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How Long Does Alcohol Stay In Our Body System

How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Our Body System

Understanding how long does alcohol stay in our bodies is a fairly common question for anyone that’s woken up with a hangover before. Whether you’re interested in determining if it’s safe to drive after a few drinks or you need to undergo testing for alcohol consumption, it is important to know how long it takes for our bodies to process alcohol.

The answer to the question of how long does alcohol stay in our body system is not cut and dry. The way that everyone processes alcohol is different and if you feel as though you are still being inhibited by alcohol you should never resort to a dangerous situation where you may have to drive with a blood alcohol limit above the legal limit.

With over 80% of adults in the United States reporting that they have consumed alcohol at some point in their life, over 65% of the same participant suggested that they had had it alcoholic beverage within the last month. Ethanol is the main substance within alcoholic beverages that provides mood altering effects. The effects of alcohol on the mind can often improve confidence, reduce anxious feelings and promote socialization. This is why alcohol is such a popular drink for many nightclubs.

alcohol stay in your body system

So how long does alcohol stay in your body system?

Alcohol isn’t quite as easy to digest as some other types of food or beverages. It actually takes a number of processes to make sure that alcohol can be digested completely. The effects of alcohol can still remain in the body and detectable within the body long after someone stops drinking however. In most cases alcohol will leave the body in two different ways.

10% of the alcohol that a person consumes will leave through respiration, their breath or in their urine.

The metabolism including digestion and the liver will break down the rest of the alcohol in the body.

The rate at which the liver metabolizes alcohol is the exact same for everyone no matter what demographic that they are. The only inhibiting factors for the liver’s metabolism of alcohol is a pre-existing condition affecting metabolism or a liver disease. There is actually a table calculator that can be helpful for determining how much blood alcohol concentration a person may have after a certain amount of time. While the exact figures can differ from person to person, blood-alcohol concentration as processed by the liver have some baseline results. A person with a BAC of .15 will require at least 10 hours to clear the presence of alcohol from their blood. A person that has consumed one drink may require between 1 to 3 hours for their metabolism to clear the presence of alcohol from their blood.

The speculation of blood-alcohol content based off of these figures is regularly quite inaccurate. Even if you consume one beer and wait, three hours there’s a chance that you could still have blood-alcohol detected in a breathalyzer. Operating a motor vehicle if you don’t feel as though your blood-alcohol content has dropped significantly after consuming a drink is never safe. Over 84% of drivers who were involved in fatal crashes in 2014 involving alcohol had a recorded BAC of above .08. For the average male between 180 to 200 pounds, this BAC is quite easy to reach after consuming 2 to 3 drinks in a short span and getting into the car to drive. The number of drinks to put oneself into this danger limit for legality and safety is even lower for women.

For a 180 pound man to reach a BAC of .1, they will need to consume around five drinks within an hour to reach this level most efficiently. A 140 pound woman consuming three drinks in an hour will also reach the same BAC on average. If the legal driving limit for BAC is .08 or .05 in your area it’s important to consider taking at least 2 to 5 hours before your BAC is even close to dropping below legal range for the operation of a motor vehicle.

With this efficiency that can be found in metabolizing alcohol in binge drinking, we also start to see the dangers in binge drinking. Consuming fortified drinks in an hour could instantly place your body at a deep level of intoxication that can result in nausea, memory loss, dehydration and more. Furthermore, the liver will be unable to process all of the alcohol placed in your system and this can lead to tissues becoming damaged throughout the body as well some brain-damage.

Binge drinking also ensures that alcohol remains in the system much longer than it typically would. By spacing out drinking it’s possible for the body to begin metabolizing the alcohol, drinking alcohol in a short duration ensures that drinks will stay in the system for a longer amount of time. When we take the example of a man at 180 pounds consuming 1012 ounce beers in an hour, we can estimate that BAC would reach a high of .21 and through the metabolic calculator, it’s estimated that it could take up to nine hours before he would reach a legal driving limit or 14+ hours until the alcohol completely left his bloodstream.

The absorption of alcohol:

When looking into how long alcohol stays in the body, we can start to see that alcohol is absorbed into the blood quite quickly but processed by the body slowly. A 150 pound individual will have every average sized drink pump up their BAC by .02% drinking one drink per hour. For every hour that passes without further alcohol consumption, the body will remove .01% from the blood stream. It is this absorption rate that compounds the process of alcohol concentration throughout a drinking session.

The health conditions caused by alcoholism:

People affected by alcoholism often prevent your body from reaching a 0 BAC. Living in a state in which your body is consistently absorbing and processing alcohol however can lead to a number of severe health conditions. Common health hazards associated with alcoholism include a much higher risk of injuries sustained in car accidents, psoriasis of the liver and more. Alcoholism has currently been linked to over 60 different diseases. It can have a wide range of effects on the body as well as long-term effects when consumed regularly over many years.

Here are some of the most common health affects which are caused by alcoholism:

Cardiovascular disease:

Heavy drinkers can experience ongoing problems with their heart, an increase for blood clots as well as arrhythmia. Binge drinking can double the risk of death for individuals who have experienced a previous target.


The process of converting alcohol into acetaldehyde is actually a carcinogen adding to the risk of cancer. Regular alcohol use has shown a link to cancer of the larynx, esophagus, liver, colorectal region and more. Heavy drinkers that use tobacco have some of the highest rates of cancer diagnosis.


Heavy drinking results in shrinking of various portions of the brain which can result in ongoing memory loss and the early symptoms of dementia. The brain continues to shrink as we age at 1.9% every decade, heavy drinking only accelerates the process.


Ongoing heavy drinking can cause red blood cell count to lower. This condition is known as anemia and it can contribute to light-headedness, ongoing fatigue and problems with breathing.

Risk of seizures:

Heavy drinking and alcohol withdrawal can cause epilepsy, and trigger seizures even in people without a history of epilepsy.

Why should alcohol be tested for?

In order to protect individuals on the roads as well as to protect the health of individuals, alcohol testing needs to be enacted. Various state and federal laws include the ability to use urine tests randomly in positions of importance if there is reasonable suspicion a person may be drinking at work.

Alcohol testing can also take place if an officer has suspicion that you have been drinking or operating a vehicle while intoxicated. Roadside testing is generally done with a breathalyzer for confirming suspicion but other tests may be administered in order to achieve a conviction.

 The types of alcohol testing:

Other types of alcohol testing to see how long alcohol can stay in the body system include:

  • Breathalyzer tests: these tests can only detect acute alcohol intoxication and they are perhaps the least accurate of tests. A breathalyzer is relatively portable however and it can confirm suspicion of intoxication.
  • Urine tests: and alcohol urine test is a tertiary method that is used for detecting the presence of alcohol. A urine test will not measured the level of intoxication but it can provide a positive or negative result as to whether or not a person has consumed alcohol within the last 3 to 4 days.
  • Blood tests: testing for blood alcohol concentration is one of the preferred tests for those that have a history of chronic alcoholism or individuals that are acutely intoxicated. Blood samples can more accurately reveal blood alcohol concentration and alcohol can often show up in the blood for up to 12 hours after a person has taken their first drink.


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