How Long Does Alcohol Stay In Your System?

Last Updated: August 7, 2019

how long does alcohol stay in system?

Often time there is a need to know how long alcohol stays in your system in order to avoid certain conditions such as drug interactions and other metabolic processes. Knowing how long alcohol stays in system is also a most helpful tip for people who need to take alcohol-detection tests. The internal break-down process differs in various parts of the body and can be detected by means of simple tests. Let’s look at the duration and how to get rid of alcohol in your system.

Alcohol Duration In The Body

Alcohol in the body is usually detectable in various parts and fluids, and its metabolism differs from one person to another even though the substance generally has a shorter lifespan than most depressants. Going for several drinks may increase its concentration in the body and thereby increase the time taken for the substance to completely breakdown. The “how long does alcohol stay in your system” depends on what samples of the body is being tested.

How long does alcohol stay in the blood?

The amount of ethanol in the blood is measured using Blood Alcohol Content (BAC). To understand this better, a BAC of 0.05 means that the person has alcohol in blood percentage of 0.05. At 0.08 BAC a person is said to be legally intoxicated. The ethanol absorbed by the body goes into the bloodstream and is metabolized by the liver at the rate of 0.016% BAC per hour. Metabolic rates are also affected by the functionality of one’s liver which tends to deteriorate with age, harmful substances, and binge drinking, requiring therapy for alcohol abuse To know how long alcohol stays in your blood one should be familiar with certain metrics here is a table of BAC metrics:

  • BAC 0.016 – 1 hour
  • BAC 0.05 – 3.75 hrs
  • BAC 0.08 – 5 hrs
  • BAC 0.10 – 6.25 hrs
  • BAC 0.16 – 10 hrs
  • BAC 0.20 – 12.5 hrs
  • BAC 0.24 – 15 hrs

On average, one drink, which could be one shot of Vodka or 5 ounces of wine, will take one hour to metabolize in the blood. Other factors such as individual physiology play key roles in the breakdown process.

How long does alcohol stay in urine?

The alcohol in your system is first absorbed into the blood and takes a bit of time before it is filtered into the bladder. People often ask “how long does alcohol stay in system for urine test” as this is one of the criteria, especially for new hires. This process can take up to 2 hours or less. So how long does alcohol stay in your system for a urine test? One ounce of ethanol can be detected in urine for as long as 1.5 hrs. Higher concentrations of ethanol may be detectable in urine for as long as 12-48 hours using conventional methods of detection while Ethyl glucuronide (EtG) metabolite test can still be positive for urine in 3-5 days.

How long does alcohol stay in hair?

Unlike the period of time alcohol stays in your urine, the hair retains ethanol metabolites for a much longer period of time. Alcohol stays in your hair for as long as 3 months. This method of testing allows the detection of alcohol weeks after indulgence.

How long does alcohol stay in saliva?

When alcoholic beverages are ingested, the saliva is the first point of contact with the substance. The saliva contains digestive enzymes which begin to metabolize ethanol immediately. Alcohol stays in your saliva for at least 12-24 hours, after which it becomes undetectable through this means. This is why the saliva test is one of the most accurate for recent indulgence in drinking.

How long does alcohol stay in the breath?

There are test tools such as a breathalyzer that measure levels of ethanol in the system through one’s breath. The breath test is viable from 13-24 hours after the last drink.

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Factors That Influence How Long Alcohol Stays In The Body

Metabolic rates differ from one person to another as there are many variables that affect the breakdown of the substance in the body. The “how long does alcohol stay in your body” depends on these factors:

  • Gender – Men have a faster metabolic rate than women naturallyб and this also plays a role in the retention of ethanol in the body. Men are most likely to break-down and eliminate ethanol from their system faster than women.
  • Genetics – due to genetics some people may process alcoholic drinks faster or much slower than the average person. Asians often have a level of intolerance to ethanol hereby altering metabolic processes or slowing them down.
  • Age – digestion and other metabolic activities are generally faster in young people than the elderly. The older one gets, the slower their metabolism becomes.
  • Medication – medical professionals warn that drugs may have adverse reactions when taken periodically with alcoholic beverages. Its functions, as well as metabolism,  may be altered.
  • The speed of consumption – absorption, and intoxication occurs faster when one increases the speed of drinking
  • Body fat – the presence of body fat affects how long alcohol stays in your system; this is because fatty tissues have more affinity for ethanol and less for water, unlike the water retentive muscle tissues. Hence, the more fatty tissues a person has, the higher their ethanol retention.
  • Amount of food one ate before drinking – blood alcohol content is lower when there is adequate food in the stomach. The food reduces the speed of alcohol absorption by the body.
  • Drink Mixes – when alcoholic drinks are mixed with certain content, its absorption rate in the body might increase or decrease such as caffeinated drinks and fruit juice mix.

