There are a number of reasons you may be researching “How long does alcohol stay in your system?” Let’s face it: Some of those reasons may be a little sketchy. There are times when you’re probably less interested in how drinking affects your overall health than you are of potential legal ramifications.
Maybe you even have a court-ordered mandate to avoid drinking because of past alcohol abuse. Perhaps you want to make sure it’s safe to get behind the wheel after more than a beer or two. Whether it’s for being in better health or avoiding jail time, it’s helpful to know how alcohol affects your system.
In this article:
- Know How Fast Your Body Metabolizes It
- Know When You Had Your Last Drink
- What Type of Test?
- Which People Tend to Hold On To Their Alcohol Longest?
How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System?
Know How Fast Your Body Metabolizes It
The biggest factor affecting the potential presence of alcohol in your system is the rate at which your body metabolizes it. If you drink only an ounce of alcohol per hour, your body will be able to efficiently remove it from your system within an hour of your last drink.
Unfortunately, that’s not the rate at which most people consume beer, wine, and other spirits.
About 20% of alcohol consumed goes right to your head — literally. It enters your bloodstream and travels to your brain. The remainder filters more slowly to your liver.
In general, if you reach a state of intoxication in which you’re legally unable to drive, you need to wait 5.5 hours for your system to rid itself of that amount of alcohol.
Know When You Had Your Last Drink
How long does alcohol stay in your system? It boils down to when you last consumed a drink.
Even if you’ve been at a party for a long time, it’s the time of your last drink you need to focus on most, not the total length of time between your first and last drinks.
Of course, the length of the party may influence how much you drink. Note, though, this is just one of the several factors that influence how much alcohol stays in your system.
Other factors include your age, weight, food consumed, and whether you’re on any medication. All these affect how fast people metabolize the total amount of alcohol they consume. Metabolizing, in this sense, means how fast the liver breaks it down and eliminates it from your body.
When it comes to doing the math about how much alcohol your system needs to metabolize, don’t forget to start counting from your last drink.
What Type of Test?
Some tests can detect the lingering traces of alcohol more precisely than the others. What type of test you take depends on the reason for doing it.
If it’s a road stop test to check for driving safety, a breathalyzer is the easiest for the police to administer. If the court mandates you not to touch alcohol for an extended period of time, you may undergo a hair sample test.
In general, breathalyzer tests can detect alcohol for up to 24 hours after you had your drink. The main purpose of the breath test is to determine the current blood alcohol level (BAC).
If you’re the driver and have a BAC of more than 0.08%, in most states, you may face a charge called driving under the influence of alcohol. (Do keep in mind the police may still charge you with a DUI even if you’re under the legal alcohol limit. It may happen if you’re below 21 years old and drinking or when you have a child inside the car.) The same holds true for similar tasks. These include driving a pleasure boat or operating heavy equipment at work.
The police can also administer a saliva test. In this process, they obtain a sample by swabbing the inner cheeks. This procedure can detect alcohol in your system up to 24 hours after your last drink.
Urine tests can determine traces of alcohol up to 80 hours after the person took their last gulp. The tests can determine this by measuring the metabolites breaking down the alcohol rather than the alcohol itself.
A hair test is currently the most far-ranging measuring tool for past alcohol use. It can detect traces of alcohol up to 90 days after you had the last drink. It cannot measure whether the person is currently safe to operate heavy equipment. Instead, it checks on a person’s recent history of alcohol consumption.
Which People Tend to Hold On To Their Alcohol Longest?
How long does alcohol stay in your system? It turns out many factors influence this. If you need to calculate BAC levels and time frames for legal reasons, it’s important to know who is the most vulnerable of being “snagged” by a test.
Women tend to absorb alcohol at a higher rate than men. Women carry more body fat, and their systems have less water content than men. Both of these things add up to a smaller amount of alcohol needed to reach the same BAC as a man.
Of course, weight is another factor. The less one weighs, the bigger the impact a unit of alcohol will have on that person. Older people also have slower metabolisms. People taking medications may find that alcohol stays in their system longer. Currently, some believe particular ethnicities, such as East Asians, metabolize alcohol the slowest.
Who will be the “luckiest” when it comes to an alcohol test if all parties drank similar amounts and for the same length of time? Statistically, white men under the age of 30 who are fairly robust in terms of weight and health and aren’t taking medication will metabolize alcohol the fastest.
On the other hand, a petite older woman on medication who hasn’t had much to eat recently will tend to metabolize alcohol more slowly than the rest of the general population.
Learn how breathalyzer can help avoid car accidents in this video from TomoNews US:
We don’t need to tell you that drinking responsibly is the best way to avoid questioning “How long does alcohol stay in your system?” You don’t have to calculate alcohol levels and the number of hours that passed since you drank.
If your good sense does abandon you, though, try to keep the basics in mind. They come in handy when evaluating how long alcohol lingers in the body. They can save you from spending even a minute in jail and could possibly save a life (maybe even your own).
Do you think the country needs to lower the legal blood alcohol level limit? Let us know in the comments section below!
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