How long does alcohol stay in blood, urine, breath ?

People who want to drink at a party and then drive home have been known to ask how long it takes alcohol to be metabolized by the body. When you take alcohol above a certain amount, your body is suppressed, and you lose coordination, vision, judgment, etc. The dangers of driving while drunk is well documented, since the drowsiness it causes, makes the driver fall asleep while at the wheel. Only 10% of alcohol is lost through the breath, sweat and urine, and most of it is metabolized by the body. There are several factors that come into play, to determine how long alcohol will remain in your blood.

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What factors affect the retention of alcohol in the blood?

The factors are:

•             Gender – In women, alcohol tends to stay longer than it does in men. Women have less water in their bodies, and more fat, and these contribute to storing more alcohol. If a man and a woman have a couple of drinks each, the man will expel more alcohol than the woman, thereby leading to a high Blood Alcohol Content (BAC)

•             Age – people in their 20’s tend to lose alcohol much faster.

•             Duration of abstinence – The longer you stay without drinking alcohol, the lower the BAC will be for the same amount of alcohol. A person who has a drink yesterday will have a higher BAC than someone who stayed away from alcohol for 3 days, even when they consume the same alcohol.

•             Weight – Alcohol is classified as a drug, and will therefore be affected by your weight. A person with a large body mass will not be as affected as someone of a smaller frame.

There are some medications that slow down the metabolism of alcohol. This is because these drugs affect the way the body detoxifies alcohol. Aspirin, paracetamol, and pyrazole, have been known to slow this down. It has also been noted that ethnicity does play a role, in the way the body gets rid of alcohol. The type and amount of alcohol that you take will also determine how long it stays in your system. Similarly, the frequency of eating, and the type of food, also come into play. Body differences also contribute to retention of alcohol.

How long does alcohol stay in the blood?

If you know your BAC, then you can calculate how long alcohol will stay in your blood. This is a measurement of the percentage concentration of alcohol in your blood. Alcohol is metabolized by the body at a rate of 0.016 BAC every hour. Regardless of your body size, this means that you will lose at least one drink, every hour after you stop drinking. BAC in the blood is determined by body size, and you will find a small woman getting to a high BAC on 2 drinks, while a man can have 5 before he reaches the same BAC level. A person with less fat will absorb more alcohol, and this person tends to get drunk much faster.

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If you have a drink, and reach a BAC if 0.032, then it will take you only 2 hours to metabolize the alcohol. However, if you have a BAC of 0.24, which is very high, and people usually black out at this level, then you may be legally drunk for another 10 hours, and you will still have some alcohol in your blood the next day. An age old adage that coffee helps in getting sober has been refuted. Coffee will only increase your alertness, but it will have no effect on your BAC.

How long does alcohol stay in Urine?

When 5% of the alcohol absorbed in your stomach, reaches the kidneys, then alcohol will be traced in your urine. Body fluids are conserved by a hormone called vasopressin, which stops the kidneys from removing too much water in the body. However, alcohol suppresses this hormone, and you begin urinating within 20 minutes.

Alcohol cab still be detected in the urine for up to 48 hours after drinking. There is a test which measures ethyl glucuronide, the ETG Urine Alcohol Test, and this can tell if you had taken a drink, after 4 days, which is about 80 hours faster the liver metabolizes the alcohol.

How long does alcohol remain in breath?

This is largely dependent on how much you had to drink, and when you had that drink. Due to the rate at which alcohol is removed from the body, you can expect that you will have alcohol on your breath for as long as the alcohol is still in your blood. This is the reason why people still have a boozy breath when they wake up in the morning after a night of hard drinking.

Many people think that once the alcohol has left the stomach, that their breath will not have alcohol. This is the reason why teens will try to brush their teeth, to try and mask the smell. However, the smell emanates from the alcohol in your blood, and any measures you take will only be temporary. You cannot fool a breathalyzer by taking a few mint drops.

More information on alcohol consumption

It is advisable that you lower the amount of alcohol that you take, in order to maintain good health. You should take vodka and gin, if you want to reduce the number, and severity of your hangovers. Taking beer, will give you a hangover, most of the time. You should eat foods that have protein in order to reduce the amount of alcohol that is being absorbed in the stomach. Drinking on an empty stomach will increase the amount of alcohol absorbed. You should also drink slowly, and try to take wine which has lower alcohol content. Beer is also absorbed slower than vodka, so you should take beer if you do not want to get drunk faster. If you take juices, water, and other non-alcoholic beverages, you will slow down the rate of alcohol absorption. Being active when drinking, such as dancing, walking around, reduces the rate at which your body absorbs alcohol. 

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