How Long Does Alcohol Stay In Your System
Even if you don’t drink, you’ll hear about different rules people follow when drinking.
I’ll drink a glass of water to sober up before bed.
Liquor before beer, in the clear. Beer before liquor, never been sicker.
I handle beer better than liquor.
It makes you wonder — are these things even true? Should we take sayings as gospel?
Let’s talk about some common rules and sayings about alcohol consumption and detection, and dispel the lies hidden in them.
Myth #1: I can sober up quickly by jumping into a cold shower or drinking coffee/caffeine.
It is a longstanding belief of many people that no matter how drunk they are, they can overcome it with a simple cold shower or a cup of joe.
Unfortunately, this myth has likely landed a lot of people in trouble. It simply isn’t true.
Fact: There is nothing you can do in a short amount of time that can speed up the process of alcohol leaving your body. This includes taking a cold shower, drinking coffee, or taking a walk.
You could drink ten cups of coffee and it wouldn’t matter.
The key to sobering up is time. It simply takes time to sober up.
How much time?
That depends on a few factors, but most importantly weight.
On average, you can expect it to take between one and three hours to recover from one standard-sized drink. A standard drink is 12 oz. of beer, one shot of liquor, or one glass of wine (approximately 5 ounces).
Myth #2: Beer and Wine Are Safer Than Liquor
This is a common belief. The best guess we can give for this one is that drink for drink, liquor is more efficient at getting someone drunk.
In essence, it takes less volume of consumption to reach a certain level of drunkenness.
This too is a myth.
Fact: Alcohol is alcohol. Regardless of the type of drink, you are consuming ethanol, which is the form of alcohol that we as humans can consume.
Whether you drink six beers, six shots, an entire bottle of wine, or something else, you are still consuming alcohol.
This is a common argument for beer drinkers or wine drinkers. By saying this, they are not saying it as fact. Rather, they are trying to convince themselves they are not doing something that could be hazardous to their health.
Unfortunately, people can begin to believe their own lies. When they do, it is harder to convince them otherwise.
At the end of the day, alcohol without moderation will cause damage over time — regardless of the choice of beverage.
Myth #3: I Can Coat My Stomach with Milk or Oil to Keep From Getting Drunk or Sick
It is a common belief in some places around the world, such as Italy or Greece, that you can coat your stomach before a night of heavy drinking and you will avoid becoming overly drunk or sick from drinking.
For instance, in Italy, there is the belief that you can drink a little olive oil or vegetable oil to avoid getting too drunk. In other places, there is the belief that a glass of milk before heading out for the night can help.
There is little to prove any of this.
Fact: The stomach cannot be “coated,” as believed by many. Even if it could, alcohol isn’t absorbed entirely in the stomach. In fact, only around 20% is absorbed in the stomach.
In order to avoid becoming sick, you’d need to entirely line your intestines, which absorb more alcohol and at a faster rate.
While this is a myth, there are ways to help reduce the chances of becoming sick.
Eating foods that are rich in carbohydrates (carbs) and/or protein helps, some studies say. By having a lot of carbs, which digest very slowly as opposed to other foods, you are able to slow your body’s absorption rate of alcohol into the bloodstream. It also slows the process of alcohol reaching the intestines, where you absorb alcohol the fastest.
Myth #4: My Friend Passed Out — We Can Let Them Sleep It Off Alone
Of all the myths we share, this one could be the most dangerous. It’s important to not follow this myth and read the truth below.
Fact: It is never safe to leave someone who is overly drunk alone.
This is especially true if the person has been coming in and out of consciousness. There is a risk of death if someone is passed out and left alone.
The absolute worst thing you can do is leave someone alone, like in a dark, secluded room away from everyone else.
Alcohol slows down a person’s heart rate and breathing while also lowering blood pressure. When a person is drunk enough that passing out occurs, they have come close to the amount of alcohol that could be deadly.
With the brain essentially turned off and the body’s functions slowed, there is an increased chance of vomiting that can lead to suffocating, falling and hitting their head, or harming themselves in another way.
