How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Urine?

Dr. John Elgin Wilkaitis

Dr. John Elgin Wilkaitis completed medical school at The University of Mississippi Medical Center and residency in general psychiatry in 2003. He completed a fellowship in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital in 2005. Following this, he served as Chief Medical Officer for 10 years of Brentwood Behavioral Healthcare a private health system including a 105-bed hospital, residential treatment, and intensive outpatient services.

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Alcohol is a depressurizing agent with limited potency. A urine test can detect alcohol, ethanol, and certain byproducts from consuming it. Urine tests are one of the cheapest (yet effective) ways to confirm if there was any drinking involved in the event that would require drug screening for said substance.

 The general rule? You drink, then you pee. It’s worth noting that generally speaking, the higher concentration of alcohol found in a person’s bloodstream compared to their urinary tract indicates some form of overconsumption when taking these types of tests – even if only slightly.

 To avoid complicating things too much or overwhelming your senses, two samples collected within 30 minutes should work wonders. Still, we’ll also go into other variables (such as weight) below, which could have caused discrepancies between what you drank and what you peed out while sobering up afterward. That said, let’s look at how long alcohol stays in urine. 

What is Alcohol? 

Alcohol, or ethanol, is an intoxicating ingredient in various alcoholic beverages such as beer, wine, and liquor. Alcohol is created through fermentation, which occurs when yeast eats sugar and produces alcohol.

Alcohol Metabolism

Alcohol has a short lifespan in one’s body. Alcohol metabolism is when the body breaks down alcohol and eliminates it from the body. When one drinks alcohol, it enters the digestive system. As little as 20% of the alcohol from a single drink will move directly to your blood vessels.

From there, it’s carried straight to your brain. The remaining 80% will go toward your small intestine before coming into contact with your bloodstream because it goes straight to your brain, lungs, and all other tissues.

You’ll likely feel its effects almost immediately after drinking just one shot of hard liquor or beer (15-45 minutes). Lastly, thanks to those liver enzymes breaking up what remains of any leftover alcohol byproducts left inside, they’re eliminated from within one’s own body

 How Long Does the Effect of Alcohol Last in the Body? 

Several factors contribute to how long the effects of alcohol will linger in your system. Overall, it primarily depends on your body’s time to effectively and efficiently break down and eliminate alcohol. Additionally, here are some other factors:

  • Your weight
  • Your age
  • Your sex
  • The type and amount of alcohol consumed are not limited to beer, wine, whisky, or bourbon
  • Your liver’s health

 How Long Does Alcohol Stay in the Body? 

There are many ways to check the amount of alcohol in someone’s body. Blood tests can give a reading for up to 10 hours, but they cannot tell how much was consumed or when it happened. Breathalyzers use air from deep breaths, which means they, too, would show lower levels than what is present (and they would stop working after 13 hours).

A urine test can show how much alcohol was consumed within 5-6 days before taking the test – but they are expensive and often take time to process; some do not show low levels of consumption either. Hair follicle tests are not the most effective because they indicate current consumption; however, this type also requires processing time, so results may be delayed by three months or more.

Alcohol Detection in Urine

Urine tests detect traces of alcohol metabolites. In an average urine test, alcohol can be detected within 12-24 hours after consumption; more advanced testing methods will find it in one’s body up to 80 hours later.

 Ethyl glucuronide or EtG (a byproduct excreted from the metabolism of alcohol) appears in a person’s urine for about three days post-drinking; other lab tests may measure levels of ethanol sulfate – or EtS – which are less accurate but cover a longer period: up to 4-5 weeks post-drinking.

 These types of screenings are most commonly used at court hearings and rehabilitation centers when determining how long ago someone consumed their last drink or if they’ve been drinking. At the same time, they were supposed to abstain from substances entirely.

 On the other hand, urine tests have some drawbacks, including:

  • They may fail to identify the difference between ethanol from alcoholic drinks. And some alcohol-based products such as over-the-counter cough and cold medicines, mouthwashes, body sprays, and hand sanitizers.
  • These tests may fail to detect the amount of alcohol that one consumed
  • Some individuals may find these tests to be expensive

Different Types of Drug Tests That Alcohol Will Show Up

When it comes to alcohol detection tests, there are four main methods by that alcohol can be tested. These include;

Breathalyzers are lightweight and easy to use, making them a popular means of testing for drugs, even among law enforcement personnel.

Urine tests: Urine testing is typically only used when other types of alcohol tests are unavailable. It is more difficult to determine someone’s BAC if you rely solely on urine test results.

Blood tests: Blood tests are the most accurate means of measuring one’s BAC, but they are more complicated and can only be done by trained medical professionals.

Saliva tests: These tests are best for determining whether someone has consumed alcohol- not to measure blood-alcohol content (BAC). However, saliva tests are less practical than testing blood or urine.

Are Urine Tests Accurate in Detecting Alcohol?

The alcohol content in the body can be easily detected via a urine test. With alcohol remaining present in one’s system for up to two days after consumption, a urine test can provide crucial insight into how much alcohol has been consumed over an extended period.

While this is not nearly as reliable as other methods, such as breath analysis (breath analysis yields accurate results every 3-5 seconds), it remains an affordable and noninvasive detection method. There are also various ways that these tests may prove inaccurate – namely because the sugar found in urine creates alcohol through fermentation when mixed with certain bladder infections, skewing any findings.

Get Treatment for Alcohol Addiction

Alcohol addiction is a serious medical condition that requires treatment. Many different treatment options are available, and every individual will have their own needs when finding the right program. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that almost 19 million adults suffer from alcohol abuse or dependence, around one in every 12 adults over 18. 

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