The liver is responsible for breaking down the majority of alcohol consumed. On average, men can metabolize one standard drink per hour. The speed at which the body processes alcohol can be impacted by factors like age, weight, gender, and food consumption. It’s important to note that alcohol absorption cannot be hastened by sleeping or drinking water.
How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System?
The length of time alcohol stays in the body depends on several factors such as the amount consumed, body weight, age, gender, liver function, and metabolism. On average, it takes about one hour to metabolize one standard drink (12 oz beer, 5 oz wine, or 1.5 oz of distilled spirits). Blood alcohol concentration (BAC) typically peaks 30-60 minutes after drinking and returns to zero after about 12 hours for a healthy adult. However, traces of alcohol can remain in the body for up to 72 hours and can be detected in urine and hair tests.
|Hours After Drinking||Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC)|
|0-1||Peak BAC, varies based on factors|
|1-2||BAC starts to decrease|
|2-3||BAC decreases significantly|
|3-4||BAC continues to decrease|
|4-5||BAC decrease slows down|
|5-12||BAC returns to zero|
How Is Alcohol Metabolized?
Alcohol is metabolized in the liver by two main enzymes: alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) and aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH).
- Alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) converts alcohol into acetaldehyde, which is a toxic substance that causes facial flushing, headaches, and other symptoms associated with a hangover.
- Aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) then converts acetaldehyde into acetate, which is rapidly metabolized into carbon dioxide and water and eventually eliminated from the body.
In addition to the liver, a small amount of alcohol is also metabolized in the brain and other tissues. The rate of alcohol metabolism is influenced by several factors, including the amount of alcohol consumed, the presence of food in the stomach, the presence of certain medications, and individual differences in enzyme activity.
How Long Does It Take For The Effects Of Alcohol To Start After Drinking?
On average, it takes 15 to 45 minutes for the effects of alcohol to become noticeable in a healthy individual.1 The blood alcohol level (BAC) of a person with minimal to no tolerance for alcohol can reach 0.05%, leading to signs of intoxication, and impairing their ability to drive at a BAC of 0.07%. A BAC of 0.10% is considered clearly intoxicated. For a woman weighing 150 pounds, consuming approximately 4 drinks in an hour can result in a BAC of 0.1% and lead to intoxication.
How Do You Know If You Are Drunk?
There are several physical and behavioral signs that can indicate a person is drunk, including:
- Slurred speech
- Impaired coordination and balance
- Slow reaction time
- Blurred vision
- Drowsiness and fatigue
- Nausea and vomiting
- Mood swings and irritability
- Poor judgment and decision-making
- Memory problems and confusion
- Decreased inhibitions
It’s important to note that the severity of these symptoms can vary depending on the amount of alcohol consumed, individual tolerance, and other factors such as medication use and overall health. The only way to accurately determine if someone is drunk is through a blood or breath test, which measures the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) in the body.2
Get Help For Alcoholism
If you are struggling with substance use disorder and looking to find ways to get alcohol out of your system faster or game a drug test, it might be worth considering seeking professional help and rehab. Alcoholism is a serious and complex medical condition that can have a profound impact on an individual’s health, relationships, and overall quality of life. It is characterized by a physical dependence on alcohol and a persistent pattern of excessive drinking that interferes with daily life. The effects of alcoholism can range from physical health problems and liver damage to financial difficulties and strained relationships. If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol addiction, it’s important to seek help from a medical professional or alcohol treatment center like The Ridge Ohio. With the right support and resources, it is possible to overcome alcoholism and achieve lasting recovery.
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- Alcohol Metabolism, January 2023
2. Edenberg, H.J. The genetics of alcohol metabolism: Role of alcohol dehydrogenase and aldehyde dehydrogenase variants. Alcohol Research & Health 30(1):5–13, 2007. PMID: 17718394
3. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Alcohol Alert: Alcohol Metabolism. No. 35, PH 371. Bethesda, MD: The Institute, 1997.