How long does alcohol stay in your system?

By: Devon Andre | General Health | Wednesday, January 11, 2017 - 06:00 AM

how-long-does-alcohol-stay-in-your-systemIf you’ve ever wondered – how long does alcohol stay in your system? – look no further. The simple answer to this question is, though, it mainly depends on how much you drink. At some point, any alcohol that is not metabolized is held up in the blood and tissues. If this is a frequent occurrence, the tissues of the brain and body get damaged over time.

As soon as you have a drink your body absorbs alcohol. Because it slows down the central nervous system, practically all of your body functions are affected. Unlike with other foods and beverages, your body doesn’t need to break down alcohol for digestion.

Once alcohol enters the stomach, about 20 percent of it moves directly to the small blood vessels carrying water and nutrients throughout the body. The remaining alcohol moves to the small intestine where it enters other blood vessels and continues to travel through the body.

The rate at which alcohol enters the body determines the rate of intoxication. A slower rate means it will take longer to get intoxicated.

You can slow down the absorption rate by pairing food with alcohol. Sipping slowly is also a more preferable way of consuming alcohol rather than gulping or chugging it all at once. Try sticking to one alcoholic beverage per hour. Alternating water and alcohol is another way of reducing the rate of absorption (plus, it keeps you hydrated!).

Although you can slow down the rate at which alcohol enters the body, you can’t speed the rate at which it leaves the body as it is metabolized at a constant rate. It follows, then, that your best hangover cure is prevention.

How long does alcohol stay in your urine?

Alcohol typically stays in the body up to 24 hours after consumption, but specialized tests may be able to detect traces of alcohol even past that timeframe. For example, the EtG Urine Alcohol Test can detect urine in the body up to 85 hours after drinking.

Blood alcohol concentration (BAC) and liver metabolism rates

Blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is the percentage of pure alcohol in one’s bloodstream. For example, if a person’s BAC is 0.10 then one percent of their blood is alcohol. Here is the BAC scale:

  • At .04, most people start feeling relaxed.
  • .08 is the legal intoxication level in most states. Driving can be impaired by BACs as low as .02.
  • At .12, most people feel the need to vomit.
  • At .30, many people lose consciousness.
  • By .40, most people lose consciousness.
  • A BAC of .45 is usually fatal.

The liver is responsible for metabolizing alcohol at a rate of one ounce of alcohol per hour. Once the BAC level raises from 0.05 to 0.55, the scale of alcohol’s negative effects starts to expand. Feelings of happiness and calmness turn into depression, irritability, and disorientation. These changes represent the bi-phasic effect of alcohol on the body (meaning, there are two phases). The damage to the brain and body takes place during the second phase.

Although studies have pointed to some health benefits of alcohol moderating your intake is crucial. Aside from the fact that a hangover is unpleasant experience in itself, repetitive alcohol abuse damages the body’s tissues and cells, setting you up for adverse health effects later on. Your liver is most susceptible to the effects of alcohol as it is responsible for metabolizing it. Curb your intake and use the tips above to enjoy your alcohol safely and responsibly.

Related: Excessive alcohol consumption affects eyesight and vision


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