Despite the advancements made towards gender equality, the biological differences between women and men remain. Alcohol metabolizes faster in a woman’s body than a man’s. Due to this, males can typically handle greater amounts of alcohol than their female counterparts.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism’s (NIAAA) definition of binge drinking outlines different numbers of drinks for the different sexes: 4 drinks on the same occasion for women and 5 drinks on the same occasion for men.
When considering the chances of developing an Alcohol Use Disorder, the NIAAA established a baseline for low-risk drinking. These rates also allot for different amounts of alcohol for men and women.
- Women: No more than 3 drinks in a single day; no more than 7 drinks per week
- Men: No more than 4 drinks in a single day; no more than 14 drinks per week
We know the difference between men’s and women’s bodies is in how they process alcohol at different rates. So how long does alcohol stay in a woman’s body? How much difference is there between the length of time alcohol stays in a woman’s body versus a man’s body? And what do these differences mean for women?
Amount of time alcohol stays in your system
Now that you better understand blood alcohol concentration levels, you might wonder how long this alcohol stays in a woman’s blood, breath, and urine. Again, you can subtract a numerical value of 01% BAC for every 40 minutes of drinking, which results in an extended period of time..
The length of time alcohol stays in your system after drinking depends on a variety of factors:
- Amount of time since last drink
- Type of alcohol consumed
- Amount eaten before, during, or after drinking
- Types of medications in your system
- Health conditions
Women have more fat in their bodies which helps alcohol remain in a woman’s system for longer periods of time. That time lengthens depending on the other factors listed above. Since women have more fat in their bodies, heavier women retain alcohol for even longer. If a woman drinks hard alcohol, the higher alcohol concentration results in it remaining in her system for a longer amount of time.
Alcohol levels can be picked up in a woman’s bloodstream, breath, and urine. If a woman’s BAC is at the legal limit of 0.08, her body will metabolize all of the alcohol after about five to six hours. The liver’s metabolization clears it alcohol levels from the woman’s bloodstream. Once it’s cleared from the bloodstream it should also be clear in her breath.
How long does alcohol stay in a woman’s breath? Generally, once a woman’s blood is clear of alcohol, her breath has no alcohol in it either. While not a guaranteed result, it is a good rule of thumb to go by.
After this point, she is no longer intoxicated and the alcohol is cleared from her blood and breath. However, chemicals from alcohol are still present in a woman’s urine. Alcohol remains in a woman’s urine for as long as 3 to 4 days following alcohol consumption. Another way to measure the length of time is to assume around 80 hours after her liver has fully metabolized all the alcohol she consumed.
Therefore, if a woman consumes alcohol less than four days before an employment drug screening or addiction treatment drug test, it will likely show up in the results.
A Quick Look at How Alcohol is Digested
To better grasp how alcohol affects a woman’s body, you first need to understand how this chemical is digested.
In the stomach, a number of metabolizing enzymes help break down your food so that it’s more readily absorbed either by the stomach or the intestines. One particularly helpful enzyme when it comes to drinking is what’s known as alcohol dehydrogenase, also known as ADH.
This enzyme is most commonly found in the liver but there are also varying amounts in the stomach. It’s worth noting that men have significantly higher levels of ADH in their stomach than women. Consequently, this can reduce the absorption of alcohol in men by 30%, making men far more resistant to intoxication than women.
Not all of the alcohol is broken down in the stomach though. Eventually ,it’s absorbed into the bloodstream where it flows to the body’s main filter: the liver.
When you think of the effects of heavy, long-term alcohol use, you most likely think of its impact on a woman’s liver. The liver is responsible for processing chemicals during the digestion period. When it comes to alcohol, the liver is the main storehouse of most of the enzymes required to break the alcohol down.
Despite what most people may believe, the rate of alcohol metabolism in the liver alone is no different between races, sexes, or people of different weights – as long as that liver is healthy. And when you only look at liver metabolism, everyone can break down about 1 ounce of pure alcohol an hour.
When more alcohol flows through the liver than can be broken down, it can start causing some serious damage. For one thing, when there’s too much alcohol, the liver tends to only focus on breaking down that single compound. As a result, the fat in the bloodstream accumulates in the liver because it simply can’t get to it in time. This is what ends up causing fatty liver to develop.
The alcohol that isn’t broken down then continues to cycle through the bloodstream to other parts of the body.
After leaving the liver, the alcohol travels throughout the rest of your circulatory system, interacting with the heart, lungs, and brain along the way. With continued exposure to these vital organs, a woman’s body may experience a variety of health effects, some of which can be quite damaging.
In any case, within the circulatory system, the alcohol is further diluted by water carried by the bloodstream. This factor, in particular, is thought to play a major role in how men and women process alcohol differently in that women have less body water than men. Consequently, alcohol tends to be more concentrated in their bloodstream.
The alcohol continues the cycle through the body and passes through the liver until it is fully broken down into non-toxic compounds.
Is There Any Way to Quickly Sober Up?
Contrary to popular belief, there really are no tips or tricks that can be done to help someone sober up faster. Women often believe that they can do certain things to speed up the alcohol elimination process. Unfortunately, it is not possible.
