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How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System?

Updated on October 22, 2013

There are two ways in which alcohol gets removed from the body after it has been absorbed into the bloodstream. An estimated 10 percent of the consumed alcohol gets eliminated via urine, breath, and sweat. The rest of it gets broken down via varied metabolic processes.

In order to understand how long alcohol stays in the system, one has to educate oneself about BAC or blood alcohol content. Detailed information about this concept is given below.

Factors that determine the duration of alcohol in the system

The rate of alcohol metabolism in the body is generally the same for almost everyone irrespective of the weight, sex, height, ethnicity, or other suchfactors. However, there are certain factors which may determine the duration of alcohol presence in the body. They are as follows:

  • Gender:Alcohol tends to stay for a longer duration in women as compared to men. This is primarily due to the fact that women have more fat content and less water in the body than men. Hence, women need to consume only small amounts of alcohol to arrive at a particular BAC level, while men may reach that level after intake of additional alcohol.
  • Time elapsed since the last alcohol consumption: The BAC level after intake of a certain amount of alcohol will be lower, when you consume the drink after the passage of a long time period. The longer is the time span from the last drink, the lower will be the blood alcohol content.
  • Age: Alcohol is usually eliminated the quickest from the systems of young adults in their twenties and thirties.
  • Weight: Just like any type of drug, a fixed quantity of alcohol will lead to a higher BAC level in an individual who weighs less as compared to another person who weighs more.
  • Race: The rate of alcohol elimination from the body is also affected by the ethnicity of the person. People of East Asian origin have lowered capacity to detoxify alcohol and thus tend to experience prolonged hangovers as compared to others.
  • Other factors:There are several other factors which affect the alcohol duration in the system, such as:
    • The rate of alcohol detoxification is also affected by intake of medications. For example, alcohol tends to metabolize slightly slower in individuals who take aspirin, paracetamol, and pyrazole compounds.
    • The amount and type of food consumed along with alcohol intake
    • The type and brand of alcohol that is consumed
    • The quantity of alcohol consumed

It is also important to note that individuals differ as regards to the rate of absorption, metabolism, and excretion of alcohol from the system. Thus, the differences in the bodies of different people will affect the duration of alcohol presence in the system.

How long does alcohol stay in your system?

The blood alcohol concentration or BAC is measured so as to determine the alcohol content in the blood. It is read in percentage terms. When you know the BAC level, you will be able to figure out the duration needed for the body to eliminate the alcohol from your system.

The breakdown of alcohol in the body is a chemical reaction that can be easily calculated. Alcohol is metabolized at a rate of .016 BAC per hour. Irrespective of the body size, it is equal to about 1 standard drink consumed per hour.

It may however be noted that the blood alcohol concentration increases at varying rates as per the body weight. Hence, smaller women tend to easily arrive at the legal limit of .08 with just a couple of drinks, while larger men may reach this level only after consuming 4 to 5 drinks.

The rate of alcohol absorption is also affected by the quantity of body fat. Thus, an individual with excess body fat will absorb alcohol at a rate that is slower than that experienced by people with less body fat. This is because the body breaks down alcohol at the same rate across individuals, i.e., 0.016/hour.

The chart provided below will enable you to determine the time taken by the body to eliminate alcohol from your system, i.e. hours till nil alcohol. As alcohol is broken down at the rate of 0.016/hour, a BAC reading of 0.016 indicates that the body requires just an hour to eliminate the alcohol from the system.However, a BAC reading of 0.24 signifies elevated blood alcohol content which may even result in loss of consciousness. The alcohol is most likely to remain in your systemthe next day as well, and keep you within the legally drunk limit for more than 10 hours.

There are no specific methods to change or hurry the process of alcohol metabolism. Intake of medications or coffee will only raise the level of alertness, but will not remove the alcohol content from your system. At the bottom of this article, we have added BAC/Hours until nil chart for better understanding

Alcohol duration in the urine

The body will begin elimination of alcohol from your system only after a minimum of about five percent of absorbed alcohol has come to the kidneys. Alcohol impairs the function of vasopressin hormone which aids the conservation of body fluids. Hence, the body starts eliminating alcohol after about 20 minutes of alcohol intake.

How to keep a low BAC rate?

  • Avoiding the intake of excessive amounts of alcohol is the best way to keep a low BAC rate.
  • Intake of distilled alcohol such as gin and vodka results in decreased hangovers as compared to other alcoholic beverages.
  • Wine and beer also have low alcohol content. Such non-carbonated spirits have a slow absorption rate as compared to carbonated drinks like whisky with water.
  • Avoid gulping your drink. Instead take your time to finish it. Also, try to avoid drinking competitions.
  • Avoid drinking on an empty stomach. Intake of protein-rich foods will help decelerate the alcohol absorption. Intake of water, fruit juices, and non-alcoholic beverages between drinks also helps in restricting the absorption of alcohol.
  • Engaging in varied social activities such as dancing, etc. can also help limit the amount of alcohol consumption

BAC/Hours Until Nil Chart


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