How long does alcohol stay in your system? It’s a question that many people who struggle with alcoholism ask themselves. The answer, unfortunately, is not straightforward.

There are multiple ways that alcohol can be detected within the body and each of these methods has its own timeline for how long it takes for the substance to fully leave the system.

In this article we will discuss how long alcohol stays in your blood, urine and saliva; as well as some other factors which affect how quickly it leaves your system such as weight, age or gender.

How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System?

The length of time alcohol stays in your system depends on a variety of different factors, which are often dictated by external and internal variables including age, sex, weight, and medical history.

Alcohol is metabolized at a constant rate of 20 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) every hour. This means that a blood alcohol level of 80 mg/dL will take four hours to metabolize and 0.08 BAC will take approximately 5.33 hours before the measurable alcohol disappears from the blood

Alcohol takes an interesting path through your body

Alcohol is absorbed into our bloodstream and other organs through the stomach before being processed by the small intestines. This can be more intense if people drink on an empty stomach because they will feel stronger side effects.

the liver then processed 2 and finally exits the body through urine, sweat, breath, or even stool.

Alcohol goes from the stomach to the brain. The liver can process about one ounce of alcohol every hour. That’s why most public health officials tell people not to drink more than one alcoholic beverage every hour. How well your liver is able to process alcohol will determine your BAC (Blood Alcohol Content). Certain biological differences and habits will affect how long alcohol stays in your system.

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Factors that play a role in how long alcohol stays in your system


the more you weigh, the longer alcohol will remain in your system because it takes more time for your liver to process the same amount of alcohol as another person who weighs less.


younger people metabolize alcohol at a slower rate than older people. That is why there are laws to prevent alcohol sales to anyone below the legal drinking age and one of the many reasons those under 21 should not drink any amount of alcohol at all.

Rate of Drinks Consumed

the more drinks you have per hour, then the longer your body will be exposed to high levels of alcohol which may lead to an increased possibility for overdose or drunkenness; even just a few too many can affect how long it takes alcohol stay in your system because they don’t allow enough time for processing by way of liver enzymes.

The average person metabolizes about 20% that’s consumed each hour so if you consume two beers in an hour, your BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) would be .08%.

Your body can metabolize about one drink per hour in every 72 hours so if you consume two drinks, then it will take three days for your BAC to drop below the legal limit of 0.05% and four more days to eliminate alcohol from your system completely (assuming no additional drinking).

Factors That affect your BAC

Blood circulation

People who are at risk in terms of their blood circulation are more likely to get drunk quickly. It is because alcohol can stay in the blood longer than usual.

Body fat

High body fat can lead to alcoholic beverages like wine and vodka remaining in the body for a longer period of time.

Empty stomach

Drinking on an empty stomach allows alcohol to rapidly pass through the body and enter the bloodstream, whereas food in your stomach forces it to stay in your gut for longer.

Older men

Due to a decrease in alcohol’s processing enzymes with age, older men tend to become intoxicated on smaller amounts of alcohol than younger men.


Drinking liquor may be more likely to cause intoxication in menopausal women because of hormonal changes.

Drinking habits

Heavy drinkers, on average, have more alcohol-processing enzymes than those who only drink occasionally.


East Asian people may be more likely to lack the specific enzymes responsible for breaking down alcohol, resulting in rapid intoxication and increased side effects like “flush syndrome”.


Alcohol is processed and eliminated at a slower rate in people who are taking certain prescription medications. Specifically, antidepressants, antibiotics, allergy medication, and diabetes medications affect the way that the body processes alcohol.

Time between drinks

The longer you wait between drinks, the smaller your blood alcohol concentration. You should leave at least 8 hours between each drink to avoid any consequences from an overloaded liver.

How Long Is Alcohol Detectable in the Body?

One common misconception is that the inability to measure a person’s BAC means they have no alcohol in their system. This is not true; even though blood alcohol content levels drop, it can still be present for hours after drinking. Other methods of measurement – such as breathalyzers or urine samples – merely estimate the presence of alcohol in the body at any given time.

There are multiple ways to test for the presence of alcohol in the body. About 20% is absorbed in the stomach and 80% by intestines, leaving behind 2-8%. Multiple tests with varying sensitivities have been developed that can detect alcohol for up to 90 days after last use.

Methods That Are Usually Used to Detect Alcohol in the body


Alcohol can be detected in your system for several hours after the last drink, and can even start to affect you if it continues to build up.


The alcohol in your system is tested with a breathalyzer. These tests can detect alcohol for up to 24 hours after the last drink.


There are some tests that are more sensitive than others. Sometimes they can see alcohol days after the last drink, but most of the time it is seen after 12 to 48 hours.


Using a saliva swab, alcohol can be detected between 10 and 24 hours after the last drink.


When you drink alcohol, it stays in your hair for 3 whole months.


When alcohol is detected in the blood, it can also be detected in breastmilk.

The truth About Breastmilk and Alcohol

Pumping doesn’t clear alcohol from breast milk. Alcohol is present in breast milk until it leaves the body, which can be up to 48 hours after drinking.

It takes different amounts of time for women to process alcohol – some may process faster than others depending on how much they drink and what type of medication they are taking.

