If you frequently drink alcohol, you may be curious about how long it stays in your system. Oftentimes, people will have a few drinks out at a bar or club, thinking that they’ll be able to sober up in a few hours in order to drive home. But is that really how it works?
One study showed that alcohol is detectable in urine for up to 130 hours, especially if someone has been drinking excessively. On top of that, it can be detected up to 24 on breath and saliva. So how fast does the body break down alcohol after drinking, and how long should you wait before driving home after a night of drinking?
How is Alcohol Metabolized by the Body?
When it comes to alcohol consumption, we often think about the liver. However, the stomach also plays a role in how alcohol is metabolized.
Obviously, when you drink alcohol, the first stop is in the stomach. During its time in the stomach, alcohol will be broken down by enzymes. These enzymes break down alcohol in order to prevent some alcohol from being absorbed into the bloodstream. These enzymes are referred to as alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) and aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH).
Studies show that women and people who don’t frequently drink have lower levels of ADH. When ADH levels are low, alcohol is sent directly to the small intestine, therefore entering your bloodstream faster.
After the stomach, the remaining broken down alcohol moves through the small intestine and into the liver. The liver is like the cleanup crew, it removes about 90% of the alcohol from your blood.
How Long Does it Take for Alcohol to Metabolize?
Determining how long it takes for your body to metabolize alcohol, or in simpler terms: “how long does it take to sober up?” is a difficult question to answer. This is because it depends on so many different factors, such as your gender, age, weight, and consumption patterns.
Another important factor is the amount you drink in ounces. While beer and a shot might contain the same amount of alcohol, it’ll take longer for your body to metabolize the liquor because it’s much more concentrated.
After having an alcoholic beverage, it takes approximately 60 to 90 minutes for it to reach peak effect. After that timeframe, the body begins to break it down. The half-life for alcohol is about five hours, meaning that it takes five hours for your body to get rid of half of the alcohol that you’ve consumed and 25 hours to get rid of it completely.
However, not everyone has the same metabolism, and there are many factors that can affect how quickly alcohol is metabolized, including:
- Medications: some over-the-counter or prescription medications slow down the metabolization process.
- Sex: women are known to take longer than men to process alcohol in the body.
- Age: as you age, the rate at which you can metabolize alcohol will slow down.
- Weight: the less you weigh, the less water you have in your blood, meaning your blood alcohol concentration will be much higher than someone who weighs more but has consumed the same amount of alcohol.
- Health conditions: kidney, liver, and stomach conditions can slow down metabolism, making it harder for the body to process alcohol.
Seek Treatment for Alcoholism
If you or someone you love is struggling with alcohol addiction, it may be time to reach out to Asheville Recovery Center for help. There are many treatment programs available to those who are struggling, including inpatient and outpatient programs. To learn more about our treatment programs and how we can help you or your loved one, give us a call today.