Relapse Prevention Guide

Most of us have probably, at one point, whether we wanted to admit it or not, found ourselves in a position that we had drunk a bit more alcohol than we had intended. As we patiently wait for the effects of the alcohol to wear off and the curling headaches to begin, many people want to know precisely how long does alcohol stays in your blood? Although this question is determined based on various factors, it’s important to note how this can affect you the next time you decide to drink.

This article will look at blood alcohol concentration, also known as BAC, and how it changes with time. You will be surprised to learn that the average person metabolizes alcohol at the rate of about 1 drink per hour. But alcohol is also eliminated from the body at various rates depending on several important factors, including food in the stomach, amount of water consumed, age and sex, and much more. This means your BAC could falsely indicate that you are drunk when you are not. Learning about your BAC is essential, especially when we want to understand the effects of alcohol on our bodies once the night has ended. 

How Is Alcohol Metabolized?

The human body is a fantastic creation and has many different processes that help keep us alive and healthy. Many of our organs work together to remove toxins and other harmful substances from our bodies without us even realizing what is going on inside. When you consume alcohol, your body is pushed into overdrive to remove toxins from the alcohol out of your system. Yes, that’s right, I said toxins. Although an occasional drink or two once a month won’t cause severe damage, consistent drinking will. Binge drinking especially can cause severe harmful short- and long-term effects on your body and internal organs. 

When you drink alcohol, it enters the bloodstream through the stomach and small intestine. As the liver metabolizes the alcohol, it produces a chemical called acetate. Acetate is usually associated with vinegar. The acetate that you create from alcohol being metabolized leaves your body as either carbon dioxide or water. The liver is the powerhouse throughout the process and handles most of the work when we metabolize alcohol. 

How Long Does It Take for Alcohol to Kick in?

Did you know the blood alcohol content, also known as BAC, in your body is affected by factors such as eating, drinking, gender, metabolism of alcohol, and amount of water taken in a while drinking? It’s true! On average, it takes your body about one hour to metabolize one standard drink (defined as 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.25 grams of a distilled beverage). But this can vary depending on the individual. 

If you have ever been at a social gathering where people are consuming alcohol, you might notice that it takes less time for one person to feel the effects of drinking alcohol compared to another. Again, the factors mentioned above play a crucial role in how fast the effects of alcohol may kick in and greatly vary. Since these factors can be different each day, it can be hard to determine how quickly you will feel the effects of drinking alcohol on any given day. This is especially true even if you consume the exact amount and type of alcohol; your BAC can still vary.

How Long Does It Take for the Effects of Alcohol to Wear Off?

Nobody can truly predict how long it will take for the effects of alcohol to wear off. The factors that go into metabolizing alcohol also correlate with how long the results will last. Here is a quick breakdown of the different factors that will affect how long you’ll feel about the effects of alcohol even when you have stopped drinking.


Your genetic makeup plays a significant role in the ability to tolerate and metabolize alcohol. Some people have genetic variations that are either more or less efficient at metabolizing alcohol. The enzymes that work to break down the alcohol in our bodies are essential. Without them, it inhibits our ability to process the alcohol in our systems normally and compared to other people. 


I know what you are thinking; what does gender have to do with BAC? We know that biologically, males and females are different in a few ways, especially body composition. Females generally have higher body fat percentages, which allow them to retain alcohol more than males. However, males who have a higher body fat percentage than average will also retain more alcohol. 


Yes, your overall health affects the way your body metabolizes alcohol. Think of your body and organs as a well-oiled machine. If the spokes in the device are broken or not working correctly, this affects the entire machine, such as losing the ability to function correctly and complete daily tasks. The same goes for your body. If your organs and processing systems are not working correctly, it will significantly hinder your ability to process alcohol. 


Bodyweight plays a vital role in the ability of alcohol to disperse throughout your body. Generally speaking, if you drink the same amount of alcohol as a person who weighs more than you do, you’ll feel the effects sooner. You will feel the after-effects longer as well compared to that person. 

Amount of Alcohol Consumed

It’s important to note that higher alcohol content drinks will stay in your system for longer, especially if you have consumed more. The more alcohol you drink and in a short time frame, the longer you will feel the effects and the faster it will metabolize in your bloodstream, making you feel the results much quicker.  

Does Drinking Coffee or Water Sober You Up Faster?