Still, that does not mean that many will fail to attempt it. There are a lot of different things they will try to sober up quickly when they have consumed too much alcohol.
Common Myths About Ways to Get Sober Faster
There are many myths about how to get sober after drinking too much in one sitting. These include:
- Drinking Coffee – This is probably the most commonly mentioned way to sober up fast. The only thing that drinking coffee will do is make you more alert. It will not do anything for your blood alcohol levels. Sometimes people will drink coffee thinking that they will be able to drive, even after a night of heavy drinking. Unfortunately, this results in a lot of accidents and DUI arrests.
- Exercising – Most people do not want to exercise when they are drunk. Yet, this myth is one that is often perpetuated because it produces endorphins. These chemicals can help to wake the brain up and produce excess energy. Exercising may help you feel better, but it will not influence your blood alcohol levels.
- Taking a Cold Shower – Likewise, taking a cold shower does not impact blood alcohol levels either. It can make you feel more awake and less drunk, which can help you feel as though you can function better. This is because it helps your central nervous system, but the effects of it should wear off fairly quickly.
- Eating Something – Eating food may help you not get drunk as quickly, but once you are drunk, it will not lower your BAC levels. It is good to have a healthy meal after you drink and make sure you eat before you start drinking as well.
- Drink Juice – Juice, fruit, and vegetables will give your body a lot of B and C vitamins and fructose. They will assist your liver in processing alcohol. But you should not rely on them to help you rid your body of it more quickly. While they can help the liver flush out toxins, this may not affect your BAC level.
The best way to get sober is to go to sleep. That is because sleeping takes time, which is what is necessary to process alcohol. Your body needs the time to rest and recover after a night of drinking too much.
How alcohol affects menstruation & pregnancy
Women in particular face a different kind of danger when it comes to drinking in that alcohol can have a substantial effect on both the menstrual cycle as well as pregnancy.
With regards to how alcohol affects your pre-menstrual syndrome, the short answer is – negatively. Though alcohol doesn’t directly impact your menstrual cycle, the indirect side effects can add up to a significantly more uncomfortable time of the month.
Besides the breast tenderness, headaches, and mood fluctuations that alcohol may aggravate even further, your cramping can end up being even worse by further intensifying bloating throughout the process.
In general, most physicians recommend staying away from alcohol, especially if you’re exhibiting symptoms of PMS already.
Pregnancy is also a major issue when it comes to alcohol consumption. While news headlines often deliver conflicting information about whether it’s okay to indulge just a little while carrying, the truth of the matter is that there is no level of alcohol consumption that’s been proven safe while pregnant.
Many physicians agree, then, that you should avoid alcohol completely while pregnant if possible.
Not doing so may lead to the development of fetal alcohol syndrome, even if alcohol is consumed in relatively small amounts.
The overall impact of alcohol on a woman’s system
Though alcohol may not remain in a woman’s blood, breath, or urine for very long, the long-term effects of heavy alcohol consumption are severe. When you cut out drinking from your life, you decrease your chances of developing serious conditions, diseases, and cancers. The sooner you stop drinking, the sooner you can start to recover from the short-term and long-term impacts of alcohol on your system.
Continuing Treatment After Rehab
It is very important for women to make sure they follow up with the proper form of treatment after rehab is over. This means that they need to attend a less intensive form of treatment.
For women who started by attending an inpatient program, going to an IOP might be their next step. For those who started with IOP, they may transition into an outpatient program along with Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.
The reality is that it takes time to recover from alcoholism. It is not something that can be accomplished during one stint in rehab; even if that stint is a long time. It is important for you to realize that you have a disease. Just like other diseases, it requires ongoing care in order for you to remain in recovery.
Once you finish your treatment, your team will work closely with you to determine which type of follow-up care you need.
Are You Battling Alcoholism? Get Help Today
If you are an alcoholic, please do not put off getting the help you need to recover. It is so easy to promise yourself that you will take care of it next week, or next year. Before you know it, time has passed and you are in an even worse position. We can provide you with the support you need here at Denver Women’s Recovery.
We treat all kinds of addictions, including alcoholism. We can assist you in finding a quality detox program, and we also provide Vivitrol services at our facility. Our outpatient program is among the best in the state, and we also offer a housing option that may meet your needs.
Alcoholism does not have to continue to be an active part of your life. Recovering can take some time, but we’re confident that we can give you the tools you need to be successful.
Do you have additional questions about how long alcohol stays in a woman’s body? Would you like to know more about our services? Please contact us.
- “Are Women More Vulnerable to Alcohol’s Effects?” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa46.htm
- “How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System?” Health Essential http://healthessential.net/alcohol-in-your-system/
- “Blood Alcohol Content Table” California DMV https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/wcm/connect/723e5bdf-f666-4075-b892-092757ee7d17/1/DUI_Image.JPG?MOD=AJPERES&CACHEID=723e5bdf-f666-4075-b892-092757ee7d17/1
- “Beyond Hangovers” NIAAA https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/hangovers/beyondhangovers.htm