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Whether you are drinking alcohol on a regular basis or just as an occasional treat, it is important to know quickly your body can metabolize alcohol. Whether it is to help with taking medication or passing alcohol tests, you want to understand the way your body processes alcohol.
There are a lot of factors that can influence how much alcohol passes through your body within a given period. Even knowing a vague half-life of the alcohol you drink can make a big difference to your body.
A single unit of alcohol equals 10ml or 8 grams of pure alcohol.
In about one hour, the vast majority of adults will be processing a single unit of alcohol. This serves as an important baseline for processing alcohol and understanding when alcohol can be detected.
However, this is still vague. How long does alcohol stay in your system? While this baseline is helpful, it does not explain the various factors that influence how fast alcohol is rapidly absorbed and disposed of by your digestive tract.
Alcohol consumption and absorption are not straightforward numbers. The same amount of regular lager, beer or cider in two different people can differ based on factors like:
When you drink alcohol, your body’s alcohol metabolism takes charge.
Your liver will absorb alcohol and turn it into metabolites, which can be detected through:
Alcohol overuse and alcohol addiction can pose a lot of risks. Not only can it increase your heart rate and affect your brain, but it can result in alcohol poisoning.
High blood alcohol levels can get your heart beating at a constant rate faster than normal and causes light-headedness and drowsiness. Slurred speech and poor vision follow.
Once you reach 10-12 units, your alcohol metabolism cannot stop you from suffering alcohol poisoning. You will be dehydrated and potentially get nauseous, vomit, or even suffer indigestion problems.
More than 12 units, no matter your body composition, is a significant alcohol use disorder. This can result in your entire body slowly shutting down or key organs and processes refusing to work.
While there are many factors that influence your responses to alcohol use disorder and excessive drinking, 12 units of alcohol from even a weak standard drink can be enough to damage your body and potentially kill you or cause a coma.
If you want to eliminate alcohol from your life or feel you need addiction treatment, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Binge drinking is a pattern of drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, regardless of the negative effects, on a single occasion.
Binge drinking can lead to many major health problems, like cancer or memory problems. Even one standard alcoholic drink too many can be the difference between a normal night and your body developing the seeds of a major condition.
However, more importantly, there are the unintended actions. After a certain amount of alcohol, you may not fully control how you act. The brain’s decision-making system depends on a clear head, and alcohol can interfere enough to cause many problems.
This includes unintended pregnancies, violence towards others, accidental injuries, numbed pain that does not make a serious wound obvious, an inability to stay awake when doing something important like driving, and a high chance of taking too much medication or using substances that cause further damage to your body.
On average, it takes about 1 hour for the body to metabolise one standard drink.
Therefore it would take around 16 hours to metabolise one pint of beer, assuming the beer is 5% in volume.
However, various factors can affect the time it takes for alcohol to be eliminated from the body.
These factors include weight, gender, health, and amount of alcohol consumed.
Food can alter how your body processes alcohol.
While an hour is the average expected time for a single unit to process, it may take a lot longer, depending on whether you have an empty stomach.
How much food your stomach and digestive organs are currently trying to digest can influence the speed it takes to process alcohol since more will slow down digestion.
Two units should take around two hours until no alcohol can be detected consistently.
Factors like the presence of foods and your overall body weight can influence this.
The alcohol half-life is roughly about four to five hours in total, but it only takes about an hour for a single unit to no longer be a noticeable problem.
In general, drinking more than two standard pints or glasses of alcohol will put you over the limit.
However, this depends on what you’re drinking. One standard glass of wine may be less liquid than a pint of beer, but it could also contain more alcohol.
Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) can be used to detect alcohol in a person’s system.
A lower percentage of alcohol stops you from having a higher BAC than the limit, so the amount of alcohol you drink in units matters more than the physical volume of the drink itself.
At one unit an hour, a beer could be anywhere from 1-3 hours as standard.
Strong distilled spirits will fill your body with ethyl glucuronide, a leftover of the drink, which can mean that “one more drink” is actually going to take several hours to metabolise fully.
Around 90% or more of the alcohol in your body is removed by the small intestine and liver, with the rest leaving as urine, sweat, or even your breath.
This is why urine and breath tests work alongside blood tests – blood alcohol is not the only by-product in your body.
Blood tests can measure alcohol accurately up to six hours after your last drink. Food makes no real difference here – once the alcohol enters your body, a blood-based test can detect alcohol for 5-6 hours afterwards.
Naturally, a higher percentage is easier to detect. Strong, clear alcohol use will make it easier to detect alcohol than a small amount of cider or wine mixed into fruit juice or another drink, for example.
While exact alcohol facts and statistics vary based on a range of different factors, it is not always easy to pinpoint the way that they work. Even something as minor as the amount of food in your small intestine can drastically change how long alcohol lingers in your body.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse has made a lot of resources to help people with a personal or family history of alcohol abuse and addiction.
If you want to find out more about addiction treatment, we can offer assistance. Have a look at the list below for more information:
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