Alcohol is one of those substances we as a society embrace. While no one dares to ask someone why they don’t do drugs, we all question and almost frown upon those who choose not to drink. Nonetheless, when you try to get alcohol out of your system, you go through similar pain points alcoholics go through. Read on to learn how to get alcohol out of your system in the safest way possible.
What’s Considered a Drink?
Before we go into the details, let’s talk about what’s considered a drink. The amount of liquid in your glass doesn’t necessarily match how much alcohol is in your drink. Different types of drinks, like beers, wines, or liquors, have different amounts of alcohol content. For example, a regular beer can have about 5% alcohol content, while a light beer can have 4.2% alcohol content.
In the US, one “standard” drink needs to have at least 14 grams of alcohol, for example:
- 12 ounces of beer with 5% alcohol
- 5 ounces of wine with 12% alcohol
- 1.5 ounces of spirits with 40% alcohol
How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System?
Since the blood alcohol concentrations (BAC) can vary among people, situations, and the types of drinks someone is having, the time it takes for the effects of alcohol to wear off varies tremendously. How long it takes the body to metabolize alcohol will also vary depending on the substance, this is usually how long it takes for you to feel the effects of alcohol consumption:
- Shot of liquor — 1 hour
- Pint of beer — 2 hours
- A glass of wine — 3 hours
- A few drinks — several hours
Still, alcohol can be detected in the system using different types of drug testing.
Blood Tests: Up to 6 Hours
Close to 20 percent of the alcohol from a single drink moves straight into the blood vessels. The rest goes to the small intestine, then directly to the bloodstream. Eventually, the alcohol is processed and removed from the body through the liver.
Urine Tests: Between 12 Hours to 24 Hours or 72 Hours
Traditional or older methods of testing can detect alcohol traces in urine for up to 24 hours. However, more recent methods that test for ethanol metabolites can detect alcohol even 72 hours after the last drink.
Saliva and Breathalyzer Tests: Between 12-24 Hours
Alcohol metabolizes rather quickly; thus, a saliva test or breathalyzer test is used to confirm intoxication or recent drinking. These tests are used by emergency departments, police officers, and sometimes in rehab centers to ensure outpatient treatment participants are practicing abstinence.
Hair Tests: Up to 90 Days
On average, hair tests can help detect alcohol traces for up to 90 days after the last drink. However, these are not standard tests to detect alcohol in someone’s system.
Factors That Affect How Long Alcohol Stays in the Body
However, alcohol is highly susceptible to many factors that affect how long it stays in the body. From age, metabolism, and even the type of food someone eats (or doesn’t) impacts how long alcohol stays in the system. Of course, how many drinks per hour someone had will also affect these factors.
The older someone is, the longer alcohol will stay in the liver before moving into the bloodstream. Since the amount of water also goes down with age, this contributes to higher BAD after drinking. Older people are more likely to take medications, which also affect the liver.
Alcohol is metabolized differently by women than men. It will stay in a woman’s body longer. This is because women tend to have a higher body fat percentage and a lower body water percentage. Hormone levels also affect the body’s ability to process alcohol. This is why women experience higher BACs right before menstruation as their hormones are shifting.
Eating a meal before drinking can influence the absorption of alcohol. Food, overall, helps dilute alcohol and slows the emptying of the stomach into the small intestine. In fact, BACs can be as much as three times higher in someone with an empty stomach than someone who had food before drinking. Even eating or snacking while drinking can induce enzyme activity and slow the rate at which the body absorbs alcohol.
Some medications interact with alcohol and alter the metabolism, affecting how the body processes alcohol. Some drugs empty the stomach into the small intestine and liver; this causes alcohol to be absorbed more rapidly. Well-known medicines that interact with alcohol include:
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How to Get Alcohol Out of Your System
When you’re trying to flush the alcohol out of your system, you must be honest with yourself. While having a couple of extra drinks one night is fair-game, recognizing that you have a drinking problem is a very different situation. Our body is so marvelous that it can help us flush out alcohol through sweating, breathing, and urinating. The rest of the contents go through the liver, which starts the detoxifying process.
How to Flush Out Alcohol After a Couple of Drinks
If you’ve had a couple of drinks and you’re looking for ways to detox your body from alcohol toxins, try these tips:
- Sleep in: If you’re not fully intoxicated, a night of good sleep can help your body go back to normal and excrete alcohol while you get some rest.
- Drink fluids: Alcohol is known to cause dehydration, one of the culprits behind headaches and lethargic feelings. Drinking water or drinking beverages with electrolytes to help your body hold on to the water you need to recover.
- Eat: Alcohol can cause low blood sugar and even crashes; it’s important to balance it with some foods. If food makes you nauseous, try crackers or rice until your body can process food.
- Get moving: While you probably can’t complete an aerobics class under the influence, you can try to sweat. Deep breathing can help release toxins, it ramps up your oxygen levels which helps the liver filter out toxins more quickly, and it also enables you to sweat.
How to Quit Alcohol If You’re an Addict
While you might flush alcohol after a binge-drinking episode, if you’re struggling with an alcohol abuse disorder, these are only short-term solutions. Speaking with an addiction treatment specialist as soon as possible is the best way to start seeking help for addiction. At Lighthouse Recovery Institute, our drug addiction recovery programs include:
- Alcohol Detox Programs: While the withdrawing effects of alcohol aren’t life-threatening, they can be quite uncomfortable. Medical detox can help people get the substance out of their system in a safe and comfortable environment that prepares them for long-term rehab treatment.
- Inpatient Programs: These offer a temptation-free environment that’s designed to help people in recovery. In this case, people check into a living drug rehab facility, and they attend meetings and therapy sessions while remaining in a supervised environment.
- Outpatient Programs: For those with mild heroin addiction, an outpatient rehab program might be an option. In this case, they have a more flexible program that allows them to maintain their daily schedule and responsibilities like attending school, work, or caring for their family.
- Medication-Assisted Programs: While rare, long-term heroin addicts might experience the worse withdrawal symptoms. To prevent these symptoms from harming them physically and psychologically, a physician might recommend specific prescription medications to help through the withdrawal process under a medically supervised program. MAT programs are also helpful for those struggling with mental health conditions that could make the withdrawal process even worse.
- Individual Therapy: Beyond the detox process, it’s paramount to tackle the addiction. Through individual therapy, people can understand what drives addictive behavior and see if there’s an underlying cause of their addiction.
- Group Therapy: Building a healthy and sober support team is a critical element of addiction recovery. By attending group meetings or 12-step programs, individuals can continue their sober life and continue to learn relapse prevention techniques, even months after detox.
Getting Help for Alcohol Addiction
Alcohol addiction can be a sneaky disease that surprises most people. We all know a high-functioning alcoholic in our lives that’s low-key struggling to stay healthy. If you or someone you love is struggling with drug abuse, seek help immediately.
Contact Lighthouse Recovery Institute today and speak with our addiction specialists to learn more about our comprehensive and personalized addiction treatment programs. Our addiction treatment center is ready to welcome you with open arms.