Journey Of Alcohol In Your Body
Sep 30, 2020


How many of us have ever had one too many shots at a party, waking up in bed with a pounding in your head like there’s a sledgehammer going to town in your skull? That is just one of the many symptoms of alcohol use disorder and if you are here, you probably are looking for a solution to a night of overindulgence. The bad news is that it doesn’t exist. However, you can learn something here that will hopefully make your next drinking session a lot less painful and regretful.

How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your Body?

So here’s the key question, what is alcohol? The average American drinks 2.3 gallons of alcohol a year, but never stopped to consider how this depressant makes its way through the body (and brain). Like everything else that is eaten or drunk, alcohol is broken down by the body for energy through metabolism. An interesting fact is that once it permeates the bloodstream, the body metabolizes it at a constant speed of 20 mg/dL every hour. This means that it would take exactly one hour to break down 200 milligrams of alcohol in a liter of blood. Going by the same logic, it would take three hours to metabolize 600 mg of alcohol in a liter of blood.

If you are asking why everybody is not equally wasted at the end of a party if we drank the same number of beer pints? The answer lies in the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of your blood. The blood alcohol concentration is simply the ratio of alcohol to water in your blood. A higher ratio indicates a higher level of intoxication, which increases the side effects of alcohol on your system. Therefore, it is a given to drink plenty of water in order to reduce BAC levels Even though two people can both have exactly 20mg/DL for their blood alcohol level, they can have the different BAC levels, which will result in differing levels of drunkness.

The most common factors that influence BAC are weight, binge drinking, and drinking on an empty stomach. That being said, age, liver disease, and the medication you are on also affect BAC levels. Do take note that different drinks take differing amounts of time to metabolize completely. A shot of hard liquor takes an hour, a pint of beer takes double that and a glass of wine will require around three hours to metabolize.

How it is Metabolized

For all the talk of alcohol in blood, we have yet to cover on how it enters the bloodstream from your mouth. Roughly 20 percent of your drink goes in your blood vessels and straight to the brain. The other 80 percent actually follow the path of food, entering the esophagus ending its journey in the small intestine. It then enters the bloodstream and is eventually removed by the liver. This is why people with liver issues tend to have higher levels of BAC in general as their systems are slower in removing the alcohol from their system.

Alcohol Detection Tests

To measure the levels of BAC, there are numerous tests that can be conducted. The most common of which is the breath test through a breathalyzer. This device collects the breath of the person being tested and measures the BAC levels instantly. A person with BAC levels greater than 0.02 should not operate heavy machinery or drive in order to prevent safety accidents. Alcohol can be detected through the breath test within 24 hours. For a test that can detect alcohol within the system up to 80 hours after drinking, the urine test is a great alternative if you are looking at more detailed testing methods. However, simpler methods can also detect alcohol up to 48 hours after consumption. This is mostly attributed to the fact that traces of alcohol can be detected for up to 90 days in a person’s hair, and this fact has been used in forensic investigations.

Alcohol and Breastfeeding

Everybody knows that alcohol is to be avoided during pregnancy, but did you know that it affects breastfeeding and the child being breastfed? Alcohol can be transferred to the baby through the umbilical cord and can cause physical and intellectual disabilities. Alcohol in breast milk can cause the same effects and development issues when the baby is breastfed by his mum who had recently consumed alcohol. For breastfeeding mums out there, it is better to abstain from consuming alcohol entirely. If alcohol is to be consumed by the breastfeeding mum, it would be better to pump out and store milk in advance as well as to feed the baby before drinking. Most importantly, after drinking a shot of liquor or a small glass of wine, it is best to stagger a period of three hours before breastfeeding the baby.

Alcohol Poisoning

Finally, we have come to the last but most important part of the article, which is regarding alcohol poisoning. It can be fatal and should be considered a medical emergency. This usually happens when there is an excessive amount of alcohol consumed and when it cannot be metabolized sufficiently quickly. A common cause of alcohol poisoning is binge drinking which causes the victim to continuously imbibe alcohol without understanding the full consequences of their actions.

If the victim passes out, vomits, has a lower blood temperature, and is suffering from slower breathing, there is a good chance that the person is suffering from alcohol poisoning. In the event of such an emergency, an ambulance should be called for and the victim should not be left unattended. While waiting for the ambulance, the victim should be lying on their side to avoid choking on their own vomit.


This article has explored the journey alcohol takes in our body, as well as how long it stays and how it affects us when over-consumed. Drinking can remain a fun and safe social activity when done responsibly and this article hopes to impart some knowledge regarding that.