How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System?

The amount of alcohol that stays in the body varies depending on the individual and the part of the body that you’re testing for alcohol retention. The period of intoxication when drinking alcohol will also be different for everyone. A healthy person will usually feel the effects within 15 – 45 minutes though. 

An alcoholic beverage is a drink that contains drug ethanol. Alcohol is a popular substance to consume in social settings and is found in beer, liquor, wine, spirits, and other drinks. 

Consuming large amounts of alcohol can cause someone to enter a drunken state. Booze is produced by the fermentation (the process of converting carbohydrates to alcohol) of fruits and grains or other sources of sugar; for example, the fermentation of grapes makes wine.

How-Long-Does-Alcohol-Stay-in-Your-System

When alcohol is abused, it’s often by people who want to increase their sociability among others. It’s also used to escape outside issues. Some also drink just for enjoyment or to feel drunk, but how long is alcohol traceable in your body? The answer varies as there are many forms of testing available.

Alcohol

Alcohol is digested like food but doesn’t undergo the extensive digestion that food requires. After an individual consumes alcohol, a significant portion of the substance is absorbed into the bloodstream. 

Alcohol is also absorbed into the tissue in the lining of the stomach and small intestines. When the alcohol reaches the bloodstream, it then travels to the brain. This process can be slowed according to many factors, such as: 

  • Age
  • Weight
  • Gender
  • Amount of substance consumed 
  • Amount of food consumed before alcohol 
  • How fast one’s body can process alcohol

These factors also account for how long alcohol can stay in the human body’s system. 

Sadly, many will continue to drink while still feeling the effects of booze from the night before. Alcohol abuse and dependence forms when one cannot get satisfaction from anything else but alcoholic beverages. 

Drinking booze can evoke memories and reveal underlying secrets one had not intended to come out. A lot of people consume alcohol as a way to repress painful past events. This is because they feel drinking will help them forget. Instead, such alcohol abuse can lead to the overwhelming creation of anxiety or depression.

Alcohol Detectability

One can detect alcohol use by testing the blood, breath, urine, saliva, fingernails, or hair of another. Administering these tests will require different tools. The ability to detect alcohol in these tests will depend on the amount of time that has passed. So, how long does alcohol stay in your system?

How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Blood?

Alcohol stays in the bloodstream for up to 6 hours. Consuming alcohol without eating may result in a high concentration of blood alcohol content (BAC) that lasts more than 24-hours. Various amounts of tests are available for use and the detection periods range anywhere from a few hours to six weeks.

How Long Does Alcohol Stay on Breath? 

Alcohol is detectable on the breath for 12 – 24 hours after consumption. A breathalyzer test, often used by police officers, measures the blood alcohol content (BAC) on your breath. This form of testing is the easiest as it is completed on the scene. 

Alcohol-in-Your-System

The detection period of alcohol on breath depends on how much alcohol is consumed and how fast the body processes alcohol. A breathalyzer will confirm whether one is intoxicated or has been drinking recently. 

How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Urine?

Alcohol is detected in urine anywhere from 12-24 hours after consumption. 

Within less than 60 minutes after consumption, urine can be tested. Some tests are super sensitive and can detect alcohol in urine for a period of as long as 80 hours.

How long Does Alcohol Stay in Saliva?

A saliva test provides a 12 – 24 hour detection period for alcohol consumption. After 24 hours, alcohol is usually metabolized enough to not be detected on a saliva test. 

How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Fingernails?

A fingernail test provides a three to six month (or six to twelve months for toenails) history of alcohol consumption. This test is often used when a substance user has limited or no hair. Thus, nails provide an alternative body part to test for alcohol consumption as it’s easy to collect and transport. Nails also offer a longer period of detection time than hair follicles would.

How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Hair? 

A hair sample provides an alcohol detection period for up to 90 days after consumption. You can even detect alcohol in hair three to six months after collection.

The length of hair that you are detecting alcohol in is important as it determines how far back in time a strand can be tested. For example, you can test a hair strand that is 4 centimeters long for 4 months. 

How Long is Alcohol Detectable For? 

Alcohol usually affects the average individual within 15 – 45 minutes of consumption. The liver processes about one ounce of liquor per hour. 

If an individual consumes more than the average alcoholic drink per hour, his or her body will become saturated with alcohol. When this happens, the bloodstream and stomach absorb about 20% of the alcohol while the small intestine absorbs the rest. 

The physiological differences between men and women cause them to feel the effects of alcohol in different ways. Evidence shows that women are more susceptible to the effects of alcohol than men. 

One reason why alcohol affects women more than men is that women contain less water in their bodies than men do. This, in turn, gives women a lesser ability to dilute alcohol. Women also contain less dehydrogenase in their bodies. Because enzyme dehydrogenase breaks down alcohol, the female body doesn’t consume alcohol as easily as men do without getting drunk. 

