Determining how long alcohol stays in your urine system depends on several key factors. It will be primarily based on the amount and type of alcohol consumed recently, any food eaten during that period, age, weight, gender as well as several other variables of day-to-day living.
According to Medlineplus, a urinalysis is the physical, chemical, and microscopic examination of the content of someone’s urinary output. There are two methods of collecting urine; 24-hour urine collection and clean catch urine specimen.
A general urinalysis for alcohol might detect alcohol’s presence up to 48 hours after ingestion. Alcohol can last from 12 to 36 hours in your urine depending on a variety of factors including how long before the test you drank and how much you drank.
EtG Testing for How Long Alcohol Stays in Your Urine System
Some labs now use a testing method known as “EtG” for discovering how long alcohol has stayed in your system. “EtG” is an abbreviation for Ethyl Glucuronide. Ethyl Glucuronide is a biomarker that determines whether the body has metabolized any alcohol recently.
If a method known as “EtG”, is used to test for the presence of a related chemical, ethyl glucuronide, in the urine, the results can determine if alcohol has been ingested within approximately the past 80 hours.
The Science Of How Long Alcohol Stays in Your Urine & System – Ethyl Glucuronide (EtG)
The EtG Urine Alcohol Test detects ethyl glucuronide in the urine, which confirms alcohol ingestion as long as 3-4 days after intake, or about 80 hours after the liver metabolizes alcohol.The EtG test has become known as the “80 hour test” for detecting any amount of consumed ethyl alcohol. EtG has emerged as the test of choice for alcohol and due to the advances in technologies is now routinely available. Its presence in urine may be used to detect recent alcohol consumption, even after ethanol is no longer measurable using the older methods. The presence of EtG in urine is a definitive indicator that alcohol was ingested.
The EtG detects the presence of ethyl glucuronide in urine. Ethyl Glucuronide (EtG) is a direct metabolite in alcohol. Its presence in urine may be used to detect recent alcohol consumption.
Positive urine tests are still possible several days after drinking moderately. Breathalyzers detect alcohol in the blood within 24 hours of drinking and an ethyl glucuronide (saliva) test can detect traces of alcohol in the body up to 12 days after drinking. Hair follicle testing for alcohol is the most precise and can detect alcohol in your system three months after ingesting alcohol.
Detecting whether there is any ethanol in someone’s urine can be a very important determination.
Reasons for checking urine for alcohol;
- Someone is under a “zero tolerance” order by the justice system
- Monitoring in alcohol rehab program, where abstinence is required
- Early warning signs of a possible relapse in recovery
- Comparison with blood alcohol, for determining legal impairment
- Employee monitoring in the workplace
From a legal standpoint, knowing whether or not someone has been drinking alcohol can determine someone’s ability to act in a responsible fashion. It is against the law to operate motor vehicle while under the influence over a certain percentage of alcohol. The amount of alcohol in a person’s body is known as their “blood alcohol concentration” (BAC).
How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your Urine & System?
Factors affecting intoxication length and ability for alcohol to be detected in blood or urine depends on numerous variables existing at the time a person drinks alcohol–their age, sex, body type, physical activity level, etc.
Absorption rate factors involving gender/sex indicate that a man weighing 140 pounds who consumes two drinks in one hour will have a lower blood alcohol level (BAC) than a 140-pound women who drinks the same amount of alcohol in the same amount of time.
This phenomenon can be explained by the fact that men possess higher levels of the enzyme hydrogenase. Once alcohol reaches the stomach, hydrogenase starts breaking down alcohol molecules, which facilitates metabolization by the body’s tissue and organs, specifically the liver. In addition, women present even higher blood alcohol levels compared to men just before menstruation since they also have lower percentages of water and higher percentages of alcohol-retaining fat cells.
Two enzymes control alcohol metabolism: aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) and alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH). Geneticists have discovered that both ALDH and ADH are encoded by various genes in different forms. Which ALDH or ADH allele an individual carries will exert a strong influence on how long alcohol stays in their system as well as their risk for becoming an alcohol abuser.
When someone eats prior to or while they are drinking alcohol, stomach enzymes will fixate on digesting food instead of processing alcohol. This action delays infiltration of alcohol into the bloodstream, which means their BAC tends to peak between 60 minutes to six hours after consuming their last drink. Alternately, people who drink on an empty stomach will have a peak blood alcohol level within 30 minutes to two hours of taking their last drink. In addition, high-protein foods seem to delay processing of alcohol more than non-protein foods.
Some people have quicker baseline metabolism rates than others, a trait making then better equipped to process and eliminate alcohol. While metabolism is partly influenced by genetics, it is also partly controlled by lifestyle choices, stress levels, sleep and physical activity. Faster metabolisms correlate with people having healthy amounts of body fat and lean mass.
Some prescription and non-prescription medications may inhibit processing of alcohol by interfering with enzymatic activity. Antidepressants, cold/flu medications and sedatives may cause faster absorption of alcohol in the small intestines, expedite higher BACs and lengthen time alcohol remains detectable in the body.
Illness & Disease
Drinking alcohol while suffering an illness and/or disease that dehydrates the body often find alcohol stays in their system longer than when they are not ill. In addition to dehydration leading to reduced enzymatic activity, lack of sufficient water in the body interferes with the ability of the liver to degrade and eliminate alcohol. Taking medications while ill may further lengthen the amount of time alcohol remains detectable in body tissues, blood and urine.
