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How Long Does it Take to Get Alcohol Out of Your System?
Alcohol, also known as ethanol or ethyl alcohol, is the ingredient found in beer, wine, and spirits that causes drunkenness.
Once swallowed, alcohol enters the digestive system, travels to the stomach and small intestine, and is absorbed into the bloodstream. Once in the blood, alcohol moves throughout the entire body and eventually ends up in the liver, where most alcohol metabolism occurs.
The liver processes one standard drink in one hour. When someone consumes more than this, their system becomes saturated, and the additional alcohol accumulates in the blood and other tissues until it is metabolized. If this happens too often, damage to the body's brain and tissues can develop.
How is Alcohol Metabolized?
On average, alcohol leaves the body at a rate of 0.015 g/100mL/hour. In other words, every hour, your blood alcohol content (BAC) level drops by 0.015. For men, this is a rate of about one standard drink per hour. However, other factors affect the intoxication level that will cause BAC to rise more quickly and fall more slowly.
Several processes or pathways metabolize ethanol alcohol. Alcohol metabolization is commonly caused by two enzymes—alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) and aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH). These chemicals break down the alcohol and allow it to be eliminated from the body's systems.
ADH metabolizes alcohol to create acetaldehyde. Then, acetaldehyde is further broken down to another less active byproduct called acetate. From there, the acetate is broken down into water and carbon dioxide for easy elimination.
How Long Does it Take to Get Alcohol Out of Your System for a Urine Test?
Even though alcohol may not show up on a breathalyzer, it may show up on other tests after drinking. Alcohol can be detected in a urine test between 12 and 48 hours after your last drink through an ethyl glucuronide (EtG) drug test.
How Long Does it Take to Get Alcohol Out of Your Blood?
Your blood alcohol content (BAC) level is reduced by 0.015 per hour. For men, this is approximately one standard drink per hour.
Just because alcohol is out of your blood doesn't mean that it's no longer detectable in your system. Even hours after your blood alcohol content is at 0, alcohol can still be detected in a urine test.
Factors That Affect How Long Alcohol Stays in Your System
There are a few factors that determine how long alcohol stays in your system:
Sex and Gender
A person's sex or gender impacts the way their body processes alcohol. Women have less dehydrogenase, which is a liver enzyme that breaks down alcohol, than men. So women tend to process alcohol more slowly than a man.
The older a person is, the longer alcohol stays in their liver. This is because older people often have a slower blood flow. An older person is also more likely to be taking medication that affects the liver. These factors mean that alcohol is processed at a slower rate, increasing the amount of alcohol absorbed into the body.
Having food in the stomach can influence the body's absorption of alcohol. Food slows the emptying of the stomach into the small intestine, where alcohol is very rapidly absorbed. Someone who is drinking on an empty stomach could have a BAC three times higher than someone who has eaten before drinking.
Some people of Asian descent have difficulty metabolizing alcohol because they are missing a liver enzyme needed to process alcohol. These individuals can experience facial flushing, nausea, headache, dizziness, and rapid heartbeat.
A person's weight can impact how their body processes alcohol. Individuals with more body fat generally have a higher BAC because low-water fatty tissue cannot absorb alcohol as well as high-water muscle tissue can.
Rate of Drinking
Drinking alcohol at a faster rate by participating in binge drinking can cause your blood alcohol concentration to increase, compared to sipping liquor or consuming at a moderate pace. Also, the more extended amount of time spent drinking, the longer it will take for the alcohol to metabolize out of the system.
Type of Alcoholic Beverage Consumed
A glass of wine versus grain alcohol has a different alcohol concentration, affecting how alcohol is metabolized.
Amount of Alcohol Consumed
The more alcohol a person drinks, the longer it takes for the alcohol to get out of their system. If a person has alcohol intoxication, any alcohol they drink will remain in the body for several hours and continue harming the brain and vital organs.
Can You Flush Alcohol Out of Your System Quicker?
Once alcohol is in the bloodstream, it can only be eliminated by dehydrogenase, sweat, urine, and breath.
Drinking water, sleeping, or drinking caffeine does not remove alcohol from the blood, and will not speed up the process of getting alcohol out of the system.
How Long Do The Effects of Alcohol Last?
Some effects of alcohol are immediate and last only a while. Others accumulate over time and significantly affect your physical and mental health and quality of life.
Most hangovers start once your blood alcohol level starts to return to zero. Hangovers generally only last up to 24 hours and go away on their own.
Long-term effects of alcohol consumption include alcohol withdrawal, increased body fat, liver disease, and other health complications. Many people develop an alcohol use disorder (AUD) after extended alcohol use. Alcohol addiction therapy and treatment is the best way to address AUD.
Treatment Options for Alcohol Abuse & Addiction
- Inpatient Programs — Inpatient treatment is the option for alcohol addiction treatment. These intensive programs are usually 30, 60, or 90 days but can be longer in certain cases. Throughout the duration of your stay at an inpatient rehab facility, you will live on site is a safe, substance-free environment. You will go through medically supervised detoxification first, then behavioral therapy and other services will be added to your regimen. Most programs will will help you set up an aftercare program upon completion.
- Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHPs) — Partial hospitalization programs (also called intensive outpatient programs, or IOPs) are comparable to inpatient programs, but you return home after each session. Some PHPs provide food and transportation, but this varies by program. Their services may include detoxification, medical services, behavioral therapy, support groups, and other holistic or custom treatments. PHPs accept new patients, along with patients who have completed an inpatient treatment program and still require intensive care.
- Outpatient Programs — Outpatient programs are less intensive and offer a more flexible treatment schedule. They are best for people who have responsibilities at work, home, or school and are highly motivated to achieve sobriety. Outpatient treatment programs customize your treatment sessions around your personal schedule. Outpatient programs can help new patients achieve success, and may also be a part of aftercare program once a patient completes an inpatient or PHP.
- Medication-Assisted Therapy (MAT) — Certain patients with Alcohol Use Disorder will qualify for medication-assisted therapy. Medications can help you detoxify, reduce cravings, and normalize bodily functions. Disulfiram (Antabuse), acamprosate (Campral), and naltrexone (Revia and Vivitrol) are the most common medications used to treat Alcohol Use Disorder. MAT is most effective when combined with other treatment therapies.
- Support Groups — Support groups are peer-led groups that help people stay sober. They can be a first step in overcoming alcoholism or a component of an aftercare plan. Many of them follow the 12-step approach, however there are secular options that don't follow the 12-step approach as well.