The question of how long does alcohol stay in your system is a concern for many people for a variety of reasons. For example, someone with a job interview may be concerned about alcohol being in their system when they undergo a drug and alcohol test as part of the interview process. Or perhaps someone who has been drinking at a social gathering is concerned about the possibility of driving while intoxicated.
As soon as alcohol is consumed, it begins to enter the blood stream and leaves the body in a variety of ways including sweating, breathing and urine. Alcohol that doesn’t escape through one of these means continues to raise the levels of alcohol in the system.
Route of Absorption
Within 30 seconds of consuming alcohol, it enters the epithelial skin cells which are the closest to the blood capillaries. Once alcohol has been introduced to these cells, it begins to interfere with the communication of the nerve cells, vision begins to blur and slurring speech begins.
Alcohol enters the stomach within about five minutes after it has been consumed a small amount remains in the stomach, approximately 10% of the amount begins to be expelled through sweat, breathing and urine. Within about 20 minutes, 90% of the alcohol that was consumed reaches the small intestines, pancreas and finally the liver where it begins to metabolize. The rate of absorption is much quicker than the expulsion.
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How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System?
Blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is the term used for the metabolic rate for which alcohol is broken down. The rate alcohol is metabolized is typically .015 of blood alcohol concentration per hour. This means that someone who has a 0.15% BAC will typically have this amount of alcohol completely expelled from the body in about 10 hours after consumption, (.15 divided by .015 = 10). A BAC of 0.02 has a metabolism period of about one and half hours (0.02 divided by .015 = 1.33). When questioning how long alcohol stays in your system, it is important to note that the BAC continues to increase for several hours after the initial intake.
The following guidelines are approximate times for the rate of alcohol to metabolize:
*BAC level of .02 takes 1.33 hours
*BAC level of .05 takes 3.33 hours
*BAC level of .08 takes 5.33 hours
*BAC level of .10 takes 6.67 hours
The rate at which the alcohol is metabolized is the same for everyone regardless of age, weight, height or sex, however, how long alcohol stays in your system primarily depends on much alcohol has been consumed. Although the person may no longer feel the effects of intoxication, the alcohol continues to remain in the body.
Alcohol Effect on Kidneys
Approximately five percent of the alcohol absorbed by the blood is released through urine. The kidneys release a hormone known as vasopressin, which helps the kidneys conserve fluid in the body by concentrating the urine that is expelled.
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Alcohol can begin to be present in urine anywhere from 20 minutes to two hours after initial consumption, but it typically takes approximately 20 minutes for alcohol to be released through urine. However, alcohol interferes with the release of vasopressin and with long term use of alcohol; fluids become unbalanced and begin to clog waste in the body, which may result in renal failure, brain damage and/or heart attack.
How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your Urine?
A urine test for alcohol cannot detect the amount of alcohol was ingested, but some tests can detect the consumption of alcohol after the body has already metabolized it, in some situations for results can be obtained for as much as 80 hours after the alcohol has been metabolized. The average amount of time that alcohol will still be present in urine is about 24 hours.
There are several factors that can influence the rate of alcohol being released through urine such as fructose which increases the rate of metabolism, certain drugs such as aspirin can slow down the metabolism of alcohol and drinking on a full stomach will slow down the absorption rate of alcohol into the body, therefore slowing down the length of time before it is in the urine. Alcohol naturally raises the body temperature and as the temperature increases, sweating begins. About five percent of alcohol is released through sweating.
Full Stomach Absorption
When alcohol is consumed, it gets into the blood stream as it is absorbed through the intestinal track. The stomach is the first source for alcohol to enter the system and when someone drinks on a full stomach, there may be delayed effect of the absorption of alcohol compared to someone who drinks on an empty stomach.
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On average, someone with a full stomach will have a spike in blood alcohol content in about one to six hours after drinking. This time frame is dramatically shortened for someone drinking on an empty stomach.
A healthy person with a properly functioning liver can typically break down alcohol at the rate of one average drink per hour. Mixed drinks are often calculated as an average of two to four standard drinks at once.
How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your Blood?
Measuring alcohol in the blood requires alcohol to be measured in units. Each unit is equal to 10ml of 100% alcohol. It typically takes one hour for the body to metabolize a single unit of alcohol, so for example, if someone drinks 250 ml of wine, it would typically take about three hours for the alcohol to metabolize by the body.
In order for a blood test to have a negative result, the system would have to be free of alcohol from one drink, for about 12 hours. A blood test will not reveal how long alcohol was ingested; it is only capable of analyzing the presence of alcohol in the blood stream. Alcohol is easily absorbed into the system, so the blood alcohol content can be measured within a few minutes after ingestion.
The blood concentration level that is considered as legally intoxicated varies from state to state; however, the average level is between 0.08 and 0.10. A blood content level of about 0.08 begins to cause impairment and a level of 0.40 or more is potentially lethal. There are a variety of factors that may affect the result of a blood alcohol test such as excessive amounts of rubbing alcohol used for cleaning the area for withdrawing blood, high levels of blood ketones in diabetics and medical supplements such as cough medicine.