Alcohol is one of the most common addictive substances in America. It’s not unusual for Americans to drink wine or beer with dinner. Excessive consumption, however, is damaging to the body.
However, the damage is not predicated on how long alcohol stays in your system. Alcohol gets cleared out of your system within 12 to 24 hours. To learn more about alcohol abuse and alcohol use disorder (AUD), and alcohol withdrawal, contact Ashwood Recovery in Idaho at 208.274.8609. If you have more questions about addiction to alcohol, someone from our staff will be happy to answer and help you on the path to recovery.
How Alcohol Breaks Down in the Body
Once consumed, 20% of alcohol gets absorbed by the blood vessels in the stomach. This is scientifically known as the first-pass metabolism (FPM) pathway. The blood vessels in the small intestine absorb the remaining 80%. Alcohol absorption into the bloodstream slows down if there’s food in the stomach. Any trace amounts of metabolites will leave the body through bodily fluids, like sweat, urine, and saliva.
Any liquor that enters the bloodstream will be carried to the liver. This is where enzymes that can break down the alcohol molecules are produced. Alcohol that enters the bloodstream will also enter the brain.
What Are the Factors Affecting How Long Alcohol Stays in Your System?
The rate at which each person’s liver metabolizes liquor is slightly different. Healthy livers will metabolize alcohol at different rates. There are also other factors at play, such as:
- Body fat content
- Health, especially the medications you’re taking
If your blood alcohol level rises above 0.055, your blood and fatty tissues will absorb the extra liquor. This causes your body to store the alcohol for longer.
If you consume too much alcohol in one sitting, there’s a good chance you’ll get alcohol poisoning. This can lead to seizures, vomiting, slurred speech, and loss of consciousness. In worst-case scenarios, alcohol poisoning can lead to complications like cardiac arrests, brain damage, and seizures.
How Long Does One Beer Stay in Your System?
Your liver works diligently to metabolize and clear alcohol as efficiently as possible.
It can generally metabolize anywhere from 0.25 to 0.5 ounces each hour. Standard alcoholic beverages contain anywhere from 0.50 to 1.00 ounce of alcohol. A standard beer contains approximately 12 ounces of liquid and has an alcohol content of 5%. This means that you should be able to clear a beer from your body in a little over an hour.
How Long Do Other Beverages Stay in Your System?
The alcohol content in other beverages will vary. It takes about:
- 1 hour to metabolize one shot of liquor
- 1 to 2 hours to metabolize a cocktail
- 2 hours to metabolize a pint of beer
- 3 hours to metabolize a glass of wine
The more you drink, the longer it takes your body to clear the alcohol.
How Long Is Alcohol in Your System Detectable?
Although the alcohol is completely cleared from your system and no longer affects you, it may still be detectable. Here’s how long alcohol is detectable through different tests:
- A breathalyzer detects alcohol up to 24 hours after your last drink
- A hair drug test detects alcohol up to 90 days after your last drink
- A saliva swab detects alcohol up to 10 to 24 hours after your last drink
- A urine test detects alcohol up to 12 to 48 hours after your last drink
Some urine tests are advanced enough to detect alcohol in your system up to 80 hours after your last drink, but they are not available commercially for the general public.
Enzymes Involved in Breaking Down Alcohol
Two enzymes break down alcohol. Alcohol dehydrogenase is produced in the liver, and cytochrome P450 is an enzyme in your brain.
What Is Alcohol Dehydrogenase?
This enzyme binds with ethanol molecules in the alcohol to produce a substance known as acetaldehyde, a reactive and toxic byproduct. In high concentrations, this molecule damages your tissues and can be addictive. Getting rid of acetaldehyde makes the liver cells vulnerable to attacks. They can be damaged by free radicals, acetaldehyde, and even other alcohol metabolites.
What Is Cytochrome P450?
This enzyme is predominantly found in areas of the body where there’s not a lot of alcohol dehydrogenase. It is only activated when an excessive amount of alcohol is consumed. To break down the ethanol in alcohol, cytochrome P450 produces toxic byproducts. These molecules also make the tissues susceptible to damage.
Effects of Metabolizing Alcohol
The various metabolic pathways involved with clearing alcohol from your liver can cause the following:
- Hypoxia, which is a lack of oxygen
- The production of toxic byproducts
- Tissue damage
Many alcoholics struggle with alcohol-induced liver diseases. Heavy drinkers graduate from one to the other until it’s too late to undo the damage of consuming too much alcohol.
What Is Fatty Liver?
Fatty liver is the earliest stage of the disease. It’s basically when large amounts of fatty tissues accumulate in the liver. This hinders the liver’s ability to function. If you have a fatty liver, you might experience abdominal discomfort. Fortunately, if you stop drinking, your liver will slowly heal itself with time.
What Is Alcoholic Hepatitis?
If you continue to drink, the fatty liver develops into alcoholic hepatitis. This is the second stage of the disease, characterized by swelling of the liver. Symptoms of alcoholic hepatitis include:
- Abdominal pain
Alcoholic hepatitis can last for years. Thankfully, the damage is also reversible if you quit drinking.
What Is Alcoholic Cirrhosis?
Alcoholics who don’t quit drinking develop alcoholic cirrhosis, the final stage of alcohol-induced liver disease. Drinkers with this disease permanently damage their liver to the point where they have scar tissue everywhere in their liver. The symptoms of alcoholic cirrhosis include:
- An enlarged spleen
- Accumulation of fluid in the abdomen
- High blood pressure
- Internal bleeding
- Mood changes and behavioral changes
In worst-case scenarios, alcoholic cirrhosis can be life-threatening.
How to Repair Your Liver After Alcohol Abuse
Unless the disease progresses to the final stage, your liver can heal if you quit drinking. Undergoing rehab programs, like residential programs and intensive outpatient programs, can also help.
Can You Drink Responsibly?
Limit your alcohol intake to only a few weekly drinks to keep your liver happy and healthy. Other things you can do to drink responsibly include the following:
- Drink slowly and avoid binging
- Confirm the alcohol content of each beverage you drink
In addition, Drinking while driving—and similarly risky behavior—can harm you and others around you.
Can Lifestyle Changes Help to Heal Your Liver?
Besides quitting the bottle, there are also many other things that you can do to repair your liver. Some common recommendations include the following:
- Drinking more water
- Eating a healthier diet
Repairing your liver won’t happen overnight. It’ll require time, patience, and discipline.
Find an Alcohol Use Disorder Treatment Program in Idaho at Ashwood Recovery
Contact Ashwood Recovery today at 208.274.8609 to learn more about how long alcohol stays in your system, alcohol abuse, AUD, and alcohol withdrawal—and how we can help you heal your liver and get your life back on track.