Have you noticed that the same drink may impact you differently on different days?

While most people process alcohol at a rate of about one standard drink per hour, multiple factors can influence how long you feel the effects of alcohol. That’s why you might not notice much of an impact when leisurely drinking a glass of wine after dinner but feel a buzz soon after gulping a similar glass before dinner.

It takes time for your body to get rid of the alcohol in your system. The more alcohol you drink, the longer it takes. You also can’t always judge the amount of alcohol in your system by how you feel. For instance, you may think it’s safe to drive, but there may be more alcohol in your system than you realize. By knowing how long alcohol stays in your system and what can impact its effects, you can better understand how alcohol affects you.

How Long Can Alcohol Be Detected in Your System?

Your body must break down or metabolize alcohol to remove it from your system. Most of this work is done by your liver, although about 5 to 10 percent leaves by breath, sweat, or urine.

Your liver processes about one standard drink in about an hour. If you continue to drink, alcohol will begin to accumulate in your bloodstream, which increases your blood alcohol concentration. You become more intoxicated as the amount of alcohol in your body rises.

How long alcohol can be detected in your system depends partly on the test used.

  • A breathalyzer can detect alcohol in your breath for up to 24 hours.
  • Alcohol shows in your blood for up to 12 hours.
  • A traditional urine test can show alcohol for 10 to 12 hours.
  • Alcohol can be detected between 24 to 48 hours with a saliva test.
  • A hair follicle drug test can show alcohol for up to 90 days.

7 Factors That Impact the Effects of Alcohol in Your System

Alcohol is eliminated from the body at an average rate of 0.015g per 100ml per hour. However, various factors can impact how your body reacts to alcohol. Here are seven factors that can affect your reaction to alcohol.

1. Gender

Blood alcohol concentration typically increases faster in women than men. One reason is that women tend to have a lower percentage of body water than men. As a result, a woman’s body can’t dilute the alcohol as fast as a man’s body. Women also typically have higher body fat percentages, which can cause alcohol to remain in their system longer.

2. Your Health

If you have health conditions, alcohol may not be processed as efficiently by your body, leading to increased health risks. The health of your liver is particularly important. If you have liver damage, it won’t be able to get rid of alcohol as quickly, which can lead to more damage over time with continued drinking.

If you have other health conditions, alcohol may impact you differently. For example, people with diabetes may experience shifts in their blood sugar levels when drinking.

3. Age

Ever hear someone say they can’t drink alcohol like they did when younger? It’s true. As you age, your liver works slower, and it takes longer for your liver to remove the alcohol from your system.

4. Genetic Factors

Genetic factors can also impact how efficiently your body metabolizes alcohol. For instance, research suggests that having the ADH1B variant of the alcohol dehydrogenase gene reduces the clearance rate of alcohol from your liver, but the variant ADH1B*2 results in a more rapid processing of alcohol.

5. Amount of Food Eaten Before Drinking

If you’ve eaten before drinking, you can slow how fast the alcohol is absorbed into your system. Any food already in your stomach will cause at least some of the alcohol to stay longer in the stomach, which will delay it entering your bloodstream. As a result, you can reduce the impact of the alcohol you drank, although eventually all of it will need to be fully processed.

6. Strength of the Drink and How You Drink It

You may not always know exactly how much alcohol is in your drink. If you’re at a bar or party, you don’t know how much was added to the mixed drink. You may have one glass, but the alcohol content may be higher than you usually drink. It also might be larger than the standard size.

How you drink alcohol can also play a role. If you tend to sip on one drink for an hour, the alcohol is entering your system slower. You can better control how intoxicated you become. If you tend to gulp or chug your drink, you can quickly overtax your body’s ability to keep up with the amount of alcohol in your system. You’ll feel intoxicated faster.

7. Medications Taken

Different medications can influence how alcohol is processed. Many older individuals are on medications that can further slow down the rate their liver can process alcohol. As a result, they will feel the effects longer, which may cause them to feel intoxicated faster.

Drinking alcohol while on certain medications can be dangerous. Alcohol can increase the side effects of some medicines, including feeling sleepy or lightheaded. Alcohol may also make your medications less effective, which can lead to problems. Since alcohol slows the central nervous system, it can be dangerous to mix it with medicines like sedatives, tranquilizers, and others that impact the central nervous system.

Alcohol can impact prescription and over-the-counter medications, including medications for conditions like:

  • Heart problems
  • Diabetes
  • Depression
  • Arthritis
  • High blood pressure
  • Infections
  • Seizures
  • Sleep disorders and more

When taking medications, it’s important to know whether alcohol can impact the effectiveness of a drug. If you aren’t sure, it’s better not to drink alcohol while taking it.

Can You Speed Up How Fast Alcohol Leaves Your System?

Once the alcohol is in your system, you can’t do anything to make your body process it faster. Sleeping, coffee, energy drinks, water, and cold showers might make you feel better. But these strategies do not remove the alcohol from your system or lower your blood alcohol levels.

If you, or a friend or loved one are struggling with alcohol addiction, get help today. Call the Rehab Helpline for Drugs and Alcohol (877) 467-4825.

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