If you are drinking alcohol regularly or have a job that requires you to be alcohol-free, you may want to know how long alcohol stays in your system and how long it can be detected using various testing methods.

The important thing to remember with alcohol is that if you are operating heavy machinery or driving, alcohol can stay in your system throughout the following day. This can result in impaired decision-making skills, poor judgement and loss of coordination. It could also result in a positive alcohol test which brings with it a whole host of negative consequences.

Know Your Drink Drive Limit

There are strict alcohol limits in place for the UK’s drivers, but it is impossible to say how many drinks this equals and what is deemed a safe amount of alcohol for each individual.

Every person reacts differently and metabolises alcohol at a different rate.

The safest amount of alcohol to consume when driving is – zero. This cuts out any ambiguity and the risk of any road traffic accidents resulting from drink driving or driving whilst impaired by alcohol.

Factors that can affect how long alcohol stays in your system include:

  • Gender
  • BMI (body mass index)
  • Age
  • Metabolic rate, which can also fluctuate according to stress levels, fitness levels and activity levels
  • Any medications
  • Any other drugs
  • Whether food has been consumed

England, Northern Ireland and Wales have different drink drive limits to Scotland.

Level of alcohol England, Wales and Northern Ireland Scotland
 Micrograms per 100 millilitres of breath 35 22
 Milligrammes per 100 millilitres of blood 80 50
 Milligrammes per 100 millilitres of urine 107 67

In the UK there are strict drink driving penalties for anyone caught over the limit of alcohol deemed safe. This can result in a hefty fine, loss of driving licence and even a prison sentence.

Any driver who tests positive for alcohol in the UK will be banned from driving any vehicle for at least 12 months and receive a fine of up to £5,000. If caught over the limit you will also receive between 3 and 11 penalty points on your driving licence.

Where a serious or repeat offence is committed a custodial sentence of up to 6 months imprisonment can be the cost of driving over the government’s drink-drive limit.

It is also worth considering that if you need to be able to drive for your job, or to and from work as your only means of transport, that you could well lose your job as a further consequence of providing a positive alcohol specimen.

How Long Can Alcohol Be Detected in Your System?

The length of time that alcohol can be detected in your system depends on the type of alcohol test used.

Different tests can detect within a shorter or longer time frame alcohol remaining in your body. Other factors that affect the rate alcohol leaves your system are: BMI (body mass index), age, tolerance to alcohol, gender, metabolic rate, type and strength of alcohol, the volume of alcohol, any medications and whether you have eaten any food.

How long does alcohol show up on a breath test for?

Alcohol can test positive on your breath for between 12-24 hours after consumption.

How long does alcohol show up on a urine test for?

A urine test can test positive for alcohol for up to 72 hours after consumption.

How long does alcohol show up on a blood test for?

Alcohol can show up in a blood test for up to 6 hours after consumption. Blood tests are often used in a court of law as they show the percentage of the volume of alcohol remaining in the blood.

How long does alcohol show up on a saliva test for?

Alcohol can test positive in a saliva test for up to 24 hours after consumption.

How long can alcohol be detected in a hair strand test?

Alcohol can show up in a hair strand test for up to 90 days post consumption.

Alcohol Testing in The Workplace

More and more companies are using alcohol testing in the workplace to identify individuals that have a problem or that could be considered a danger to themselves or to others in the working environment.

Testing positive for alcohol in the workplace can carry very severe consequences, especially if your job involves driving or operating heavy machinery. Each company will have its own policies and procedures as to how a positive alcohol test is dealt with. Worst case scenario – it could cost you your job and hinder further employment opportunities.

Some companies take a more practical and empathetic approach and will offer an individual with an alcohol problem the opportunity to attend an alcohol awareness course, alcohol counselling sessions or even the opportunity to attend alcohol rehab.

PCP work with many companies to help valued employees to address and overcome their alcohol addiction.

Speeding Up the Process of Eliminating Alcohol from The Body

As previously explained, factors that are personal to each individual can affect the rate at which your body processes alcohol.

There is no scientifically proven way of speeding up how long it takes for your body to eliminate all traces of alcohol, although there are some pretty outrageous suggestions if you look on the internet.

Understanding how your body processes alcohol can help you to make better choices with regards to your drinking:

When alcohol is consumed, approximately 20 percent is quickly absorbed into the person’s bloodstream through the stomach. Around 80 percent is absorbed by the small intestines. Remembering that we all metabolize alcohol differently (hence the approximate percentages), remaining alcohol leaves the body through saliva, sweat and urine.

Once the alcohol has entered the bloodstream it is carried to the liver to be processed or metabolized. Alcohol processed by the liver is broken down by the liver’s enzymes.

Binge Drinking Causes Alcohol to Stay In Your Body Longer

If a person is binge drinking – consuming high quantities of alcohol within a relatively short period of time, the liver cannot process all the alcohol at the same rate. The alcohol, therefore, remains in the body longer. This will affect the length of time that alcohol stays in a person’s system and would produce a positive test result where a smaller quantity of alcohol would produce a negative – even when consumed at the same time.

The higher the level of alcohol that remains in the person’s bloodstream, the more pronounced alcohol’s effects are.

Having alcohol in your system can produce the following effects:

  • Impaired balance and coordination skills
  • Impaired decision-making skills and poor judgement
  • Increased risk taking
  • Reduced inhibitions
  • Slurred or incoherent speech
  • Memory loss (also referred to as “black out”)
  • Impaired concentration levels
  • Confusion
  • Mood swings
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Reduced alertness
  • Confusion

Furthermore, binge drinking puts a strain on the body’s organs, especially the liver. Hence why when you binge drink it takes you longer to feel normal and well again.

Need Alcohol Help?

If having read this you think you may have a problem with alcohol and need help, PCP provides affordable alcohol rehab that is CQC regulated, proven to be successful and could help save your life.

Never leave an alcohol problem unaddressed, if you do it is highly likely that things will only get worse. If you cannot control your alcohol intake you could lose everything of value to you and put your life and sanity at great risk. Call us today for immediate private rehab help and treatment.

Sources:

https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/drug-misuse-addiction

Drinkaware.co.uk

https://www.gov.uk/drink-drive-limit

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319942.php#how-does-the-body-process-alcohol