How Long Does Alcohol Stay In Your System?

Occasionally, it is necessary to determine the amount of alcohol present in the body for reasons like medication, police case investigation, or desintoxication purposes.

Thus, it is worthwhile to understand how long alcohol stays in your system, including your body, urine, blood, saliva, sweat, breath, and hair follicles.  It’s also useful for estimating the effects of alcohol addiction on a person’s long-term mental and physical health.

Alcohol-drinking habits vary from person to person. Usually, the period of drinking may last for an hour or go on for several hours.   Also, the effect that one drink will have on the percentage of alcohol in your blood can vary depending on personal factors.

It is easy to determine the amount of alcohol in the body through the following methods:

  • Blood alcohol concentration (BAC testing);
  • Saliva and breath (breathalyzer);
  • Urine (drug test);
  • Hair follicle testing.

Hair follicle testing is the most accurate way to detect alcohol and drugs in your system. This method helps detect the alcohol up to 3 months after ingesting it.

Factors That Decide the Retention of Alcohol in Your Body

Alcohol that enters the digestive system quickly gets absorbed into the bloodstream and then travels to all body and brain parts.

Alcohol is absorbed directly into your bloodstream through the tissue lining of the stomach and small intestine.

However, food in the intestine and stomach can slow down the uptake of alcohol into the bloodstream.

The liver process alcohol in the bloodstream, about 1 ounce every hour. Therefore, the retention of alcohol in the system depends on how fast the liver breaks down alcohol.

The amount of alcohol in the body drastically increases when someone starts consuming alcohol quicker than the liver can metabolize it.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), there are many factors that influence the retention of alcohol.

How long alcohol stays in your system depends on gender, age, body type, genetics, metabolic health, medication, disease, and food.

Gender or Sex

Generally, men have a better capacity to metabolize the alcohol in their blood.

A man will have a lower blood alcohol level (BAC) after an hour of drinking compared to a woman who has drunk the same alcohol.

It is because of the higher levels of the enzyme hydrogenase found in men. Besides this, a woman also has higher percentages of alcohol-retaining fat cells than a man.


Two enzymes control alcohol metabolism: aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) and alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH).

Individuals belonging to different genes have both ALDH and ADH encoded in different forms, which results in different levels of alcohol absorption and retention in the body.


Eating food before or while drinking reduces the uptake of alcohol. The stomach enzymes prioritize the food instead of processing the alcohol.

On the contrary, people who drink on an empty stomach or without food while drinking will have a higher level of blood alcohol.

In addition, high-protein foods are very effective in delaying the processing of alcohol in the intestine.


Individuals with a healthy metabolism can process and eliminate alcohol faster from their systems.

The metabolic health of individuals depends on liver health, food habits, lifestyle, stress level, sleep, and exercise.


A few medications may influence the inhibition of metabolizing alcohol by interfering with enzymatic activity.

Some of the commonly used medications for colds and flu, sedatives, and antidepressants increase the absorption of alcohol in the smaller intestine and increase the retention of alcohol.


Intoxication effects and retention of alcohol are higher in individuals suffering from diseases that dehydrate the body.

A person with a dehydrated body makes the liver less active in degrading and eliminating alcohol. It also reduces the enzymatic activity needed for the faster metabolization of alcohol in the blood.

For this reason, drinking a lot of water is the best remedy for overcoming alcohol hangovers.

How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System?

Several variables determine the quantity of alcohol that stays in your system and for how long.

The alcohol can be detected in the blood and urine for up to 80 hours after drinking.

Traces of alcohol remain in the hair follicles for up to 3 months after you stop drinking alcohol.

Once in the bloodstream, alcohol leaves the system in two ways:

  • 10% leaves through breath, sweat, and urine.
  • The remaining 90% is metabolized internally.

The crucial and immediate factors that determine the retention of alcohol in your body are:

  • Type of alcohol used;
  • Amount of alcohol consumed;
  • Foods consumed during or before drinking;
  • Dehydration level of the body;
  • The metabolic rate of the body.

It also depends on all the general factors like age, sex, body weight, genetics, and others discussed above.

The retention of alcohol may be longer in people with weak livers or abnormal heart rhythms.

Chemical reactions caused by alcohol may also contribute to the longer retention of alcohol in the system.

The degree of intoxication from alcohol that the person experiences also depends on all the factors above.

People under severe physical or psychological stress get quickly intoxicated and retain alcohol in their bodies for a longer period.

Different tests can detect alcohol consumption habits of a person.

How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your Urine? 

A urine test is the most commonly done test for measuring the alcohol present in the body.