When women take medications with estrogen, it also slows down the process of eliminating alcohol in their bodies. As a result, women are more susceptible to long-term body damage from alcohol abuse.

Alcohol and It’s Run Within the Body

After drinking alcohol, the blood vessels in your body and brain expand. When your body and brain vessels do this, it may give you a headache. Alcohol also makes a lot of people dehydrated or nauseated. Therefore, the stomach will want to rid itself of all toxins and acid. 

Furthermore, one may feel weak or shaky after consuming large amounts of alcohol. That is because the liver was too busy processing the alcohol that it didn’t release enough sugar into the bloodstream.

Many things can happen from drinking alcohol. One of these things is that it can make you feel warm. Alcohol can also make your heart run fast. Abusing alcohol can even make one sick, as it stops the production of white blood cells for 24 hours.

  • Make one feel warm as a result of widened blood vessels
  • Make the heart work extra hard when stress hormones are released and the blood vessels narrow
  • Make one sick as it stops the production of white blood cells for 24 hours
  • Makes bones thinner as blood flow is limited, this can result in a condition called osteoporosis

To slow or limit the effects of alcohol, consume a meal before going out for some drinks or a night of partying. Eating a meal can absorb the alcohol and inhibit it from coming into contact with the stomach lining. 

The food that you eat before alcohol consumption should dilute any alcohol in the stomach. Food in your stomach will also slow the transit of alcohol from the stomach to the liver where alcohol is absorbed rather quickly. Even snacking throughout a night of drinking will change how alcohol is detected in the body. 

Blackout vs Passing Out

Detecting alcohol in the body is important as one may consume too much. When too much alcohol is consumed, the term “blackout” is used. 

A blackout is alcohol-related memory loss and occurs when an individual has no memory of what happened when they were intoxicated. When someone is experiencing a blackout, they can seem fine to others, but they will not remember most of what they did. 

Blackouts are different from “passing out”. Passing out is when an individual loses consciousness from consuming a large amount of alcohol. 

When an individual passes out due to too much alcohol, it means that he or she has surpassed the acceptable level of intoxication. If an individual does pass out from alcohol, he or she could even slip into a coma or die. That’s why it’s so important to pay attention to this. If you or someone you know ever passes out due to too much alcohol consumption, call EMS responders. 

Road to Recovery

Many consume alcohol because it’s a depressant. A depressant substance reduces motor skills. Depressants also slow down the body’s central nervous system. This can cause one’s coordination, reaction time, and intellectual ability to falter. As mentioned above, high doses of alcohol can cause a state of toxicity that leads to coma or even death. 

What some may not realize is the threat alcohol has when mixed with other depressants. Combining depressants— such as Ketamine, Opioids, or Benzodiazepines— with alcohol multiplies the effects and leads to memory loss, coma, or death. When one combines alcohol and drugs, it takes longer to sober up. 

Extended alcohol abuse can even lead to: 

  • Cancer
  • Liver disease
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Lung infections
  • Digestive issues
  • Infertility
  • Diabetes
  • Sexual dysfunctions

If you’re experiencing any of these effects on your body, the road to recovery starts with sobering up.

Treatment for Alcoholism

The process of treatment for alcoholism can include:

  • Counseling 
  • Behavioral therapy
  • Detoxification
  • Medications
  • Support groups

Counseling includes therapy such as behavioral therapy, group and family counseling, individual therapy, and others. These counseling sessions allow a therapist to focus on specific things, such as the reasons why one abuses alcohol. When you attend therapy for alcohol addiction, you also work with a therapist to identify and change behaviors that relate to alcoholism. 

Detoxification is the process in which one abruptly stops the intake of alcoholic substances. In the case of alcohol dependence and addiction, detoxification is necessary. If you need to, you can use medication during detox to help you manage your withdrawal symptoms.

The use of medications during alcohol detox and treatment can even help prevent a relapse. This is because these medications are made to offset any changes made in the brain that is caused by the consumption of alcohol. 

One might assume that they can become addicted to the medications used in alcohol detox and addiction treatment, but they are non-addictive. Support groups are also available. The common support group that’s used by those suffering from addiction to alcohol happens to be Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). 

Alcoholics Anonymous is formed around the discovery of religion. Despite religion being the foundation of the Alcoholics Anonymous support group, the group is for all people, of all walks of life. The only requirement that you must abide by to enter AA is that you have a desire to remain sober.  

There are also 12-step programs available for individuals who want to quit or cut back on their alcohol consumption. With the discovery of these groups, substance abusers can monitor drinking habits, manage relapses, and cope with changing routines.

Find Hope Today

Many factors contribute to why alcohol stays in your body. Therefore, you can never be too sure how long an alcoholic drink has been present in your body. Regardless, you can test alcohol levels through many different avenues.  
If you or a loved one is experiencing the effects of alcoholism, contact us and we can start on a road to your recovery today.

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by njrc