How Long Does Alcohol Stay In Your Blood?

How long alcohol can be detected in the blood depends on a variety of factors including what kind of alcohol is consumed, the test used, and many more.

How Long Does Alcohol Stay In Your Blood

Individuals with healthy livers can typically break down one unit of alcohol in the span of an hour. The most reliable way of determining blood alcohol levels is a blood alcohol test. These types of tests are only accurate within six to 12 hours after your last drink.

One alcoholic unit is defined as 10ml or 8g of pure alcohol, which is roughly equivalent to:

  • a standard glass (175 ml) of wine (12 percent alcohol) = 2.1 units
  • a large glass (250 ml) of wine (12 percent alcohol) = 3 units
  • one pint of low-strength lager, beer, or cider (3.6 percent alcohol) = 2 units
  • one pint of strong lager, beer, or cider (5.2 percent alcohol) = 3 units

Factors That Can Effect How Long Alcohol Stays In Your Blood

No two people are the same, and everybody can experience the effects of alcohol in different ways. Depending on these factors, alcohol may be processed by the body faster or slower.

Once alcohol enters the blood, there is no way to speed up the elimination process like drinking water or coffee. While drinking water or coffee may make you feel better or more alert, it doesn’t affect the alcohol levels in your blood.

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Factors that affect how long alcohol stays in your blood, include:

Age

Age can play a significant factor in how long alcohol stays in the blood. The older someone is, the more worn their organs become including the liver, which is responsible for removing 90 percent of alcohol from the body.

Weight

The more someone weighs the more alcohol it will take to increase their blood alcohol levels. However, being overweight may not affect alcohol levels in the body because alcohol is not very fat-soluble.

Gender

Men tend to have more lean tissue mass, which equates to a higher tolerance to alcohol. Men also have more of the enzyme responsible for breaking down alcohol in their stomach. Women are typically built smaller and have a lower tolerance to alcohol because of it.

Medications

Consuming other medications can impact how long alcohol stays in the blood. The body sees alcohol like a toxin that needs to be removed. Taking other medicines in addition to alcohol can confuse the body’s systems on which substance to extract first. In some cases, the liver will only have the capacity to process the other medication, and removing alcohol will come later.

Food Consumption

Eating before consuming alcohol can influence how much alcohol is absorbed by the body at once. This can slow the ingestion of alcohol, causing it to stay in your system longer. The reverse is also true. When drinking on an empty stomach, alcohol is absorbed more quickly. Though this doesn’t speed up how long alcohol stays in your blood, the faster it is absorbed, the quicker the liver can process it.

Type and Strength of Alcohol

Depending on the kind of alcohol someone drinks, how long it stays in your blood can vary. The stronger the alcohol, the harder the liver and other organs will have to work to remove it which—depending on the health of the individual—can increase the amount of time alcohol remains in the blood.

How Does The Body Eliminate Alcohol From Blood?

Alcohol is a toxin that the body must work to eliminate from the body and blood. Roughly 90 percent of alcohol is removed through the liver, and the remaining 10 percent is eliminated through sweat, breath, and urine.

Once alcohol enters your bloodstream, it is carried to all parts of the body. Most healthy people circulate blood throughout their bodies in about 90 seconds, which allows alcohol to reach the brain and other organs in a short time. The full effects of alcohol are typically felt 15 to 45 minutes after consumption, depending on the speed of absorption.

How Long Is Alcohol Detectable In Breath, Urine, And Hair?

While alcohol in the blood is detectable six to 24 hours after consumption, alcohol can be detected in other bodily fluids for different lengths of time.

Alcohol can be detected in:

  • Breath roughly 12 to 24 hours, though this test is more accurate when it is done sooner after drinking
  • Urine up to 80 hours after drinking
  • Hair tests for alcohol can be done up to three months later

Risks Of Alcohol Abuse

Individuals who consume alcohol at a faster rate than their bodies can eliminate it their blood alcohol levels will continue to rise. There are many risks associated with excessive alcohol consumption.

These risks can include increased chances of:

  • stroke
  • heart disease
  • liver disease
  • brain damage
  • damage to the nervous system

To learn more about alcohol treatment, contact an addiction specialist today.

Bowling Green State University - https://www.bgsu.edu/recwell/wellness-connection/alcohol-education/alcohol-metabolism.html

National Center for Biotechnical Information - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC543875/

United Kingdom National Health Service - https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/lifestyle/how-long-does-alcohol-stay-in-your-blood/

U.S. National Library of Medicine, MedlinePlus - https://medlineplus.gov/lab-tests/blood-alcohol-level/

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