How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System?

When you drink alcohol, it is absorbed by your stomach and intestines, and it then enters the bloodstream. When you feel certain effects of alcohol, such as intoxication, it’s because it’s accumulating in your blood and the tissues of your body.

The stomach absorbs an estimated 20 percent of consumed alcohol. Eighty percent absorbs through the small intestines. Any alcohol that’s not metabolized leaves the body through fluids including urine, sweat and saliva.

How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your Blood?

When alcohol reaches someone’s bloodstream, it then moves to the liver where it’s metabolized. The liver contains the necessary enzymes that break down alcohol and eventually eliminate it from the body. If you’re drinking, especially fairly quickly, your liver can’t process all of the alcohol at one time so some will linger in the body.

How long alcohol stays in your blood depends on how strong the drinks are that you’re having, how quickly you’re drinking and individual factors such as body weight and size. On average, the liver can process one ounce of alcohol each hour.

When there is more alcohol in the body than the liver can process, symptoms of intoxication may include:

  • Lowered inhibitions
  • Memory problems or blackouts
  • Impaired coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Confusion
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Changes in mood or behavior

Alcohol Blood Test Detection Times

There are various tests used to detect alcohol in the system. One way to determine if someone is drinking and if so, how much is called blood alcohol concentration or BAC. The BAC is a measure of the percent of alcohol in someone’s bloodstream. If someone has a BAC of 0.10 percent, it means their blood has one part of alcohol for every 1000 parts blood.

The legal baseline for intoxication is 0.08 percent BAC in most states, which is the point where it’s illegal to drive. If someone has a BAC of 0.08 percent, it will take around 5.5 hours for the alcohol consumed to leave their bloodstream.

How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your Urine?

In addition to blood, how long does alcohol stay in your urine? The specific answer depends on the type of screening test used. The longest available urine detection screening for alcohol will show use up to 80 hours after someone’s last drink, which is around three to four days, but not all tests are this sensitive with a long window of detection.

Urine Alcohol Test Detection Times

What else is there to know about urine alcohol test detection times? First, urine tests are different from a blood test or a breathalyzer because they look for alcohol metabolites, which is why the detection window is longer. Alcohol metabolites are left behind as the body processes alcohol.

While there is a test that can detect alcohol in urine for up to 80 hours after the last drink, the average test has a detection time from 12 to 48 hours after your last drink.

As far as a breathalyzer test, which is often given if you are pulled over in a traffic stop, the detection window is 24 hours, on average.

Where to Get Help for Alcohol Addiction

Fortunately, there are a variety of treatment options available for alcohol addiction. To determine where to get help for alcohol addiction, you can:

  • Speak with your doctor about treatment options
  • Talk with a mental health professional about therapy options
  • Call The Recovery Village Ridgefield to talk with a representative who may be in recovery themselves
  • Search for local facilities and doctors with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s treatment locator map

If you are struggling with alcohol addiction, help is available. Contact The Recovery Village Ridgefield. We can help you learn more about your options in terms of alcohol detox and addiction treatment, and provide you with information that will allow you to make the best decision for yourself.

Galan, Nicole. “How the Body Processes Alcohol.” Medical News Today. November 6, 2017. Accessed March 26, 2019. Cherney, Kristeen. “How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your Body?” Healthline. May 23, 2017. Accessed March 26, 2019. Stanford University Office of Alcohol Policy and Education. “What is BAC?” Accessed March 26, 2019.

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