How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System?


How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System?

How long alcohol stays in your system mostly depends on how much you’ve had to drink. Almost everyone metabolizes alcohol at the same rate regardless of weight, age, gender, or race. To explain, the body burns through about one drink worth of alcohol each hour. One drink of alcohol is equivalent to approximately 0.016 percent of blood alcohol content (BAC).

A breathalyzer test is typically able to detect alcohol for up to 24 hours after the last drink. Also, alcohol contains certain chemicals that can remain in your hair for up to 90 days. On the other hand, how long alcohol stays in your urine depends on how much you drink. With that being said, a typical urine test can pick up traces of alcohol for as long as 12 or even 48 hours after drinking. Lastly, some of the newest and most medically-advanced urinalysis tests can measure alcohol levels for up to 80 hours after someone has consumed a drink.

Whether you’re trying to recover from a hangover or pass an upcoming test, knowing how alcohol is metabolized in the body and how long it stays in your system is useful information. However, if your drinking has become a serious problem, it is imperative that you seek help from a trusted alcohol rehab near you. Alcohol is a highly addictive substance and the majority of treatment center admissions in the Delray Beach area are for people suffering from alcohol abuse.

The Metabolization of Alcohol in Your System: Explained

To begin, alcohol passes through your stomach and small intestines, where it will be absorbed into the bloodstream. When the stomach absorbs alcohol, about 20% will go straight into the blood vessels and then to the brain. On the other hand, the remaining 80% of alcohol is absorbed by the small intestines. Once alcohol enters the bloodstream, it is metabolized at a rate of 20 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) per hour.

Time of alcoholic metabolism

The amount of time different forms/amounts of alcoholic beverages take to metabolize:

  • Shot of liquor: 1 hour
  • Pint of beer: 2 hours
  • A large glass of wine: 3 hours
  • Multiple alcoholic drinks: several hours

As alcohol circulates through the body, it will affect nearly every major organ including the heart, brain, and lungs. Also, 90% of the alcohol passes through the liver, where it is broken down into acetaldehyde and acetate. Next, the acetaldehyde and acetate are reduced into carbon dioxide and water. Healthy livers are able to filter approximately one drink per hour. Lastly, the kidneys continue to break down alcohol before expelling the waste through urine. Surprisingly, your body also rids itself of toxic byproducts through your breath and sweat.

How Long Do the Effects of Alcohol Last?

While alcohol metabolizes at a constant rate regardless of the individual or type of drink, different people will be affected in varying ways. For example, some individuals get drunker than others or stay intoxicated longer. Also, some people can “handle their liquor”, while others can’t. To explain, how quickly your body absorbs the alcohol and how much of an effect it has on you depends on a number of factors.



Generally, women tend to experience the effects of alcohol quicker than men do. This is for two main reasons: they tend to be smaller than men and their bodies have fewer enzymes designed to metabolize alcohol. Consequently, women often have a higher blood alcohol concentration than men after consuming the same amount of alcohol.

Body Mass Index (BMI)


How much you weigh plays a huge factor in how your body reacts to alcohol. Individuals who carry more weight will feel less drunk than lighter individuals. Conversely, individuals with a higher percentage of body fat also become more intoxicated than leaner individuals.


Plate spoon and fork

If you begin to drink on an empty stomach, your body will absorb alcohol at a faster rate. In other words, the effects will hit you sooner than they would if you ate a full meal. In particular, eating high-protein foods causes alcohol to be absorbed slower.

Rate of Consumption

Consumption of Alcohol

Unsurprisingly, the faster you drink, the quicker you’ll become drunk and the more intoxicated you will become. However, this can be dangerous as some individuals drink faster than their liver can metabolize the alcohol. This causes the alcohol to build up in their blood and tissues and leaves people at risk of alcohol poisoning.

How Long Can Drug Tests Detect Alcohol in the System?

Time of Alcohol in the system

The length of time after a person’s last drink that a test may detect alcohol in the system not only depends on the above-listed factors, but it also depends on which type of test is used. Since alcohol is metabolized fairly quickly, it is difficult to detect in many tests. The amount of time that alcohol is detected in various types of tests after a person’s last drink is as follows:

  • Hair follicle tests – up to 90 days
  • Blood tests – 4-6 hours
  • Breathalyzer – between 12 and 24 hours
  • Urine – depending on the type of test, alcohol may be detected between 12-24 hours or up to 72 hours
  • Saliva – 12-24 hours

Rather than testing for alcohol, most people rely on signs or symptoms of alcohol intoxication, or they use a breathalyzer test to confirm whether or not a person has been drinking.

What is Alcohol Poisoning?

If your rate of consumption is too high for your liver to keep up with, you are at risk for alcohol poisoning. In other words, alcohol poisoning occurs when individuals drink more alcohol than their bodies can properly metabolize. Alcohol poisoning is a serious and life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical attention. Also, alcohol poisoning typically occurs when an individual binge drinks.

Common symptoms of alcohol poisoning include:

Alcohol Poisoning

If someone you know is experiencing alcohol poisoning, it is vital that you seek help right away. Without proper medical intervention, alcohol poisoning can lead to severe complications and even death.

Treatment for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

Dealing with the effects of alcohol abuse or alcoholism can be extremely physically and mentally taxing. Additionally, alcoholism can lead to feelings of guilt, shame, loneliness, hopelessness, and despair. Unfortunately, addiction to alcohol can not be treated alone. Individuals suffering from alcoholism should seek alcohol detox and rehab in order to safely manage the symptoms of their substance abuse. While attending alcohol treatment may be a difficult decision, it is vital for one’s success in sobriety.

If you or a loved one abuses alcohol and lacks the ability to stop drinking on their own, it is time to consider attending professional treatment. At Florida Recovery Group, our professional and experienced staff will help you to overcome your alcoholism, the underlying causes, and the lasting effects of your alcohol abuse. Contact us today for more information on our alcohol rehab program in Delray Beach, Florida.