How Long It Takes To Get Sober

There is no confirmed answer to this as it differs from one individual to the other. The time taken to attain soberness would depend on the ability of your body to metabolize ethanol. On average, the liver metabolizes 1 unit every hour so by estimation 12 units would take 12 hours to sober up. Influencing factors include; sex, general health, body mass, experience with drinking and others. In cases where the user experiences adverse reactions to ethanol, it is advised to seek medical treatment for alcoholism.

How Long It Takes To Metabolize Different Alcoholic Beverages

The table below explains the composition of various alcoholic beverages and how long it would take for the body to metabolize certain quantities (ounces) and concentrations (percentage) of ethanol.

DrinkAlcohol contentPortionMetabolization time
12 ounces of beer5%1 standard drink1 hr
12 ounces of malt liquor8%1.5 standard drinks1 hr 30 mins
40 ounce malt liquor8%4.5 standard drinks4 hrs, 30 mins
1.5 ounces- 151 proof alcohol (rum)75%2 standard drinks1 hr
5 ounce- ( standard) glass of wine12%1 standard drink1 hr
3 to 4 ounces of fortified wine – a glass17%1 standard drink1 hr
1.5 ounces – shot of Vodka, Cognac, Liquor, Brandy, Whisky, or Tequila40%1 standard drink1 hr
1.5 ounces – shot of 190 proof grain alcohol or moonshine95%2.5 standard drinks2 hrs 30 mins

This table provides an estimate to “how long is alcohol in your system.”

Ways To Test For The Presence Of Alcohol

The following are ways to test for the presence of alcohol in the system.

  • Urine – there are biomarkers for urine tests that determine the presence of ethanol in the urine. These biomarkers include Ethyl Glucuronide (EtG), GTOL/5-HIAA or Ethyl Sulfate (EtS) which are metabolites of ethanol. These compounds have a longer half-life than ethanol.
  • Blood – this test can be conducted by drawing a blood sample and testing it using gas chromatography. The concentration level is then compared against an ethanol concentration chart.
  • Breath alcohol test – concentrations of alcohol can be detected in the breath with the use of a mouthpiece popularly called a breathalyzer. Readings are compared to a chart to analyze legal ethanol levels.
  • Saliva – saliva alcohol test strip is the fastest and most convenient way to test for ethanol levels in the saliva. A reading of 0.02% of ethanol or higher is positive for intoxication.
  • Hair alcohol test – when alcohol is stored in the human hair it reacts with fatty acids to form esters called Fatty Acid Ethyl Esters (FAEE). The presence of FAEE is an indicator of alcohol usage. FAEE is not altered by hair treatment products and has a window of about 3 months.

Alcohol Metabolization In The Body

Ethanol is metabolized in the body in separate steps by various enzymes before converted to harmless substances. This is not to say that alcohol is safe, as a matter of fact, it is quite the opposite. So how is alcohol metabolized in the body?

Ethanol, when ingested, goes through a breakdown process in the liver, with the introduction of an enzyme known as alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH). It converts ethanol to Acetaldehyde which is a toxic carcinogen, although the presence of this compound is short-lived as it is then converted again to acetate by an enzyme called aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH). The Acetate compound is finally broken down to carbon dioxide and water in the tissues of the body. Metabolites are excreted through various channels such as urine and sweat.

Getting Help

It is easy to find medical assistance on alcohol abuse today, with lots of options to pick from depending on distance and preference. There are hundreds of alcohol treatment facilities within the country that can offer sound treatment programs and counseling, tailored to specific needs. Aftercare alcohol programs ensure that patients are well catered to and reintegrated into normalcy once again.

Institutions such as ours conduct specialized programs which are all inclusive with practical solutions. The 12 steps of recovery program cover all facets of monitoring, physical activities, medication, and counseling which makes all the difference.


Brian Obinna Obodeze

Brian Obodeze

Content Writer

Brian Obinna Obodeze is a professional health-niche content developer for with six years of experience as a research writer. He is an expert in medical content development, especially in the field of addictions, general health, homeopathic medicine, and pharmaceuticals.

Brian has a bachelor’s degree in Microbiology from the University of Benin and has worked as a Lab Scientist and as a public healthcare officer. His hobbies include physical fitness, reading, and social entrepreneurship.

Medical review by Dr. Gregory Okhifun

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