Contrary to belief, drinking excessive amounts of water or other hydrating fluids does not expedite elimination of alcohol from the body. The liver is primarily responsible for metabolizing and eliminating alcohol from the body so that it is not detectable in the blood, urine or tissues.
Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC)
When about five percent of absorbed alcohol reaches the kidneys, the body begins actively excreting alcohol through urination. Additionally, alcohol inhibits production of vasopressin, a hormone that helps conserve body fluids. Without vasopressin to prevent fluid loss, urination increases and the body usually begins excreting alcohol within 20 to 25 minutes of being consumed. However, determining how long alcohol remains detectable in your urine really depends on how much you drink.
Typically, the liver processes roughly one ounce of alcohol per hour. If you drink more than one ounce within one hour, your blood will contain excess alcohol that the liver is not able to metabolize. This unprocessed alcohol represents what law enforcement calls your “BAC”, or blood alcohol concentration.
While nearly 90 percent of alcohol consumed is metabolized by the liver, the remaining 10 percent is excreted through respiration, perspiration and urine. Drinking a beer or one mixed drink and then vomiting within a few minutes afterward may stop some alcohol from being absorbed into the blood but waiting longer than 15 or 20 minutes to throw up will do little to nothing to reduce your blood alcohol concentration.
Typically, the liver processes roughly one ounce of alcohol per hour. If you drink more than one ounce within one hour, your blood will contain excess alcohol that the liver is not able to metabolize. This unprocessed alcohol represents what law enforcement calls your “BAC”, or blood alcohol concentration/content. While nearly 90 percent of alcohol consumed is metabolized by the liver, the remaining 10 percent is excreted through respiration, perspiration and urine. Drinking a beer or one mixed drink and then vomiting within a few minutes afterward may stop some alcohol from being absorbed into the blood but waiting longer than 15 or 20 minutes to throw up will do little to nothing to reduce your blood alcohol concentration.
The Rate of Alcohol Metabolization in the Body
Alcohol is metabolized at the rate of .015 of blood alcohol concentration (BAC) every hour. It is the equivalent to about one standard drink per hour regardless of your body size. Therefore, if you were legally impaired (BAC .08% or more) it would take roughly 51/2 hours for all the alcohol to be eliminated from the body.
How Alcohol Is Processed
When about five percent of absorbed ethanol reaches the kidneys, the body begins actively excreting alcohol through urination. Additionally, alcohol inhibits production of vasopressin, a hormone that helps conserve body fluids. Without vasopressin to prevent fluid loss, urination increases and the body usually begins excreting alcohol within 20 to 25 minutes of being consumed. However, determining how long alcohol remains detectable in your urine really depends on how much you drink.
Once consumed, alcohol is rapidly absorbed by the stomach lining and small intestine. After entering the bloodstream, alcohol is then dissolved by the blood’s water molecules and transported expeditiously throughout the body. This “watered” down alcohol readily saturates soluble body tissues (except adipose tissue; alcohol does not dissolve in fat) and begins exerting its intoxicating effects.
The ingredient in alcohol that causes the well-known “drunk” affects is ethanol. Ethanol also impacts cardiovascular functioning by modifying LDL and HDL concentrations as well as influencing other chemical reactions:
Reducing the calcium ion flow within heart muscles inhibiting optimal contractions
Interfering with actin and myosin, two proteins influencing heart contractions
Deeasing the production of proteins needed for healthy heart contraction
Possibly enhancing harmful ethanol metabolites
Stimulating free radical activity
Abnormal heart rhythms and chemical interactions caused by alcohol may also contribute to how long alcohol stays in your system. Other factors determining the length of time alcohol stays in the body include:
- Your weight and overall body size
- Your metabolism rate
- If undigested food is in your stomach
- Type of alcoholic drink consumed
- Being ill or dehydrated may elevate BAC, both can reduce liver efficiency
- If you are under psychological or physical stress
Drinking mixed drinks containing carbonated beverages will increase internal stomach pressure and force alcohol into your bloodstream more quickly. Moreover, women have less dehydrogenase in their liver than men. Dehydrogenase is an enzyme that breaks down alcohol in the blood, so having less means most women will not experience alcohol’s affects as fast as most men do. Alternately, premenstrual hormone changes may facilitate intoxication due to water retention and the influence of rising progesterone levels.
More about BAC
- Speeding up metabolism of alcohol by drinking coffee or taking cold showers is not possible. Only time can reduce your BAC.
- Even if you drank 24 hours ago, a breathalyzer test may still show that you are drunk or have abnormally high levels of alcohol in your bloodstream. Drinking the night before and “sleeping it off” doesn’t mean you’ll pass a BAC test.
- Drinking water while drunk won’t make you drunker. In fact, drinking water can help dilute the amount of alcohol saturating body tissues and expedite excretion of alcohol through urine and perspiration.
- Alcohol detox is an entirely different process than naturally eliminating alcohol from the body. Alcoholics needing detoxification should enter a medically supervised program due to health complications arising from the body’s strong dependence on alcohol.
- Aside from suffering a “hangover”, occasional drinkers will not suffer the serious symptoms of abstaining from alcohol that alcoholics endure. The severity of alcohol detox symptoms also means that long-time alcohol abusers should never try to go “cold turkey” alone. Not only is this dangerous but sudden abstinence will not eliminate alcohol from the body any faster than a professional alcohol detox program can.
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