How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System?

How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System? Alcohol detection times may change depending on the body system and test employed. Alcohol can stay in your system between 6-72 hours in most cases depending on the detection test used. Alcohol can be detected using tests that assess blood alcohol levels for up to 6 hours, breath alcohol levels for up to 24 hours, urine alcohol levels for up to 72 hours, saliva alcohol levels for up to 24 hours, and hair alcohol levels for up to 90 days. The half-life of alcohol is between 4-5 hours.

Body SystemTime in System
BloodUp to 6 Hours
Breath12-24 Hours
Urine12-24 Hours, 72 Hours or more for newer test methods
Saliva12-24 Hours
HairUp to 90 Days
How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System

How alcohol is metabolized?

When you drink alcohol, it is quickly absorbed in the stomach and small intestines. From there, it enters your bloodstream to travel to the liver.

Your liver releases enzymes to break down alcohol. However, the organ can only metabolize a little at a time, leaving the excess to circulate throughout your body. So, how much alcohol you consume in a specific amount of time gives you an idea of its intensity.

Factors that affect alcohol metabolism

Numerous factors can affect BAC and how fast you eliminate it from your body, including:

  • Sex: Females tend to have a higher BAC and Eliminate Trusted Source alcohol faster than males
  • Age: Teens, young adults, and older adults eliminate slower
  • Food: Metabolism rate increases with food
  • Time of day: Alcohol metabolizes faster at the end of the day
  • Exercise: Alcohol is eliminated slightly faster during exercise
  • Alcoholism: Heavy drinking increases the rate, but advanced liver disease decreases it

It’s also critical to understand how much alcohol is in your drink because this will impact how long it takes to metabolize it. For example, some beers have a higher alcohol content, affecting how much alcohol you consume from one drink.

Even though so many factors come into play, the average metabolic rate to remove alcohol is about one drink per hour.

There are specific steps you can take to help reduce the effects of alcohol.

  • Food may help your body absorb alcohol.
  • Water can help reduce your BAC.
  • Avoid caffeine. It’s a myth that coffee, energy drinks, or similar beverages alleviate intoxication quicker.

How Long Does It Take for Alcohol to Kick In?

In general, a drink’s effects will be felt by a healthy person within 15 to 45 minutes.1

Most men with minimal to no tolerance will begin to exhibit some characteristics of intoxication when their blood alcohol level (BAC) reaches 0.05%, and their ability to drive will be significantly impaired at 0.07%. At 0.10%, they will be clearly intoxicated.2

A woman who weighs 150 pounds will reach a BAC of 0.1% (intoxication) if she consumes about 4 drinks in an hour.2 Source

How Long Does It Take to Get a Drink Out of Your System?

Alcohol is predominantly broken down in the liver through the actions of an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase. On average, the liver can metabolize 1 standard drink per hour for men, or about 0.015g/100mL/hour (i.e., a reduction of blood alcohol level, or BAC, by 0.015 per hour). In addition to liver processing, about 10% of alcohol is eliminated through sweat, breath, and urine.

A standard drink is defined as

A standard drink is defined as an estimated 0.6 ounces or 14 grams of pure alcohol. The amount of alcohol in common beverages includes.

DrinkOZAlcohol Content
Beer12 5%
Malt Liquor87%
Wine512%
80-Proof Distilled Spirits1.5 40%

Does Drinking Water or Coffee Help You Sober Up?

Water, sleep, or any other substance cannot hasten the breakdown and elimination of alcohol, and neither can coffee nor a shower hasten your sobriety. They might make you more alert, but they will not eliminate alcohol from your blood. As long as your rate of consumption is greater than your rate of elimination, your BAC will continue to rise.

Getting help for alcohol problems

If you think you need help to stop drinking, treatment is available. Talk with your doctor or start with one of these resources:

  • National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA): The NIAAA has resources to help you find alcohol use treatment.
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): The SAMHSA has a free helpline for people facing mental health or substance use disorders.

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