Doctors do not know how much alcohol is safe for babies, so they recommend breastfeeding before drinking. Wait at least two to three hours after drinking something before breastfeeding.

How long does alcohol stay in your blood?

Blood is the most common way that a person’s intoxication level can be determined. This method is also used as evidence if driving under the influence has occurred or to prove abuse for legal purposes. The process of testing someone’s blood typically requires an expert who will draw some of it from their body and send it off to a lab.

Blood alcohol content (BAC) is typically measured in milligrams per deciliter of blood, and the level can be determined by subtracting that number from 100. For example, if someone’s BAC is 80 mg/dL then their level would be 20% or 0.20. The legal limit is 0.08%.

The alcohol will stay in someone’s blood for about five hours before it disappears, and this method of testing can detect a drink from up to 12-24 hours beforehand.

Key takeaways

The rate alcohol can stay in your system varies depending on factors like the amount you drink, how often you drink and what else is going on with your health.

But to be safe and moderate, keep your drinking to a few drinks per week and beware of bingeing. Drive home or have a friend who doesn’t drink drive when possible.

Commonly Asked Questions

How long does it take to get alcohol out of your body?

The half-life for alcohol is four to five hours. Alcohol breaks down in the body at a steady rate, with each process happening at an average of one hour per half life. It takes about 25 hours or so for your system to be completely rid of all traces of alcohol consumption from the night before.

Can alcohol be detected after 5 days?

Alcohol can still be detected in your system after five days, but it would only show up on a urine test.

What is the best way to clean out your system of alcohol?

The most effective way to get rid of all traces of alcohol from your body is by drinking lots and lots of water, which will flush everything away.

What happens after 4 days of not drinking?

An individual who has not consumed any alcohol for four days will be clear of all traces in their system.

How long does it take to clean your system out?

It takes about one week after an excessive amount of drinking before the body can rid itself completely of everything that was ingested during those few hours.

How long does alcohol remain in your hair?

If you’re asking how long alcohol will show up on a forensic test, then it can stay in there for as much as six days after drinking stops (maybe longer).

Does water flush out alcohol?

Water will flush alcohol from the body, but is not as effective for hair or blood.

How can I flush alcohol out of my system fast?

If you want to flush alcohol out of your system quickly, then the best thing to do is drink lots of water and get some sleep.

What is considered heavy drinking?

Heavy drinking is considered to be eight or more drinks in the course of two hours for a male and six or more drinks in the same time period for females.

What are some signs that I may have a problem with alcohol?

Some signs that you might need help include: blacking out, losing consciousness, having multiple DUIs, forgetting what happened while drinking, or having family members who are worried about you.

What if I have a drink after treatment?

Relapse is common and is not a sign of failure. You could try to make your goal to have one drink instead of many or even abstaining from alcohol completely.

Can you test positive for alcohol without drinking?

Yes. The only way to know for certain if you have any alcohol in your system is a urine or blood test.

What happens after 2 weeks of no alcohol?

It can take up to four weeks for the alcohol to fully leave your system.

What should I do if I’m an alcoholic?

You may want to talk with a professional about what you’re going through and how you might try to change.

There are many programs that offer help, including Alcoholics Anonymous or Al-Anon.

You can also call the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism’s Help Line at 800-662-HELP (800-662 for Spanish) to learn about other resources near you.

If I have a drink after treatment, will my insurance cover it?

It depends on your coverage plan and what state you live in. If you are in need of medical care, you may have to pay out-of-pocket or file for an exception.

What happens after 1 week of not drinking?

You may feel withdrawal symptoms such as insomnia, anxiety, shakiness and a racing heart.

These are unhealthy reactions to being sober again and should subside within a few days.

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What can I do instead of drinking?

– Join a support group for people with alcoholism, such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Al-Anon.

– Get involved in an activity like art therapy, yoga or tai chi that can help you relax and take your mind off drinking.

– Reach out to family members and friends who have been supportive throughout your addiction; they can provide encouragement and understanding.

– Consider joining an online or in-person recovery program like SMART Recovery, which provides a stepwise approach to sobriety.

– Get involved with 12 Step groups such as AA so you have the support of others who are recovering from alcoholism.

Will alcohol mess up my blood test?

How do you flush out alcohol?

How do you cleanse your body from alcohol?

Does sweating help get alcohol out of your system?

The sweat glands remove a small amount of alcohol from your system. But the effect is so minimal that it doesn’t do much to help you sober up.

What foods help absorb alcohol?

Fruits and vegetables are high in water content and work to flush the alcohol out of your system. They also contain antioxidants that help counteract some of the damaging effects of drinking.

Watermelon, grapefruit, oranges, apples all have a lot of water which helps with overall hydration at night so you’re not as likely to drink as much alcohol.

Vegetables like cauliflower will also help flush out the toxins from your system, which is a good way to get some extra vegetables in that evening and not feel guilty about it.

Broccoli contains high levels of vitamin C, potassium, calcium and magnesium; all of these ingredients slow down how quickly the liver breaks down alcohol.

Berries are also high in water content, which makes them a good option to choose if you’re not too hungry and want something sweet as well.

Medical Disclaimer:  The information provided here is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.