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How long does it take for your body to metabolize alcohol?

On Behalf of | Oct 13, 2021 | DUI

There are numerous misconceptions about alcohol. One is that each person’s consumption of it will affect them similarly. That’s not necessarily the case.

Various factors impact how quickly your body metabolizes alcohol, which may, in turn, impact the degree of your intoxication if you decide to get behind the wheel of your car. You may find it helpful to know what these factors are so that you don’t unnecessarily end up behind bars for drunk driving.

Factors that affect how you metabolize alcohol

Your stomach plays a significant role in how you metabolize alcohol. There’s an enzyme in some people’s stomachs that aids their bodies in breaking down the alcohol that they consume without it getting transferred into your bloodstream and brain (leading you to feel buzzed). Women are less likely than men to have this enzyme. The same goes for individuals who drink more frequently than others. Regular drinkers are least apt to have this enzyme than their often-sober counterparts.

It also matters how seriously your liver takes its job to metabolize alcohol. Your liver is capable of eliminating an estimated 90% of alcohol from your blood. Your skin, lungs and kidneys then expel the rest. These numbers are generally accurate for most people with optimally functioning organs. However, age, gender, medications, body size and health issues may all impact your metabolization of alcohol as well.

Two other key factors that can impact how long it takes for your body to metabolize alcohol are the size and type of drink. Larger-sized drinks may have more alcohol than smaller ones. Brewing techniques may lead similarly sized alcoholic beverages to have difficult alcohol by volume (ABV) percentages.

A good rule of thumb is that your blood alcohol content (BAC) is likely to be highest an hour or 90 minutes after you consume alcoholic beverages. At least half of the alcohol you consume should be purged from your system within four to five hours after consumption. The remainder should occur over the next 20 hours or so.

Making a mistake about whether you have fully metabolized alcohol could prove to be a costly one. It’s always best to err on the side of caution and not get on the road if there’s the least bit of a chance that you could be intoxicated. It could be a costly mistake if you do.