How Long Does Alcohol Stay In Your System?
How Long Does Alcohol Stay In Your System?
Today we’ll be discussing an important topic – how does alcohol stay in your system, and how long does your body need to get rid of it? Once you know this, you'll be able to make sound decisions to become a much more responsible drinker.
Understanding Blood Alcohol Concentration
Before answering the question, “how long does alcohol stay in your system,” we need to understand how alcohol in your system is measured. The metric used for this purpose is Blood Alcohol Concentration or BAC.
Simply put, BAC is the percentage of ethyl alcohol in your blood at any given time. People have different rates at which their body processes alcohol, but the rule of thumb is that about 30 ml of alcohol equates to a 0.015% BAC level. This is the baseline that distinguishes sobriety from intoxication.
BAC levels of 0.015% - 0.05% are what most people refer to as buzzed, or producing feelings of general happiness and euphoria. As BAC rises and more liquor stays in your system, the more likely the negative effects of alcohol are to be experienced. Once BAC goes beyond 0.055% BAC, irritability starts to kick in.
0.08% BAC is the point where you'll be tagged as legally intoxicated. Here, motor skills will be seriously impaired. Hence why this is the level where driving is strictly prohibited by law enforcement. It’s also where most people will start vomiting.
At 0.15% BAC, most people will already become unconscious and pass out. If blood alcohol levels reach 0.35% - 0.40%, it can potentially lead to a fatal outcome for the drinker.
Factors That Determine How Long Alcohol Stays in your Body
So, how long does alcohol stay in your system? It depends on several factors. For some, alcohol remains in their system for longer periods of time, whereas others may metabolize alcohol at a higher rate.
Age plays a big part in how long alcohol stays in a person's system. In general, older people will digest it much slower. This is because, as you age, your liver will become less efficient. Furthermore, increased medication intake, which is associated with aging, affects the function of the liver and its ability to process alcohol, as well.
Body size and composition also affect your blood alcohol levels. In general, fat cannot absorb alcohol as well as muscle. That’s why people with high amounts of fat will also have a higher BAC. Shorter people also leads to higher BAC than taller people because of body mass.
Digestion is another important factor when it comes to alcohol in your system. If you’ve ever had a night out, you’ll hear the advice to eat first before drinking. That’s because food in the stomach can dramatically lower BAC by slowing down the small intestine’s absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream.
The Time It Takes For Alcohol to Leave your System
So how long does alcohol stay in your system, exactly? The answer lies in one organ – your liver.
The liver is the organ responsible for processing alcohol, and it does so at a fixed rate. It takes about one hour for your body to get rid of one standard drink, which is the equivalent of about one 12-ounce bottle of beer. In terms of blood alcohol concentration, your body can remove 0.015% BAC per hour.
The above numbers are just the average. Heavy drinkers can process alcohol at a faster rate and have much higher BAC limits.
The Tests That Can Detect Alcohol
Ethanol tests can detect your blood alcohol levels in many ways, through your urine, breath, blood, and sweat. They have different accuracies and timeframes of effectiveness, as traces of alcohol can linger in various areas of the body.
For example, hair tests can detect alcohol consumption for up to 90 days since drinking. A breathalyzer can test alcohol in your system for up to 24 hours. They're foolproof and easy to administer, hence why they're the test of choice for law enforcement.
Most home and medical tests will usually test for alcohol in your urine. Alcohol stays in the urine anywhere from 12-80 hours, depending on how much you drank. Saliva tests are much less effective, only detecting your BAC for up to 8 hours.
Consume Alcohol Safely and Responsibly
Once you know how your body processes alcohol and for how long, you’ll make much better decisions while drinking. Our advice? Know your limits, and pace yourself whenever you consume alcohol.
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