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The truth about how long alcohol stays in your system

On Behalf of | Apr 13, 2023 | Drunk Driving |

To avoid driving under the influence (DUI), many people choose to sleep off their alcohol consumption for a bit or make a pit stop at a diner. Some attempt to sober up quickly by drinking coffee and water or eating a meal. However, people later learn that a breathalyzer may still detect alcohol in their breath, even with these tactics.

Factors that can affect breathalyzer results

As soon as you drink alcohol, it can enter your bloodstream and eventually end up in the liver, where about 90% of the alcohol is broken down. A small portion leaves the body through urine, sweat, or breath.

A breathalyzer can detect alcohol 12 to 24 hours after drinking, and in some cases, for much longer. Getting a DUI charge is still possible after the fact. Several factors may affect how long alcohol remains in your body and if a breathalyzer is able to detect it, including:

  • Sex
  • Weight
  • Amount of alcohol consumed
  • Liver size

Generally, females and older people metabolize alcohol slower than others, so they may end up with higher alcohol concentrations. Other factors like taking prescription drugs may also slow down the process.

If the breathalyzer findings are inaccurate or unclear, other tests are available. For instance, alcohol may be detected through a blood test for up to 12 hours after consumption, a urine test for up to 5 days, and a hair follicle test for up to 90 days.

Is there a way to sober up quickly?

There is not much that can be done to lessen the amount of alcohol in the body because the liver needs time to break down the alcohol. Some people will drink a lot of water to try and flush away alcohol. However, it only helps counteract the dehydrating effects of alcohol, not lessen intoxication. Drinking coffee or energy drinks may help you feel more awake, giving the impression that you are no longer intoxicated, but the alcohol is still there. Similarly, sleeping does not help you sober up any faster; it only helps pass the time.

Time is the only thing that can help the liver process alcohol. Knowing this may help you make better decisions to avoid risking a DUI because you mistakenly believed you were sober. After drinking, it may be best to stay with a friend or ask family to drive you home.