It is well known that alcohol can stay in your system for a while and it is not safe to drive after you have been drinking. It is also known that if alcohol is detected on your breath you will get you in trouble if you are caught drinking and driving.
But how long does it stay in your system? Does it take hours or days to clear your body? How does your body process alcohol? When will it no longer be detectable if you are pulled over? Are there ways to reduce the effects of alcohol on your system?
How long is alcohol measured in your system?
There are two main ways that are used to detect alcohol in your system: urine and breath. Urine is a more accurate test but it is harder to administer in the field if a police officer has pulled over someone suspected of driving drunk.
For this reason, breath is the preferred method that is used to determine someone’s alcohol level fairly quickly. A urine test can tell if you have been drinking in the past 12 to 48 hours.
A breathalyzer is a small machine that measures your blood alcohol concentration (BAC). It is portable and easy to use by police officers in the field. BAC is the amount of alcohol you have consumed over the past 24 hours.
It is measured in percentage points and the total is usually below 0.10%. Any result higher than 0.02% is considered not safe for driving. However, each state has a different number that indicated drunk driving. In California, that number is 0.08%.
How long is alcohol in your system?
Alcohol is classified as a depressant. It begins to metabolize in your body quickly and it does not stay in your system for long. Length is relative though, and it will be in your system for at least a few hours.
The rate of metabolization is virtually the same for every person. The rate is about 0.015 BAC every hour. This means that a person with a BAC of .15% will have no traceable alcohol in their system after about 10 hours.
As soon as you start drinking, the alcohol enters your digestive system. From here, about 80% goes to your intestine and is digested like other drinks or food. The other 20% is absorbed into your blood vessels and goes to your brain.
This is when you start to feel buzzed or drunk. After the alcohol makes it through your blood vessels and brain, it is finally removed from your body through your liver. If you have issues with your liver, it can take even longer for the alcohol to leave your system.
What factors can affect how long alcohol is in your system?
How much and what type of alcohol you drink has an impact on how long it stays in your system. The stronger the drink, the longer the effects will last. One beer takes around two hours for your body to metabolize. One glass of wine can take three hours. Having several drinks in a row or drinking some hard liquors will take several hours longer to digest.
Other factors that can affect how long alcohol stays in your system include age, weight, and medications you may be taking. For example, a smaller person will feel the effects of alcohol faster than a larger person.
It also matters if you are drinking on an empty stomach or have just had a big meal. Additionally, sipping one drink slowly affects you less than binge drinking several drinks quickly.
Ways to reduce the effects of alcohol
Food and water are great ways to help minimize the effects of alcohol. Food may help your body absorb and metabolize more quickly. Water can help reduce your BAC, but it will still take time for this to work. If possible, while drinking, try to alternate drinks between water and alcohol. This will help lessen the effects of the drinks and it will also help lessen the chances of a bad hangover the next day.
It is a myth that coffee or energy drinks will help speed up your metabolism and make the effects wear off quicker. The only thing that can help do that is time. Remember, if you have had any form of alcohol, you need to exercise caution before getting behind the wheel of a car and driving. If you do drive after a few drinks, you risk being arrested for a DUI.