Myth #5: Beer Before Liquor, Never Been Sicker. Liquor Before Beer, You’re In The Clear
It’s an old legend passed on for a very long time, but it’s another myth.
This term suggests that if a person were to drink beer before consuming any liquor, they will get sick from drinking. The legend states the exact opposite will keep you from getting sick.
It is not entirely clear why this is believed, but there are many reasons people do believe it.
Here are a few reasons:
- Carbonated drinks like wine or beer cause irritation to the stomach lining. This makes you consume alcohol quicker.
- People who start with liquor drink less beer afterward, hence not drinking as much.
- When starting with beer and ending with liquor, when you get sick, it’s likely you’ll blame the last thing you drank.
Fact: At the end of the day, consuming alcohol is what makes you sick, not the kind of drink you consume.
It has actually been proven in research that the combination of different alcoholic drinks has no effect on the chances of getting sick from drinking.
The thing that matters most in the chances of getting sick is the amount of alcohol consumed.
A drink is a drink.
Myth #6: The Worst Thing Alcohol Will Do Is Make Me Pass Out
Another dangerous myth or idea held. The worst thing that can happen from misusing alcohol is that it can lead to death in the short term or the long term.
Fact: Drinking too much in one sitting can cause a lot worse than blackouts. It can cause death.
Alcohol poisoning, or acute alcohol intoxication, occurs when the level of alcohol in the body is too high and acts as a poison. At this point, you are likely blacking out or worse.
Misuse of alcohol also can lead to death by accident, such as a fall or a car accident.
Myth #7: Drinking Caffeine With Alcohol Makes You Less Drunk
There is some reason this makes sense, even though it is false. Let’s clarify why it may seem right but isn’t.
Fact: When drinking alcohol to the point of drunkenness, your body is affected by consuming a depressant.
Caffeine does not help in making you less drunk. It does help in making you feel less drunk.
You should become tired or drowsy as you drink. When you consume caffeine, a stimulant, you are offsetting the effects of alcohol. When you feel dampened effects, you may overconsume.
This can cause alcohol poisoning or even death.
Myth #8: One drink. One hour. It’s out of my system.
This is a common belief held by many. In general, it is easy to remember and keep track of with this equation.
It can be true, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.
Fact: The exact time it takes for a drink to exit your system varies. There are many factors that play into the time it takes.
These factors include:
- Food consumed before/during
Alcohol Detection Time
Alcohol can be detected for anywhere from immediately to three days.
It all depends on the way you test for it.
In a urine test, it can be detected for up to three days. In other tests, such as saliva, it isn’t detectable for much more than six hours.
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Shadow Mountain Recovery, with locations in Taos, Albuquerque, and Sante Fe, offers drug and alcohol detox and rehabilitation to many in The Land of Enchantment.
Knowledge is power in helping to save lives from alcohol or substance use disorder.
How do you flush alcohol out of your system?
Using the word “flush” is not the best. It’s not really a flushing out process that takes place.
Regardless, there are a few ways to help your liver keep up with eliminating it from your body.
- Especially foods with high levels of carbohydrates
- Drinking fluids
- Water, tea, and other beverages with high electrolytes
- It’s actually the act of sweating that helps eliminate alcohol, but exercise is a great way of working up a sweat.
Can alcohol be detected after 3 days?
This depends on the way you test for it. In a urine test, it can be detected for up to three days. In other tests, such as saliva, it isn’t detectable for much more than six hours.
Can I drink alcohol the night before a urine drug test?
You can. But you can also expect that urine test to show signs of alcohol.
Most urine tests can detect alcohol for around 12-24 hours. Some extensive urine tests can detect it for around three days.
How do you sober up from alcohol fast?
Hydrating, eating carbs, sleeping, and exercising are the best ways to detox and sober your body from alcohol in a faster than normal manner. But these still aren’t instant cures. The thing the body needs most in sobering is time.