What are the keys to getting alcohol out of your system? How long does it take? Are there any secrets to making the process faster? What do you need to know? Annie Grace answers!
It’s very common to have questions when it comes to getting alcohol out of your system. And there is so much conflicting information out there regarding just how long alcohol stays in your system. It gets even more confusing when you start drilling down just what one means by getting alcohol out of your system. Do you mean how long it takes to metabolize alcohol? How long it is detectable in the bloodstream? How long does it take to physically recover? Are you wondering when the body starts healing from using alcohol? It seems as if one question just leads to another one! That’s perfectly normal and we’re going to do our best to answer all these questions and more!
How Long Does It Take To Metabolize Alcohol?
The standard rate at which people process alcohol is a constant rate of about one standard drink per hour. Now to understand what that means we first need to define what a standard drink is. In the United States a standard drink is equal to about 14 grams of pure alcohol, which is found in:
- 12 ounces of regular beer, which is usually about 5% alcohol
- 5 ounces of wine, which is typically about 12% alcohol
- 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits, which is about 40% alcohol
There’s more to consider though
While the rate that which alcohol is metabolized is constant, how long people feel the effects of alcohol will fluctuate. Blood alcohol concentrations vary from one person due to the next based upon:
As we age, alcohol stays in the liver longer before moving into the general bloodstream and being metabolized. Not only does this affect getting alcohol out of your system, but it also increases how long you feel intoxicated and increases the risk of liver damage. Older people also have other contributing factors such as less water in the body, more medication interactions, and often other underlying conditions. These can all mean the body processes alcohol at a slower rate and takes longer to get alcohol out of the system.
Your biological sex also determines how long getting alcohol out of your system will take. Women metabolize alcohol differently than men do. Most women have a higher body fat percentage and lower body water percentage when compared to men. So, a man’s body dilutes alcohol at a faster rate than a woman can even if their height and weight are exactly the same. In addition, hormone levels can disrupt the rate at which alcohol is processed so where a woman is at in her menstrual cycle will influence her BAC levels. Finally, another strike against women when it comes to getting alcohol out of their system is that studies have shown women have less acetaldehyde dehydrogenase, an enzyme the body uses to metabolize alcohol in the stomach.
We’ve all heard that you are what you eat! Or in this case, you might be what you don’t eat. Having food in your stomach prior to drinking does influence the absorption rate of alcohol and getting alcohol out of your system. This works in two ways – food dilutes the alcohol and it also slows down how quickly the stomach empties into the small intestine. The small intestine is where alcohol is absorbed so slowing down the rate at which alcohol hits it is huge in lowering your blood alcohol content.
Someone who drinks on an empty stomach could see their peak BAC hit a level 3 times as high as someone who eats a meal before drinking. Making sure to eat before drinking and even snacking on those questionable bar peanuts and pretzels can go a long way towards slowing down how quickly and how intensely the alcohol hits your system.
It turns out size does matter. When it comes to getting alcohol out of your system that is. Body size and composition play a role in how fast alcohol gets processed. Basically, someone with more body fat will have a higher BAC. Fat holds less water than muscle does, and so it absorbs less alcohol from the blood. On that same note, someone who is muscular but short-statured will have a higher BAC than someone who is muscular but taller simply because there is more muscle and more water to absorb the alcohol than in the shorter person.
Medications can play a very important and significant role in the rate at which we get alcohol out of the system. Many medications can interact with alcohol and/or affect metabolism. That means they also affect how our bodies process alcohol. This can result in higher BAC levels and can also cause dangerous and sometimes deadly interactions. Some of the medications known to interact with alcohol include –
Anti-anxiety medications such as Xanax and Cymbalta
ADHD medications like Adderall and Ritalin
Cough and cold medicines including Robittusin and Delsym
Diabetes medications like Chlorpropamide and Glucophage
Heartburn medicines such as Tagamet and Zantac
Blood pressure medication like Lopressor HCT
and many, many more.
Getting Alcohol Out of Your System
Most of us want to know if there are any tricks or tips for getting alcohol out of our system fast. Yet, we really aren’t even sure what that really means. The answer to how long alcohol stays in the system depends on how you’re tracking that.
If your question is just how long alcohol is detectable in your system that often depends on which kind of drug test is being used.
Blood tests can typically detect alcohol in the system for up to 12 hours. Alcohol is eliminated from the bloodstream at about 0.015 per hour.
Urine tests will detect alcohol for 3 to 5 days using an ethyl glucuronide (EtG) test or roughly 10 to 12 hours using traditional tests.
Hair follicle tests can trace alcohol for the same time period as most other drugs – up to 90 days.
What’s Missing About Getting Alcohol Out of Your System?