It may be that advice you’ve heard before—drinking water or coffee might help “sober you up.” But is there any truth to this? What about the other things, like eating a big meal before drinking alcohol? Does that slow down how fast your body processes alcohol? As we mentioned above, the factors that go into how you metabolize alcohol are what will affect your ability to sober up faster. Unfortunately, drinking excess amounts of coffee and water will not sober you up and might make you feel worse than before. 

People are always searching for the holy grail hangover cure. However, they fail to consider the factors that go into metabolizing alcohol before you have even started drinking. Although the caffeine in coffee might make you feel more energized, it will not aid your liver in the process of metabolizing the alcohol within your body. Water will help to keep you hydrated, but that too will not make your liver work any harder than it already is. Instead of looking for fast relief, it’s best to understand that this process takes time, so the best thing you can do is be patient and let your body do its job.  

How Long Should You Stop Drinking Alcohol Before a Test?

Whether you need to stop drinking alcohol before giving a blood test, urine, or saliva test, here is the answer you’re looking for: Knowing the details of how long alcohol stays in your blood can help you stay away from unnecessary penalties and fines due to DUI/DWI. Many of these tests can detect alcohol in your blood long after you have stopped drinking. The factors that affect how fast your body metabolizes alcohol also play a role in the results of these tests. 


Typically, a urine test can detect alcohol in your system anywhere from 12-48 hours after your last drink. 


Breathalyzer tests a more accurate when given in a shorter timeframe, such as 24 hours. After that, they are not valid and cannot be used to determine your BAC. 


Salvia tests also have to be given in a short timeframe of 12-24 hours to be accurate. 


An alcohol hair test is the most accurate test there is to determine BAC. This is where alcohol can be shown as far as 90 days from your last drink. 

Breastfeeding and Alcohol

As a new mom, you want the best for your baby, and if you are breastfeeding, that means taking care of yourself as much as possible. Typically, it is better to avoid all alcohol consumption when breastfeeding to prevent milk contamination. Babies who are consistently exposed to alcohol through breast milk can suffer various problems such as decreased motor skills and possible developmental delays later on in life.

Although breastfeeding mothers can have an occasional drink without fear of harming their babies, there are a few things to consider. These tips will help save you from worry and possible harm to your baby; if you are going to have a drink, try to breastfeed before drinking or use stored milk. Pump extra milk beforehand, if possible, to produce enough during and after you have your drink. Consider the factors that go into metabolizing your drinks and wait a good 2-3 hours after a shot of high concentrated alcohol such as liquor or 12 ounces of beer and wine. If you are uncomfortable with the idea of consuming alcohol while breastfeeding, it is best to avoid it all together.  

Risks of Alcohol Abuse: Alcohol Poisoning

The effects of alcohol can be severe and potentially lead you to the emergency room. When your body cannot metabolize the amount of alcohol you are consuming, medical attention may be necessary. This can happen because you have consumed too much alcohol at a fast speed or that your body cannot correctly process a large amount of alcohol. Understanding the signs of alcohol poisoning could save your life or someone else’s. Here are just a few signs that you should be on the look-out for when you suspect alcohol poisoning, such as:

  • vomiting
  • slow breathing
  • convolutions
  • non-responsive
  • reduced body temperature

Alcohol poisoning is severe, and many people have died as a result of this situation. If you suspect someone has alcohol poisoning, always call 911 and never leave them unattended. Although it may seem like laying them on a bed or flat surface may help, this can make the situation even worse. Because alcohol poisoning induces vomiting, there is a potential for choking while in these positions, and if left unattended, you may not realize it before it’s too late. Other complications that can arise due to these situations can be:

  • cardiac arrest
  • brian damage
  • asphyxiation
  • seizures
  • very low blood pressure 

Addiction Recovery: Receiving Treatment

Alcohol consumption is one of the most commonly abused substances throughout the country. Although understanding your BAC is essential, the best way to prevent alcohol issues is to lead a sober life. Here at Serenity Springs Recovery Center, we are here to help you live a healthy and clean life free from all substances. Our gender-specific men’s only in-patient and out-patient programs have helped thousands of clients live sobers lives during and after rehabilitation. 

Many of our staff have been in your shoes and can empathize with the situations and life choices that have brought you to where you are. With a personalized plan, we can help you overcome your addictions to alcohol and live the life that you deserve. At Serenity Springs Recovery Center, you are never alone in your fight for a sober life. Our staff will be with you throughout the entire journey and give you the resources to live the life of your dreams after treatment has ended. If you are someone you love is suffering from alcohol addiction, don’t wait any longer to seek help. Contact us today to speak with an admission coordinator and start your journey to recovery. 

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