How long alcohol stays in your system depends on several factors, most importantly, on your liver’s ability to break it down. You may have heard the term BAC, which stands for blood alcohol concentration (sometimes content) and is the amount of measurable alcohol in your blood.
How Long Does Alcohol Stay In A Person’s System?
The amount of time ethanol (the actual chemical name) stays in your system is influenced by several factors. Your weight, height, gender, and age are also factors. Your medical history and overall health can also affect the amount of time it takes your body to process alcohol. Despite these variables, the human body generally processes a single serving per hour, or 0.015 BAC each hour. So, if you have a BAC of 0.08, the legal limit for driving in many places, it will take about five and a half hours for your BAC to return to zero.
But this does not mean the alcohol you drank is gone from your body. Alcohol goes through several chemical changes (metabolization) as it makes its way through your body. Booze can still be detected in urine, sweat, and saliva for much longer.
How Fast Does the Body Metabolize Alcohol?
Unless you’re partaking in a fraternity hazing ritual and consuming alcohol through another orifice, you’re probably drinking the alcohol. As it moves into the stomach, some it is absorbed through the body and into the bloodstream. About 20% of alcohol is absorbed in the stomach and then makes its way into the blood. From there, it reaches the brain quickly and produces the buzzed feeling. The other 80% of alcohol is absorbed through the small intestine. When a person drinks while eating, the muscle that controls when stomach contents are moved into the intestines closes and dramatically slows down the alcohol absorption process. That’s why when people drink on an empty stomach, they feel stronger effects faster. Now that the alcohol has entered the blood in significant quantities, it quickly reaches the brain and other tissues and organs.
From here, the rate at which your body metabolizes alcohol can differ significantly from person to person. Below, you’ll find a list of factors that can affect how quickly it is broken down:
- Blood circulation: people with poor circulation generally become intoxicated faster and remain drunk for a longer period.
- Drinking habits: individuals who drink a lot regularly will have higher concentrations of enzymes that help metabolize alcohol. Therefore, they will need to consume larger quantiles to produce an intoxicating effect.
- Body fat: alcohol will stay in the body longer in people carrying around extra weight.
- Empty stomach: as we discussed above, drinking on an empty stomach will cause a person to feel the effects of alcohol much faster than in a person who has recently eaten.
- Time between drinks: the faster you consume alcohol, the more time is required to break it down. Consuming alcoholic beverages quickly will cause alcohol to accumulate in the bloodstream.
- Prescription medications: some drugs, like, antibiotics, anti-depressants, diabetes, and allergy medications, can affect how your body processes alcohol.
- Age: As men age, they don’t produce as many enzymes as they did when they were younger. As a result, they metabolize alcohol slower.
- Menopause: Because of hormonal changes, menopausal women will become intoxicated from fewer beverages.
- Ancestry: People of Asian descent are more likely than non-Asians to have a genetic mutation that causes their body to make a faulty version of an enzyme that’s critical to metabolizing alcohol.
How Long Is Alcohol Detectable In The Body?
Just because your blowing zeros into a breathalyzer doesn’t mean all the alcohol is out of your system. In fact, alcohol or its metabolites can be detected in other bodily fluids for days after consumption. BAC is only a measure of alcohol present in the blood. Other testing tools can reveal whether a person had consumed alcohol for up to 90-days.
EtG Alcohol Test
Ethyl glucuronide, or EtG is is a byproduct of ethanol (drinkable alcohol) and glucuronide a compound made by the liver. It binds to toxins and drugs and allows the body to expel the substances in urine. Even tiny amounts of consumed alcohol create EtG.
Urine tests were developed to identify EtG present in urine and used as an indicator of recent alcohol consumption? How long can an EtG detect alcohol? EtG tests can detect if someone has imbibed in the past 48 hours and in some cases, up to 72 hours. Hair follicle tests have also been developed to test for the presence of EtG. These tests can detect if someone has consumed alcohol at any time in the previous 90 days.
Many people mistakenly believe that having no measurable BAC means they have no alcohol in their system. On the contrary, BAC is merely a measure of alcohol’s concentration in the blood which is filtered rapidly and on a continuous, unending basis. Subsequently, alcohol can only be detected in the blood for several hours after the last drink. Other measuring tools for BAC, including breathalyzers, urine samples, and sweat tests, only estimate the amount of alcohol present in the blood.
Alcohol And Breastfeeding
There’s a common misconception that the “pump and dump” method can remove alcohol from breastmilk. This is false. IF alcohol is present in the body, it will be passed onto the breastmilk. Pumping breastmilk and discarding the first batch does not ensure that it will be free from alcohol.
The safest method of preventing alcohol from being passed to nursing babies is to not drink at all. According to the CDC, alcohol is at its highest concentration In breastmilk 30-60 minutes after drinking, and can be detected for two to three hours. However, this general rule is only applicable if the mother has consumed one alcoholic beverage. Two drinks and be detected for four to five hours, and three drinks from six to eight hours. All of the factors mentioned above also factor into the equation and affect alcohol metabolism. Because no amount of alcohol is safe for babies, doctors recommend pumping before drinking.
If you or a loved one are struggling with alcoholism, please reach out to us at AspenRidge Recovery. Our admission staff can verify your insurance and help answer any questions you have about treatment. Because no two situations are the same, all of our programs are tailored to each induvial. Our flexible outpatient treatment for substance use is built to work around busy schedules, so you won’t have to commit to 30-days away from work and family obligations. Call 855-281-5588 to speak with us and get started on your journey to recovery!