How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System?
When someone struggles with addiction or is about to go through alcohol detox, the common question is, “how long does alcohol stay in your system?” Alcohol usually has a short life span in the body, so alcohol will not stay in your system for too long.
The half-life of alcohol is around 4 to 5 hours. The half-life of alcohol is how long it takes for your body to get rid of half of the alcohol in your system. However, you will need five half-lives to get rid of alcohol altogether. So, it takes around 20 to 25 hours overall for the body to clean its system from alcohol.1
How is Alcohol Metabolized?
When you drink alcohol, it first goes to the digestive system. However, it isn’t digested like normal food or drinks. Approximately 20% of the alcohol you drink moves directly to the blood vessels and is then carried to the brain. The remaining 80% goes to your small intestine and then travels to your bloodstream.
Finally, once alcohol goes through your bloodstream, the body’s alcohol elimination process begins. Alcohol elimination is done through the liver, where alcohol in your system is processed and removed.2
How Long Does It Take to Digest Alcohol?
The typical digesting alcohol time is approximately 20 milligrams per deciliter per hour. If your blood alcohol level were 40 milligrams per deciliter, it would take 2 hours for your body to digest it completely.
How The Body Processes Alcohol
When you drink alcohol, it is metabolized by the body and broken down from a toxic substance to water and carbon dioxide. Once your body has broken down alcohol, the alcohol elimination process begins, where it is released through the lungs, in urine, and sweat.3
Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC)
Blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is a commonly used measurement of alcohol intoxication. BAC is usually represented as a percentage per volume of blood.4
There are many different methods of detecting alcohol in the body and BAC levels, including breathalyzer tests, urine tests, blood tests, saliva tests, and hair tests. All methods of detecting alcohol in the body can be useful and may be used depending on the situation and reason for testing alcohol in the system.
How Long Does It Take to Feel Effects?
After drinking, it usually only takes around 5 to 10 minutes to start feeling the effects of alcohol. Effects of alcohol generally peak after about 30 to 90 minutes before then passing through your organs, where the body will clean your system from alcohol.
Due to the short alcohol half-life, it usually doesn’t take too long for alcohol to leave your system unless someone continues drinking. Depending on how much someone drinks and how much alcohol is in their system, the effects of drinking can vary and may become more severe.
Symptoms of Drunkenness
Common effects of drinking alcohol include:
- Loss of inhibitions
- Impaired walking (ataxia)
- Losing coordination
- Slurred speech
- Slowed reaction time
Factors That Influence Alcohol Processing
Many factors can influence the alcohol metabolism rate and the time it takes alcohol to leave the system. The body’s ability to process alcohol also influences alcohol detection time. Factors that affect alcohol detection time and processing include:
- Body composition
- Time since last meal
- What the alcohol was mixed with
- Medications or other drugs
How Long Is Alcohol Detectable in Your Body?
There are many reasons why an alcohol drug test may be administered and many methods of detecting alcohol in the body. Depending on the type of alcohol drug test used, there are different lengths of time that alcohol in your system can be detected.
Due to the quick alcohol half-life, the urine alcohol level is only detectable for a short period. Depending on the alcohol drug test used, the alcohol urine test time may vary. More advanced drug tests can detect alcohol in the urine for more extended periods, around three to four days. However, the typical alcohol urine test will detect alcohol in the system for 12 to 48 hours.5
Another common type of alcohol drug test is the breathalyzer test. Alcohol breath tests are typically used during traffic stops and other law enforcement situations. Breathalyzer tests can detect alcohol for up to 24 hours after the last drink.
A saliva alcohol test involves using a saliva swab to detect alcohol. Saliva tests can detect alcohol in your system for 10 to 24 hours after the last drink.
An alcohol blood test is another way of detecting the blood alcohol level. Alcohol can be detected in the blood for up to 12 hours after the last drink.6
In situations where a longer detection time is needed, hair testing for alcohol may also be used. A hair alcohol drug test can detect alcohol in the body for three months after the last drink.
How Long Before Withdrawal Sets in After the Last Drink?
For those who struggle with an alcohol use disorder, getting alcohol out of your system is an integral part of the addiction treatment process. The fastest way to get alcohol out of your system is through alcohol detox. Withdrawal symptoms will occur during the detox process. Typically, withdrawal symptoms will set in within 6 to 24 hours after the last drink and last between three to seven days.
Common alcohol withdrawal symptoms include:
- Heart palpitations or rapid heart rate
Going to a treatment center for alcohol detox and addiction treatment can help mitigate withdrawal symptoms and make the detox process as safe and easy as possible.
Get Help for Alcohol Addiction at Great Oaks Recovery Center
If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol addiction, Great Oaks Recovery Center can help. Great Oaks Recovery Center provides evidence-based treatment programs for alcohol addiction that are proven effective. Treatment professionals at Great Oaks will be there with you every step of the way as you work through your personalized treatment program. Contact us today for more information about how Great Oaks can help.