The body begins to quickly excrete the alcohol through urine when about five percent of the absorbed alcohol reaches the kidney.

Alcohol also inhibits the production of vasopressin, a hormone that helps conserve body fluids. As a result, urination increases, and the individual usually feels the urge to urinate within 30 minutes of consuming the alcohol.

After up to 80 hours of drinking, some alcohol would be present in the urine, especially when the person has consumed alcohol in excess.

Normally, significantly significant traces of alcohol can easily be detected in the urine up to 36 hours after drinking.

The ethyl glucuronide (EtG) test is the most popular and advanced urine testing method to discover and measure the amount of alcohol retained in the body.

Ethyl glucuronide is a biomarker that determines whether the body has metabolized any alcohol recently.

The EtG Urine Alcohol Test detects ethyl glucuronide in the urine, which confirms alcohol ingestion as long as 3–4 days after intake or about 80 hours after the liver metabolizes alcohol.

The urine analysis includes a physical, chemical, and microscopic examination of the urine that can indicate the presence of alcohol in it.

How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your Blood?

In a healthy individual, the liver usually processes about one ounce of alcohol per hour.

If you quickly gulp a lot of alcohol within an hour or two, the alcohol level in the blood quickly rises as the liver cannot metabolize the excess liquor.

The unprocessed alcohol in the blood is called BAC, or blood alcohol concentration.

When the alcohol level in the blood rises beyond 0.055, body tissues begin to absorb the extra alcohol. It may result in physical and mental discomforts such as depression, nausea, vomiting, irritability, memory loss, and disorientation.

An ounce of excess alcohol consumed can increase the BAC level to 0.015.

The liver can process only 1 ounce of alcohol per hour, which means only 0.015 levels of BAC can be reduced per hour.

A blood alcohol level of 0.08, the legal limit for driving, takes 5.5 hours to leave the system.

Now let’s see how long alcohol stays in your blood.

If an individual has a BAC of 0.08, then the following time duration will be required for the alcohol to leave your system:

  • After 1 hour – your BAC would be 0.065.
  • After 2 hours – your BAC would be 0.05.
  • After 3 hours – your BAC would be 0.035.
  • After 4 hours – your BAC would be 0.02.
  • After 5 hours – your BAC would be 0.005.

On average, alcohol can show up in a blood test for up to 12 hours.

How Long Time Does Alcohol Stay in Your Breath?

A breathalyzer is commonly used for measuring the alcohol content in your breath.

It depends on two important factors:

  • How much alcohol is consumed?
  • How long before it is consumed?

After every hour, the liver reduces the BAC level by.015, which equals 1 ounce.

A person who has drunk only an ounce of alcohol will have zero or an insignificant amount of it in their breath after an hour of drinking.

For another example, if an individual has an alcohol level of.20% BAC, the alcohol content in the breath may remain for up to 13 hours.

How Long Does It Takes Alcohol To Leave Your System?

Body process alcohol in the blood (BAC) at a rate of.015 in an hour.

One standard drink adds about.015 alcohol to your bloodstream, regardless of body size and gender.

If you had 3 standard drinks within an hour, it might take up to 4 hours for the alcohol to leave your system.

Therefore, if you have consumed a lot of alcohol, it may take many more hours to leave your system.

If your BAC is.08%, it will take approximately 51/2 hours for all the alcohol to be eliminated from the body.

Alcohol content leaves men’s bodies faster than women’s because of the higher amount of enzyme hydrogenase present in men.

Traces of alcohol in your blood, saliva, sweat, and breath last up to 48 hours, depending on the amount of alcohol you have consumed.

In urine tests, the alcohol content can be traced for up to 80 hours.

Hair strands can retain the alcohol particles for up to 90 days after you have stopped drinking alcohol.

How to Get Rid Of Alcohol From Your System Fast

If you are thoroughly intoxicated with alcohol to the point of physical impairment, it is necessary to get the alcohol out of your system fast.

Contrary to general belief, drinking a lot of fluids like water and juice will not expedite the expulsion of alcohol from your body. Of course, it is advantageous for eradicating alcohol-related dehydration.

The BAC level will reach zero only when the liver has fully metabolized the alcohol content in the blood.

Drinking much water after hard drinks prevents alcohol from saturating the body’s tissues. It may help in the excretion of alcohol through urine and sweat.

Most of the time, the drug test does not fully show the alcohol in your system.

There is no guaranteed treatment or natural solution for cleansing your body of alcohol.

However, the most efficient ways to get alcohol out of your system are:

In other articles here, you may also read about types of alcohol tests, EtG tests, and breath alcohol tests.