How Long Does Alcohol Stay in your System?
While many people recognize how harmful substances can significantly affect the body, few recognize how dangerous alcohol can be and that it can stay in the body for a long time. Individual factors will affect how long alcohol remains in your system, but certain tests can detect alcohol even months after consumption.
This article will discuss how long alcohol stays in your system, common withdrawal symptoms from hangovers to seizures, and treatment methods to help you achieve sobriety.
If you want to know how long alcohol stays in your system, then you might be asking how long it can be detected by certain tests. These tests can cause anxiety as they may affect your job, freedom, and other aspects of your life.
There are, of course, many individual factors that can alter how long alcohol can be detectable in your body. For example, those with slower metabolisms may have it in their system for longer. While there is no way to guarantee a specific amount of time, there are some averages to be aware of.
It also depends on how much and how often you consume alcohol. Those who drink infrequently will have an easier time processing alcohol. Those who drink frequently and daily will have more in their system overall.
Aside from individual factors, it also depends on which test is being used. The most comprehensive tests can find alcohol if it was consumed about 90 days ago.
The most common tests and their time frames include:
• Blood: This can usually only detect alcohol for six hours.
• Breath: A breath test can typically detect alcohol for 12 to 24 hours.
• Urine: Older test methods can detect alcohol around 12 to 24 hours, while newer tests can detect it 72 hours after your last drink.
• Saliva: Most saliva tests can detect alcohol around 12 to 24 hours after your last drink.
• Hair: This is the most comprehensive and can detect alcohol up to 90 days after your last drink.
Please remember that these times can be different depending on your individual factors.
Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
While tests can detect alcohol for hours or days after your last drink, some people want to know how long alcohol can affect them. You may not realize it, but withdrawing from alcohol is very common. The most common condition is a hangover. This is your body trying to recover and restore homeostasis without alcohol.
Just like with the tests, the symptoms you will face and the exact timetable will depend on your individual factors. One of the biggest factors here is how much you consumed and for how long. Those who drank large amounts and consumed alcohol frequently will typically face more severe withdrawal symptoms.
Initial Withdrawal Symptoms
These are the first withdrawal symptoms you may face, and they tend to be the most minor. Light drinkers will often only face these symptoms, but those who are heavier drinkers will go on to face other withdrawal symptoms.
These initial withdrawal symptoms occur about six hours after your last drink. The most common alcohol withdrawal symptoms include:
• Anxiety and unfounded worries
• Shaky hands and feet
• Headache and sensitivity to light
• Indigestion and vomiting
• Difficulty sleeping
• Sweating and hot flashes
This is a typical hangover. Most people will get through this in a day or so and be fine. Those with more significant alcohol use may feel the other withdrawal symptoms.
Significant Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
Those who are heavier drinkers may continue to have evolving and worsening withdrawal symptoms around 12 to 24 hours after their last drink. While these symptoms are considered uncommon for the general population, they become common if you find yourself drinking significant amounts of alcohol and for a long time.
These alcohol withdrawal symptoms include:
• Hallucinations such as seeing and hearing things that aren’t there
• Significant sweating and digestive issues
• Increased anxiety
• More painful headaches
Emergency medical services may be needed at this time. This is especially true if you have a seizure or if the hallucinations are dangerous. This can include command hallucinations that tell you to harm yourself or others. You should strongly consider seeking medical attention if your withdrawal symptoms get this bad.
Delirium tremens, also known as DT, is often the worst alcohol withdrawal symptom that you can face. While this is very rare, only affecting about 3 to 5% of alcohol drinkers, the chances become more likely if you drink significant amounts of alcohol.
These symptoms typically start around 48 to 72 hours after drinking. They can then last several days, especially if you do not get medical treatment. If you or anyone else is facing these symptoms, then medical attention is strongly encouraged.
The most common symptoms of DT include:
• Extremely vivid delusions and hallucinations
• Significant confusion
• High blood pressure and racing heartbeat
• High fever
• Severe sweating
• Higher chance of seizures
These symptoms can actually be fatal, so medical services should be contacted at this point.
Alcohol Treatment Programs
You might be curious about how alcohol use is treated. There are many levels of care along with different programs that you can learn about. It’s best to speak to a clinician to determine which level of care is best for you, but this will give you an overview of what you can expect.
