where it starts to impair your senses by depressing the central nervous system. It fogs your brain and damages your ability to balance yourself, so that you sway when you walk. Since the alcohol has reached your brain, it also disrupts your ability to make decisions and causes loss of memory.

The alcohol also travels to your liver and pancreas and you must know the damage that alcohol can cause to the liver. Drinking too much alcohol can cause fat deposits in your liver that subsequently lead to scarring and cirrhosis. Since there are no pain nerves in the liver you will not feel any pain even though your liver may be seriously damaged.

Having absorbed the alcohol it does not determine for how long alcohol stays in your bloodstream. In fact, your blood alcohol concentration may keep rising as you absorb more and more alcohol. If that is the case, then for how long does alcohol stay in your blood? In order to find out you need to use a BAC calculator that you can easily find online. Once you have calculated it, a BAC level of 0.02 is broken down in about one and a half hours. BAC level of 0.05 is metabolized in three and a half hours whereas, 0.08 is metabolized in five and a half hours. If the BAC level is more than 0.1, it may take more than 7 hours. You must remember that the legal limit is a BAC level of 0.08.

How long does alcohol stay in your urine?

As soon as about 5 percent of the alcohol absorbed reaches the kidneys, the body starts expelling the alcohol through the urine. Alcohol also inhibits vasopressin, which is a hormone that usually conserves body fluids. With its inhibition, excretion of fluids through urine is increased and the body starts excreting alcohol within twenty minutes of its consumption. But to know how long alcohol stays in your urine will depend of how much you drink.

However urine tests can detect alcohol consumption for a very long time, which can be from 6 hours to several days depending on the testing device. While a breathalyzer test detects alcohol consumption within 24 hours, a saliva test or an ethyl gluconoride test can detect alcohol consumption till 12 days. Testing a hair follicle can even find alcohol for up to about ninety days!

How to get rid of alcohol in your system

After reading all of this, you are probably thinking of finding a way of getting rid of the alcohol in your system. Unfortunately there is no way of actually making your body excrete out all the alcohol faster than usual. You must give your body time to metabolize all the alcohol and eliminate it in its own pace. However there are some tips you can follow to prevent alcohol from overpowering your senses.

  • Drink loads of water after consuming an alcoholic drink. The main problem that alcohol causes is dehydration, so to counter its detrimental effects; you must hydrate your body.
  • You should eat food like beats and oats as they carry out the process of detoxification and protect your body.
  • Drinking fresh juices and green tea that act as diuretics, cleanses the kidneys of all the toxins that have been accumulating in it as it processes all the alcohol. Do your kidneys a favor and drink some cranberry juice to prevent any irreversible damage.
  • While you are drinking, try taking sips instead of gulping down your drink. The longer time you take to finish your drink, the less likely it is that you’ll drink too much.
  • Eat protein rich food while drinking alcohol. This will not only decrease the rate of absorption of alcohol in your system, it will also keep your metabolism active. This will enable it to process the absorbed alcohol quicker and not affect you as much as usual.


References:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK83244/
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15789865
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10433036
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11156801
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18540907
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15530577
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15125487

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  • lxim

    Think about this statement appearing above:
    Concentration of alcohol in your drink – Vodka and gin are distilled spirits, which means they have a higher content of water. Consequently these drinks are less likely to give you a hangover since the concentration of alcohol is less in them.

    Um… the concentration of alcohol is less in gin and vodka? As compared to what? Everclear?

  • Read the above information. The moment we take a drug – whether we snort, smoke, or swallow it – our bodies begin to break it down. In the process, metabolites, or byproducts, of the drug are produced, which can linger in our blood, urine (and even in our hair) for long after the initial effects of the drug are felt. Are BMR same for every people?

    how long does alcohol stays in your system?