Whether you want to socialize, escape problems, or celebrate a milestone, there are many instances wherein one might consume alcohol. However, for a number of reasons, you may want to know just how long alcohol stays in urine.
It can range anywhere from 12 hours up to three to five days, depending on several factors, like age, body size, food, and medications. Keep scrolling to learn more about how long alcohol stays in the system and how alcohol problems can be addressed.
How Long Alcohol Stays in the System
Generally, it takes approximately one hour to metabolize one drink. However, when it comes to how long alcohol can be detected in the body, several factors are at play, including the alcohol test used.
In urine tests, there does not have to be excessive alcohol consumption to capture results. Ethanol can be detected within an hour of about one drink. Then, it remains detectable for a maximum of 12 hours after consumption. Duration can vary based on different factors, such as gender, health, and how much alcohol is consumed.
The answer to “how long does alcohol stay in urine” also depends on the testing method used. If it’s an ethyl glucuronide (EtG) test, alcohol is detectable in urine for up to three to five days after consuming the drink. In other lab tests, ethyl sulfate (EtS) might also be checked. This is another metabolite that can detect the presence of alcohol in the body.
EtG Tests are Usually More Reliable
Compared to traditional urine testing, EtG tests are usually more reliable. That is why rehab programs like La Hacienda use this testing method.
However, EtG and EtS tests are not commonly utilized to replace traditional urine screening because they’re more expensive and can’t identify the amount of alcohol consumed.
Moreover, the tests cannot distinguish ethanol from alcoholic beverages and ethanol coming from other products, like body sprays and over-the-counter medicine for cough and cold.
Other Alcohol Detection Tests
Breath tests and saliva tests can detect alcohol in breath 12 to 24 hours after the last drink. Meanwhile, alcohol can be detected in a blood test 6 to 12 hours after consumption. For hair tests, (hair follicles) alcohol can be detected up to 90 days after drinking.
How Does the Body Processes Alcohol
When you drink alcohol, 20% of it is absorbed through the stomach while 80% is absorbed in the small bowel, and then goes directly into the bloodstream. Moreover, most of the alcohol that you drink reaches the liver, where most alcohol metabolism occurs.
The Liver Can Process One Drink in One Hour
The liver can process one drink in one hour. That’s any drink with 14 grams or 0.6 fluid ounces of pure alcohol. The ethanol in alcohol is converted into acetaldehyde, which is a toxic chemical that causes hangover symptoms. It is then converted into acetate, which, in turn, can be converted to water and carbon dioxide. Through exhaled breath and urine, carbon dioxide and water are easily eliminated.
However, consuming more than the liver can process saturates the system, and the excess alcohol builds up in the bloodstream. This amount of alcohol in the blood is usually called the individual’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC). BAC is often measured with a blood test or breathalyzer.
The liver can break down 90% to 95% of alcohol, while the other 5% to 10% is eliminated in several ways, including through sweat, urine, and the lungs.
What Is Blood Alcohol Concentration?
Blood alcohol concentration or BAC refers to the percentage of alcohol present in the bloodstream. An ounce of alcohol usually results in a .015% blood alcohol concentration, which means that there’s little to no alcohol in the bloodstream after around 10 hours.
Meanwhile, if the level is higher than .05%, one may feel the negative effects of alcohol. Instead of feeling happy or relaxed, they may begin to feel disoriented or irritated. When they reach .08%, they are considered legally intoxicated and should not drive. They will start losing their sense of balance and may vomit given the excess alcohol in the blood since the body can’t quickly metabolize the alcohol.
Factors Affecting Alcohol Metabolism
Multiple factors affect blood alcohol concentration and the speed of eliminating alcohol from the body.
As a person ages, the speed of processing alcohol slows down. This means that alcohol tends to stay longer in the liver before getting metabolized. Thus, there’s an increasing risk of damaging the liver.
Moreover, higher BAC occurs because of a lesser amount of water in the body. Also, older individuals tend to take medications that can affect the liver.
Individuals who weigh less have less water in their bodies. This leads to a higher blood alcohol concentration. Smaller people may have a higher BAC when drinking the same amount of alcohol as larger individuals.
Compared to men, it takes longer for women to process alcohol. They have more body fat and less body water than men. Even if both have the same weight and height, men’s bodies will dilute alcohol faster than women’s.
Moreover, hormonal levels affect the body’s speed of processing alcohol. Women usually have higher BACs when they drink alcohol right before their menstrual period. Research also shows that women have less acetaldehyde dehydrogenase, one of the primary enzymes responsible for metabolizing alcohol in the stomach.
Several over-the-counter drugs and prescriptions can interact with alcohol. These include cough and cold medicines and medications for ADHD, diabetes, and anxiety. Changes in metabolism can also occur, affecting how the body processes alcohol and how long it stays in your system. It’s best to consult one’s doctor for guidance about when it’s safe to drink while taking medications.
When there is food in the stomach and one is drinking alcoholic beverages, the body will absorb the alcohol more slowly. On the other hand, drinking on an empty stomach can make one feel the alcohol’s effect faster.
Depending on how much alcohol one consumes, they will hit peak blood alcohol level within 30 minutes to 2 hours after drinking if they haven’t eaten. Some food makes the body more able to handle alcohol. Eating tofu, cheese, and other high-protein food before drinking or while drinking alcohol slows absorption of alcohol.
Another factor that affects alcohol consumption and the body’s reaction to alcohol is mood. While euphoric effects usually happen between 0.02 and 0.05 BAC, hitting around 0.07 results in a worse mood.
Persons struggling with alcohol problems and depression may experience worse symptoms when drinking alcohol. Furthermore, drinking heavily while having a mental health issue, like anxiety, can affect the stomach’s enzymes and change how the body breaks down alcohol.
Alcohol Abuse: Risk Factors
In 2019, almost 15 million people aged 12 and above suffered from alcohol use disorder (AUD) according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Moreover, alcohol-related deaths are one of the leading causes of preventable death in the U.S. These include drunk driving, overdose, and liver failure.
Those with major depressive disorder, schizophrenia, and personality disorders have a higher risk of AUD. In addition, a family history of AUD, genetics, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, history of trauma, and drinking at an early age can increase the risk.
La Hacienda Treats Alcoholism
La Hacienda Treatment in Hunt, Texas, has been helping those wanting to recover from an alcohol problem or other behavioral health conditions for over 50 years.
All patients undergo a thorough assessment upon arrival. Our medical and clinical staff consider treatment options and many factors about their condition and devise a care plan for each individual.
Our Special Care Unit provides medically supervised detoxification including careful monitoring of withdrawal symptoms. Once a patient satisfies established medical parameters, they begin individual and group counseling to learn how to stay sober.
If you or a loved one is suffering from alcohol addiction or substance abuse, contact La Hacienda today.