Alcohol is one of the quickest substances to leave your body, however, everyone is different. Several factors come into play when determining how long it takes a person to process alcohol, and how long alcohol metabolites stay in your system. Let’s first take a look at what a standard drink is.
What is a Standard Alcoholic Drink?
Each alcoholic beverage has a different concentration of alcohol in it. A standard drink is defined as one 12-ounce beer, which contains 5% alcohol, 5-ounce of table wine, which contains 12% alcohol, or 8-9 ounce of malt liquor, which contains about 7% alcohol. A 1.5 oz ounce shot of 80 proof liquor, which is 40% alcohol is also considered 1 standard drink, as well as a 3-4 ounce glass of fortified wine, which is 17% alcohol. So, the type of alcoholic drink that is consumed along with the number of drinks plays a huge role in determining blood alcohol concentration (BAC), along with how long the metabolites stay in your system.
About Blood Alcohol Concentration Levels (BAC)
Blood alcohol concentration is defined as the amount of alcohol in the body, or the percentage of alcohol in the blood. The BAC is the most common measurement of how much alcohol remains in a person’s system after they’ve been drinking. Blood alcohol concentration is measured in percentage. A BAC of 0.1 means that a person has 0.1% of alcohol in their blood. A BAC of 0.08 is considered to be legally intoxicated in most countries. At 0.15% the body can’t metabolize the alcohol fast enough which will cause most individuals to start vomiting, and at 0.35% BAC a person will usually become unconscious. And a BAC of 0.45% is deadly for most people or about 50% of people. In some cases where binge drinking occurs, a person may die from alcohol poisoning before they become unconscious.
How Does the Body Process Alcohol Metabolites?
Alcohol enters the bloodstream primarily through the small intestine. 80% of alcohol that is consumed enters the bloodstream through the small intestine. The other 20% enters the bloodstream through the stomach. Once alcohol enters the bloodstream it is transported throughout the rest of the body. Most alcohol that is consumed is processed or metabolized in the liver. This is why many alcoholics will experience liver damage. Alcohol is processed quite effectively in the human body as long as a person doesn’t consume too much too quickly. There are enzymes in a person’s liver and cells in the body that break down any alcohol that is consumed. 90 to 98% of all alcohol that enters an individual’s body is absorbed and metabolized. The remaining 2 to 10% is excreted in the sweat, urine, feces, and vomit of a person.
How Long Does it Take the Body to Process Alcohol?
Several factors determine how long it takes a person to process alcohol. One big factor is the amount of alcohol that is consumed. Some of the other factors that determine processing time can include:
- Person’s age
- Food intake
- Other health issues
- Intake of any other recreational drugs
Generally, the body can process one standard drink per hour. So, if a person consumes 6 standard drinks, it would take 6 hours for the body to process them. Let’s say a person starts drinking at 4:00 pm, and they have drunk 6 standard drinks, the alcohol they have consumed will have left the body by 10 p.m.
How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System?
The amount of time that alcohol metabolites are detectable in your system depends on the kind of test that is used. Here is a list of detection times in various tests.
- Urine – Average test is 12 to 48 hours. More advanced testing can detect alcohol in the urine for up to 80 hours.
- Blood – Up to 12 hours
- Saliva – 12 to 24 hours
- Hair – 3 months
- Breath – 24 hours
As stated above, alcohol is metabolized in the body more rapidly than most substances, but the amount you consume and how quickly your body processes it play a role in detection times.
Treatment for Long-Term Alcoholism
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