Most people who have a drinking problem and accept that they have one know just how damaging alcoholism can be to every facet of their life. Over the years, this collective acceptance has motivated many to turn to rehab to get the help they need to quit drinking and, as a byproduct of doing so, lower their chances of developing a number of health problems linked to heavy drinking. According to a study published by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcohol abuse is responsible for multiple chronic health conditions in the U.S., some of which include the following:
- Liver disease
- Heart disease
- Sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs)
- Immune system dysfunction
- Ulcers and gastrointestinal problems
- Upper aerodigestive tract cancers
- Liver and breast cancer
Along with an increased likelihood of developing numerous health problems, alcohol abuse can increase an individual’s chances of being involved in traffic accidents, slip and fall injuries, and polydrug use, which can increase the risk of being hospitalized for alcohol poisoning. Many things eventually drive individuals to quit drinking, but these, coupled with the real threat of developing an array of health problems, certainly top the list.
What Happens to the Body When Individuals Stops Drinking?
Whether discussing a full-on alcohol use disorder (AUD) or regular binge drinking sessions on the weekends, quitting either requires going through detox. Those who have gone through it themselves agree detox is the most grueling part of quitting alcohol. To appreciate why they feel this way, it helps to know more about what detox is and what it means to go through one. The long and short of it is detox is the body’s natural way of ridding itself of alcohol and other contaminants once an individual stops drinking. Going through an alcohol detox can trigger an onslaught of unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, often within as little as 8 hours after an individual consumes their final drink. Some of these unpleasant alcohol withdrawal symptoms include the following:
- Mood swings
- Hallucinations and nightmares
- Profuse sweating
- Clammy skin
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
Delirium Tremens: The Scariest Part of Going Through an Alcohol Detox
While rare, suffering from delirium tremens is one of the scariest parts of detoxing from alcohol. According to a study published by ScienceDirect, a trusted online resource for scientific, technical, and medical research, 5 to 10% of alcohol-dependent individuals suffer from delirium tremens when they go through detox or otherwise quit drinking. Unlike other symptoms, the onset of delirium tremens takes days rather than hours, typically 2 to 3 days after one has consumed their final drink. For those not as familiar with this severe and sometimes deadly alcohol withdrawal symptom, delirium tremens can trigger grand mal seizures. It can also cause disorientation, exaggerated sympathetic activity, psychomotor agitation, and hallucinations. Symptoms of delirium tremens can last as long as a week or until there is no alcohol left in an individual’s system.
How Long Does It Take Alcohol to Leave Your System?
Generally speaking, the faster alcohol gets out of someone’s system, the faster they can move past the difficult withdrawal symptoms associated with alcohol detox. Available data shows it takes about 25 hours for the body to more or less rid itself of alcohol after an individual consumes their final alcoholic beverage. Except for delirium tremens, this is enough time for most people to gain noticeable relief from many alcohol withdrawal symptoms. In fact, some might even go away entirely. While 25 hours is enough time to provide most people with meaningful relief from severe withdrawal symptoms, it is not enough time for the body to rid itself of all traces of alcohol. As such, it is still very much possible to fail an alcohol detection test. According to a study published by the Cleveland Clinic, most Alcohol detection tests can pick up alcohol in someone’s blood for up to 6 hours and on their breath for 12 to 24 hours. They can also detect alcohol in urine and saliva for 12 to 24 hours; some can measure alcohol in someone’s hair for up to 90 days after they’ve consumed their final drink.
How Does the Body Metabolize Alcohol?
While height, weight, the amount of alcohol one consumes, and so on have a say, metabolism is the primary factor that dictates how quickly alcohol leaves the body. When someone drinks an alcoholic beverage, it first goes to the stomach; it is there that enzymes break down most of it. Whatever doesn’t get broken down enters the bloodstream and eventually makes it to the brain, which results in either a mild buzz or full-on intoxication. After alcohol makes it into the stomach, bloodstream, and brain, the next stop is the liver.
The Liver and Its Role in Removing Alcohol and Other Contaminants From the Body
After alcohol passes through the blood, stomach, and small intestines, the liver begins doing what would constitute the heavy lifting. Studies show the liver removes roughly 90% of alcohol from an individual’s blood, and the balance gets removed via the kidneys, lungs, and skin. As these organs collectively work to remove alcohol from the blood, the intoxicating effects of the alcohol invariably start to lessen. Along with height, weight, the amount of alcohol one consumes, and how often one drinks, the following can dictate how long the body takes to rid itself of alcohol:
- Underlying health problems
- Certain medications
Is It Possible to Speed up How Quickly the Body Metabolizes Alcohol?
Contrary to popular belief, the human body can’t rid itself of alcohol any faster than it already does. Even drinking coffee after tying one on, which many believe helps things along, doesn’t do the trick. The caffeine in coffee does counter the drowsiness caused by alcohol and lessens its intoxicating effects, but it doesn’t get alcohol out of the body any faster. Likewise, eating a big meal after consuming alcohol won’t help either. Food does slow down how quickly alcohol gets broken down in the stomach, which minimizes the intoxicating effects of alcohol, but it doesn’t speed up the metabolization process.
Final Thoughts Concerning How Long Does It Take Alcohol to Leave Your System
In summary, multiple things dictate how long alcohol stays in the body after one has consumed an alcoholic beverage. And aside from consuming less of it, there is no way to get the body rid itself of alcohol any faster than it does. If you’re struggling with binge drinking or an alcohol use disorder, most rehab facilities will provide prescription-based medications to help ease difficult withdrawal symptoms while you go through detox. For anything else, including gaining relief from a horrible hangover, the only other option is to wait it out.