Alcohol affects your body in many ways. When you drink, it changes the structure of your brain. The functions of your GABA and glutamate receptors are altered. Your brain function slows down, your anxiety goes away, and you feel slightly sedated or tired. When this wears off, your neurochemicals aren’t at the levels they should be, so your brain activity isn’t what it’s supposed to be either. You end up hyper-aroused, anxious, unable to sleep, basically everything that’s the opposite of the sedation and decreases your anxiety while drinking. But how long does alcohol last in the body, and when is it time to get help?

How Does Alcohol Impact the Body?

Let’s look at a quick breakdown of alcohol’s impact on your body:

  1. You start drinking. As the alcohol goes through your stomach, it gets absorbed through the stomach walls and into your small intestine. It’s broken down through the bloodstream into your liver and converted into acetaldehyde. This travels through the bloodstream, into your heart, through the blood-brain barrier, and into your brain. Within the first 10 minutes or so, you’ll start to feel the effects of alcohol because it’s already changing your brain.
  2. You feel more relaxed. You get a natural level of endorphins, and your mood is slightly altered, so you drink more. As you reach the legal drunk-driving limit, you lose coordination, balance, hearing, speech, and reaction times, but you also get a boost of endorphins, so you feel great. You start to lose physical control, and as you transition with more alcohol, you get euphoric, but you also find it hard to walk and talk at the same time.
  3. You wake up with a hangover. Alcohol is sedated, so it puts you in a very deep sleep, but that sedation only works for about 4 hours at a time, and then you wake up with a headache, feeling very unhappy, and usually very hungry. Alcohol is a poison, and as you deal with alcohol hangovers, you might have rapid heartbeats, nausea, and feel flushed because of the poisonous acetaldehyde. Your inflammatory response is high, so you get a lot of inflammation; your mitochondrial DNA isn’t working right, especially in the liver, so you get a lot of free radicals, and in general, you have stomach symptoms and a headache. This is the start of withdrawal. 

How Long Does Alcohol Last in Your System?

How long does alcohol last in your system? This is a complicated question. The amount of alcohol in your system will determine how long it lasts because it takes your body a certain amount of time to process what you have consumed. Factors that contribute to how long alcohol last in your system can include:

  • Gender
  • Age
  • Weight
  • How much you recently ate
  • How much you drink
  • How hydrated you are

The time of day that you drink is another factor. If you’re already sleepy, alcohol is more likely to put you to sleep. If you are a woman, that means you have a higher percentage of fat and a lower percentage of water in your body compared to men, so alcohol gets diluted in your body’s water content meaning women get drunk faster than men. Food delays alcohol uptake in your stomach, so if you haven’t consumed anything all day, that alcohol gets consumed really fast. Genetically you might metabolize alcohol faster.

Below is a table indicating how long alcohol will show up on different tests:

System in your bodyHow long does alcohol last in your system?
BloodUp to 6 hours
Breath12-24 hours
HairUp to 90 days
Saliva12-24 hours
UrineUp to 72 hours depending on how it is tested

This table shows how long alcohol lasts in different systems in your body based primarily on tests that would be rendered. Even if you aren’t having something like a DUI test administered for your blood or your saliva, it’s important to understand how long alcohol lasts for you so that you better appreciate when withdrawal symptoms might manifest.

What are Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal?

When you have alcohol in your system, you feel the effects of the drug. But as soon as the drinking stops and there’s no longer any alcohol in your system, alcohol withdrawal begins. Knowing answers to questions like “how long does alcohol last in your system” can help you better understand when to expect these withdrawal symptoms.

There are many symptoms, and what you experience personally will vary based on how long you have struggled, what else you abuse, and your personal physical and psychological health. You might experience a handful of symptoms like:

  • Headaches
  • Anxiety
  • Tremors or shaking
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Mood changes
  • Increased heart rate
  • Hyperthermia 
  • Rapid or abnormal breathing
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures

How to Find Detox Programs for Alcoholism

Any Southern California alcohol detox programs need to be completed in a safe, professional setting. Alcohol withdrawal brings with it some of the most serious potential complications like delirium tremens, hallucinations, severe dehydration and vomiting, seizures, and even death. Having professional staff nearby can give you access to the medications you need to remain stable and, of course, has professionals there if something goes wrong.

If you are ready to get help for alcoholism, our Southern California rehab at Total RHM can provide medication-assisted alcohol withdrawal treatment. We help provide detox and relief as well as ongoing treatment and recovery through a combination of treatment therapies like neurofeedback, withdrawal management, IV Therapy, counseling, and more. We combine a multitude of psychological and physical treatment plans to help you improve the mind and the body as you move through your recovery.

Our Beverly Hills treatment approach focuses on minimizing your alcohol withdrawal symptoms and then cleansing your body of any residual toxins with proper alcohol detox, and after that, securing your long-term wellness as you rebuild your life.

Let Total RHM help you on the path to alcohol recovery today.