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How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System?

It’s true that the effects of alcohol can last in your body for some time. However, the length of time these effects are felt depends on several factors. Read on to discover how long it takes alcohol to leave your system and what methods are used to detect it in your body.

Why Is It Important to Know How Long Alcohol Stays in Your Body?

Some people take certain medications that don’t interact well with alcohol. Others may need to be sure it’s free from their system in order to maintain mental or physical performance. Being tested at the workplace for alcohol or drugs is another reason to know how long alcohol is in your system. As well, you may be curious about how the amount you drink affects you.

How Long Does It Take to Feel Alcohol’s Effects?

A healthy person will begin to feel the effects of alcohol between 15 and 45 minutes after drinking. Of course, this is a very general span of time; several factors affect how long it takes to feel alcohol’s effects, including:

  • Amount of alcohol consumed
  • Type of alcohol consumed
  • Your weight
  • Your gender
  • Your family history
  • Your ethnicity

In addition to the above, how fast you drink and whether you drink on an empty stomach also determines alcohol’s effects. Drinking water while drinking alcohol, as well as being on certain medications while drinking also play a role in how alcohol affects you.

How Does the Body Absorb Alcohol?

Generally speaking, your body will try to get rid of the alcohol you drink right from the point that it enters your body. Alcohol is absorbed by the digestive system. However, it is not digested as extensively, or in the same way as food. The lining of your stomach and intestines absorb a large part of the alcohol you ingest, sending it directly to your bloodstream, through your body, and then to your brain.

If food is present in your stomach, the rate of absorption may decrease slightly. Alcohol can be absorbed by food, and food can also block alcohol’s contact with your stomach lining. It can even reduce alcohol’s speed of travel from the stomach to the duodenum.

Just like everything else you consume, the majority of alcohol you drink needs to pass through the liver before it leaves your body in the form of urine, sweat, and breath.

The more you drink, the more your body has to absorb. The more your body has to absorb, the more saturated with alcohol it becomes. When that happens, you’ll feel all of alcohol’s effects, including those below, more intensely:

  • Stumbling
  • Falling
  • Blurred vision
  • Confusion
  • Slurring your words
  • Problems with concentration
  • Nausea, vomiting, or both

In addition, you may feel more relaxed and less inhibited and have increased confidence.

What’s the Difference Between Absorption and Metabolization?

Where absorption affects how alcohol makes you feel, the rate at which your body metabolizes alcohol determines how long it stays in your body. How long alcohol remains in the body depends on your liver, which can  process one standard drink (about one ounce of alcohol) per hour.

A standard drink is equal to:

  • 12 ounces of beer
  • 5 ounces of wine
  • 5 ounces of tequila, gun, rum, and similar spirits
  • 8 to 9 ounces of malt liquor1

During metabolization, your liver breaks the alcohol down, and it leaves the body via your breath, sweat, or urine. The health of your liver determines how long it will take to process alcohol.

What Is Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC)?

BAC stands for blood alcohol concentration. It measures how much alcohol is in your bloodstream after drinking. It’s this measurement that determines how alcohol will affect you. A BAC of 0.08 is what all state authorities use to determine intoxication.2

Your blood alcohol level reveals:

  • How many drinks you’ve consumed, regardless of type
  • Whether or not you’re within the legal limit to drive

As stated earlier, your liver is capable of processing approximately one standard drink per hour. Consuming more than one drink per hour will raise the concentration of alcohol in your bloodstream, resulting in a higher BAC.

Nothing can speed up your liver’s processing time. Drinking water or coffee, vomiting, or taking a shower will not reduce a person’s BAC. If you are sober, and then you consume five standard drinks one right after the other, it will take approximately five hours to reduce your BAC to zero.

Where Can Alcohol Be Detected and What Factors Affect Results?

Alcohol can be detected in several areas of the body for the following lengths of time after alcohol is consumed:

  • Blood for up to 12 hours
  • Breath for up to 24 hours
  • Saliva for between 24 and 48 hours
  • Urine for between 3 and 5 days
  • Hair for up to 90 days3

Several factors, including genetics, age, medications, and food consumption can affect your BAC at the time of testing.

Are You Drinking Safely and Responsibly?

Knowing how long alcohol remains in your system is important to ensure you’re not drinking too much. However, for some, drinking safely and responsibly can be a struggle. Examples that can indicate a developing problem with alcohol include:

  • Trying to quit drinking on more than one occasion without success
  • Feeling anxious, nauseous, or shaky when trying to go without alcohol
  • Choosing to drink instead of meet obligations or keep plans
  • Hiding drinking by being secretive or drinking alone
  • Feeling more irritable and more prone to mood swings
  • Experiencing short-term memory loss or “blackout” periods (blocks of time with no memory of events)

If you’re questioning how long alcohol stays in your system, and you have experienced any of the above examples, getting help is an important next step.

Adelante Recovery Center’s inpatient alcohol treatment program is conducted in a safe and supportive environment. You’ll receive 24-hour care and live in beautiful surroundings while you participate in an individualized treatment program. Call (949) 427-9099 to begin your recovery journey.


  1. https://greatist.com/health/how-long-does-alcohol-stay-in-your-system#So-why-do-alcohols-effects-hit-people-so-differently?
  2. https://greatist.com/health/how-long-does-alcohol-stay-in-your-system#how-long-it-affects-you
  3. https://www.verywellmind.com/how-long-does-alcohol-stay-in-your-system-80218

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