While all of these factors are certainly important to consider when it comes to getting alcohol out of your system, they all fail to address one thing – the healing process.
No longer being able to detect alcohol in the bloodstream, urine, or hair follicles does not indicate anything when it comes to reversing the damaging effects of alcohol.
Let’s answer the real questions.
Going Beyond Getting Alcohol Out of Your System
Want to know more about the science behind why we drink and what effect alcohol has on our bodies? Join us in The This Naked Mind Companion App to learn, explore, and connect with others getting curious about their relationships with alcohol. You can download the free app from the App Store, Google Play, or access it online.
When Does The Body Physically Start To Recover From Alcohol?
10 Days – Alcohol use disrupts nearly every system in the human body. It can take up to 10 days for those systems to regain homeostasis. Homeostasis is a state of balance among all the body systems needed for the body to survive and function correctly.
Can you spot the problem here? Very few people drink less often than every 10 days. Even weekend or occasional drinkers will find their bodies constantly recovering from the work it takes to get alcohol out of their system. And drinking before the body has had a chance to reach homeostasis again means creating a larger disruption to the system which is more difficult to recover from each time.
Getting Alcohol Out of Your System Isn’t An Exact Science
Here at This Naked Mind, we love nothing more than facts, evidence-based science, and concrete numbers. Unfortunately, we can’t give you any of that when it comes to getting alcohol out of your system and having your body recover. Sure, we can tell you when alcohol can no longer be detected but that doesn’t tell you when you’ll feel better.
That varies from person to person and it can even swing back and forth in an individual. Healing isn’t a linear process. There can be setbacks along the way, some individuals experience PAWS, and there might be underlying conditions that might need to be addressed first.
There isn’t a large amount of research available when it comes to recovery and individual timelines. Personally, it took me at least six months to feel like myself again. My emotions, my sleep, and my health all needed time to level out.
The amount you drank, how healthy you are overall, and environmental, personal, and emotional factors are all part of your individual healing process.
The Emotional Path To Getting Alcohol Out of Your System
In most cases, the easiest part of the process is physically getting alcohol out of your system. The emotional and psychological adjustments can be much harder.
No longer do you have your clutch or shield that you had come to rely on whenever life would get difficult. You’re now expected to face all the issues and stressors that accompany the rollercoaster of life bare. Naked. You don’t have alcohol to turn to. And you haven’t yet developed the emotional and psychological tools that can help you. That’s a tall task. It can take time to convince the brain that getting alcohol out of your system is a good thing.
Getting Alcohol Out of Your System Brings Healing
All your reasons for drinking have not gone away. Alcohol may have numbed you to them, but they still exist. The good news is that when you stop using something that creates havoc, stress, depression, and anxiety to treat those very issues, you can finally heal and lay those issues to rest.
The emotional path to getting alcohol out of your system means getting to the source of your discomfort. It means developing the tools you need to deal with issues.
If you’re not sure how to develop those tools, or you feel stuck in your relationship with alcohol – you’re not alone. The PATH: Freedom Accelerated has helped thousands of people get unstuck, develop the tools they need, and create a relationship with alcohol that has them firmly in control. You can learn more here!
Let’s Get Physical
The physical process of healing from alcohol and getting it out of your system also takes time. Alcohol touches every system in the body and almost every neurotransmitter. Chemically the body must adjust to quitting alcohol as well.
The brain often overcompensates while learning to regulate itself without alcohol. Reaching a baseline can take up to a year for some people.
None of this happened overnight. Not the damage and neither will the healing.
Physically – your brain is the control center for getting alcohol out of your system and repairing the damage inflicted by alcohol. It is responsible for healing itself and for coordinating the healing of every other organ, system, and nerve in your body.
Think of it as a construction project. Important work must take place long before a foundation is poured. Every step is vital to the next phase. The same is true when it comes to healing and erasing any signs of what alcohol did to your system.
You can’t rush this. For so long, your body has been slowed down by alcohol. Your thought process, reaction time, digestion, and so much more have not been operating optimally. Fixing it all must be done in a way that makes sense for the body and the brain.
What Is The Vital Secret To Getting Alcohol Out of Your System?
The vital secret to getting alcohol out of your system is quite simple. Getting alcohol out of your system isn’t about when it can no longer be chemically detected, when the body has physically healed from it, or when you’re no longer triggered by it. The secret is that you can know without a shadow of a doubt that you’ve succeeded at getting alcohol out of your system when it has become something small and insignificant.
You no longer desire it. It is no longer tempting. You can take it or leave it. Alcohol has no control over you anymore.
That is healing. That is freedom. When you get to that point in your relationship with alcohol you will know that it is completely out of any and every system in your body.