A medical detox program is helpful with many substances. This is a program where a doctor and other medical staff will be watching over you as you detox from the substance.
Unlike some substances that linger for a long time, alcohol leaves the body fairly quickly. However, those going through significant withdrawal symptoms or DT will benefit greatly from having medical staff monitor them.
Not only does this ensure that medical staff is ready to intervene if things get bad, but the doctors can prescribe medications that can get you through the uncomfortable side effects. Some people want to detox cold turkey and at home, but this approach frequently ends in failure. Your mind will tell you to relapse because your body is uncomfortable.
A medical team can help keep you accountable while ensuring that you detox in the most comfortable way possible.
Outpatient treatment tends to be the most common for alcohol use, but this depends on your exact level of need and severity. Outpatient treatment is actually split into two levels of care. You have outpatient and intensive outpatient.
Outpatient treatment typically involves a weekly visit with your assigned counselor. This may also involve one or two group sessions. Outpatient alcohol use treatment is the lowest level of care, but this gives you a space to share your thoughts and feelings with your counselor while learning how to cope with sobriety.
The next level is intensive outpatient. As the name suggests, this is more in-depth and involves a weekly individual session along with three group sessions that are three hours each. These sessions give you more time to share your thoughts, learn new coping skills, and hear how others are succeeding in their sobriety.
These levels of care are common with mild and moderate levels of alcohol use, and they are useful for stepping down from more intensive treatment.
Many people like adding self-help groups to their recovery journey. These groups give you another outlet for sharing your experiences. Most of these groups are led by peers, which means that you can talk with others who are going through the same struggles that you are.
The most common self-help groups are called 12-step groups. You may also know this as Alcoholics Anonymous or AA. These groups are free and often very easy to find. It’s also common for senior members to sponsor newer people to help with their recovery.
If the 12-step philosophy does not work for you, then there are 12-step alternatives. These are also frequently led by peers but tend to take a different look at recovery and addiction.
The most common 12-step alternatives include SMART Recovery, Women for Sobriety, LifeRing, Secular Organizations for Sobriety, and Moderation Management. Just like AA, these are large groups that can supplement your treatment.
Partial Hospitalization Program
If you find that outpatient care isn’t enough for your needs, then partial hospitalization might be more useful to you. A partial hospitalization program, or PHP, is a step above intensive outpatient. It sits between the two because you get more treatment time, but you can still go home once treatment is over.
PHP gives you 30 clinical hours of treatment every week. Each organization has its own way of doing this. We at Defining Wellness Centers found it best to do this five days a week, six hours per day. This allows you to make the most of your time with us while still going home to your friends, family, and your own bed at night.
Those with more significant alcohol use concerns or polysubstance use may find PHP to be very useful to their recovery.
As one of the highest levels of care, residential or inpatient treatment gives you even more clinical time to recover. You will stay here with us for the entire day. During that time, you will be involved in group therapy, individual sessions, and other activities to bolster your recovery and resiliency.
This level of treatment takes you completely out of your old environment. Unlearning old habits and learning new ones takes time. Not only that, but it can be difficult if you are frequently surrounded by people who use, offer you substances or provoke your stressors.
Residential treatment gives you an opportunity to focus only on yourself. This is a time where you can learn more about yourself while also forging ahead with your recovery.
It is being increasingly recognized that alcohol use isn’t a single issue but rather a dual diagnosis. This is true of many people who use any substance. Dual diagnosis is a clinical term that indicates both a substance use diagnosis along with a mental health diagnosis.
This can be any combination of the two. It can be alcohol and anxiety, cannabis and schizophrenia, cocaine and depression, and so on. The point is that there are two major issues you are tackling. You need to learn new ways of living without a substance, and you also need coping skills to help improve your mental health.
We are prepared to help you with any mental health condition you might be grappling with. Some people come to us knowing they have mental health concerns, while others are unsure. If this describes your case, then please be assured that our counselors are trained and ready to help you.
Getting the Help You Need
We at Defining Wellness Centers are here to help clients through the difficult terrain of recovery. It can be hard at first. You’re not sure how you’re supposed to feel, and you may not be sure if you can really do it. We’re here to give you the extra support you need to guide you on this path.
Contact us today, and we can schedule our soonest intake for you. We can then work with you to develop a treatment plan that fits your needs. Recovery is possible, and we can help get you there.