How Long Can Alcohol Stay in Your System?

You might have questioned how long alcohol stays in your body after you stop drinking. This question is common for those going through or about to go through alcohol detox.

Alcohol acts as a central nervous system(CNS) depressant. When people consume alcoholic drinks excessively, the CNS becomes more active in neutralizing the depressing effects of alcohol.

The CNS will react when an individual decides to stop drinking alcohol or reduce its amount. This reaction will impact an individual’s health, causing them to experience physical symptoms that begin 6 to 12 hours after their last drink.

At 48 hours after their last drink, many people will experience dehydration because of excessive sweating. People may also experience delirium tremens, a severe symptom of alcohol withdrawal.

An individual can experience withdrawal symptoms such as:

  • Overheating
  • Seizures
  • Headache
  • Hallucination
  • Tremors
  • Nausea

You will experience these effects if the person’s blood alcohol content (BAC) in your system is high.

Alcohol is absorbed quickly from your stomach and digestive tract into your bloodstream. That is why you can feel the effects within minutes of consuming an alcoholic beverage.

People who drink alcohol will feel relaxed and calm. But some individuals are prone to angry outbreaks or violent behavior after consuming two or more drinks.

If you are planning to detox and need helpful medical advice, reach out to The Recovery Team. We provide alcohol detox medication and residential treatment to ease your journey toward a life free from alcohol.

Alcohol Metabolism

When a glass of wine enters your body, it will begin metabolizing. Metabolism is a chemical process that breaks down a substance to use as a source of energy. It is essential to learn how alcohol metabolizes and how it can impact your vital organs.


Alcoholic drinks are not metabolized like food or non-alcoholic beverages. First, a small amount of alcohol is absorbed by your tongue and the mucosal lining of the mouth. Once it is in your stomach, it is then absorbed into your bloodstream.

Food in your gut can affect the absorption of alcohol in two ways:

  • First, it obstructs the alcohol from contacting the stomach lining.
  • Second, food in the stomach prevents alcohol from passing into the duodenum. Duodenum is the upper portion of the small intestine. The surface of the small intestine is quite large; alcohol can quickly enter your bloodstream when it leaves the stomach. But the absorption process will take time if it is stuck in your stomach.


Alcohol is carried to all your organs when it circulates in your bloodstream. This is why the health of a person drinking too much alcohol influences the entire body.

In a healthy person, blood circulates in 90 seconds, allowing alcohol to affect your vital organs in a short time.

You will feel the extreme effects of binge drinking in 15 to 45 minutes. The length of time it takes you to experience the effect of alcohol depends on numerous factors like age, health, amount of alcohol consumed, the ability of the liver to produce alcohol dehydrogenase, and gender.

The remaining alcohol enters all body tissues except for bone and fat. The vast majority of alcohol metabolism occurs in the liver.

In the male body, alcohol can penetrate 68% of body tissues.


Alcohol poisoning can occur due to excessive drinking; our body neutralizes it because it’s a toxin. Around ten percent of alcohol is eliminated from our bodies through sweat, urine, and breath.

Alcohol evaporates in the air, so when alcohol in the blood content enters the lungs’ alveoli, it is removed from our body through breathing.

Alcohol is identified in our body as a toxic substance and metabolizes into carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is then removed from our bodies through breath. The liver is the organ responsible for the detoxification of alcohol. The liver enzyme produces aldehyde dehydrogenase and alcohol dehydrogenase, which breaks down alcohol into ketones.

Alcohol use disorder can result in liver damage because it has to metabolize excessive alcohol.

How Long Until Alcohol is Out of Your System?

The sensation of being drunk due to alcohol use varies from person to person. It depends upon a number of internal and external factors. An easy way of determining an individual’s drinking habit is by measuring blood alcohol concentration (BAC).

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) standard drink is around 0.6 ounces of alcohol. The ounce of alcohol for a standard drink varies in the United States.

In most States, a person cannot legally operate any vehicle if their blood alcohol content (BAC) is greater than the legal limit of 0.08%.

The body will exhibit various symptoms at various BAC levels:

  • 0.02% is the lowest volume of BAC. This level results in relaxation, excitement, and difficulty in making decisions.
  • At 0.05% of blood alcohol content, an average person will exhibit difficulty communicating, poor vision, and speaking louder. Such individual is dangerous to people around them.
  • At 0.08% level, concentration and self-control are reduced. A person at this level should avoid operating machinery or driving a vehicle.
  • Around 0.10% of BAC people will struggle to control their body functions like standing and walking.
  • Around 0.15% of BAC individuals will exhibit signs of sickness due to binge drinking and will be unable to make a decision or make sense of events around them.
  • When a blood alcohol level is above 0.20% a person has no control over their body’s movement. They won’t notice if they are injured in that condition because pain receptors are not responsive. This BAC level causes nausea and blackouts.
  • At 0.30 to 0.39%, breathing and bladder functions are diminished, which puts your life at risk. A person faces difficulty with breathing and may die.
  • At 0.40 to 0.49% or higher BAC, an individual requires the attention of a medical professional because a person may experience symptoms of heart attack or stroke.

Even after the side effects of alcohol wear off, alcohol is still active in your system for long periods.

Testing Blood Alcohol Content

BAC can be measured using various tests. The type of test used to detect alcohol blood levels can determine how long after your last drink, alcohol can be seen.

For example, using a breathalyzer test, alcohol is traceable in the breath and saliva. It is detectable for up to 24 hours after your last drink.

Alcohol can be detected in the bloodstream for up to 12 hours after your last drink.

Alcohol is detectable in urine for up to five days after your last drink. According to National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, there are a few factors that affect how long alcohol takes to wear off:

  • Type of drink and percentage of alcohol in it.
  • Eating food or drinking water slows down alcohol metabolism.
  • Drinking alcohol on an empty stomach also impacts metabolism.

Various tests can reveal the presence of alcohol in your body for several hours, days, or months after heavy drinking.

Alcohol abuse can have severe consequences on your health. If you know someone going through alcohol addiction, you can help them by contacting us.

At our treatment facility, we provide Individual Therapy that builds a healthy relationship between a patient and a therapist.

Urine Test

A urine test is best to detect ethyl alcohol within 6 to 12 hours after drinking. The ethanol in alcohol is detected by using a urine test. For this test urine sample of a patient is used. Ethyl glucuronides are alcohol metabolites that appear in urine after alcohol intake. However, EtG tests sometimes show false positive results. Urine tests are not suitable to perform at a traffic stop because results will not be correct due to several factors. If a person is banned from drinking by the court and relapsed, then this test is beneficial to detect alcohol.

Breath Test

A breath test can confirm alcohol consumption within the last 12 to 24 hours. A breathalyzer is a compact gadget that measures blood alcohol content when you blow into it. It shows results immediately.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety BAC limit for adults is 0.08 percent because driving abilities are impaired at that level. A percentage above 0.08 is considered unsafe for operating technical machinery.

Police use breath tests during a traffic stop to determine the alcohol blood level in an alleged person’s blood.

A “zero tolerance” rule is instituted in the United States for drivers under 21. Teenage drivers have been banned from driving any vehicle with any traceable amount of alcohol in their bodies.

Hair Test

The most reliable method of detecting alcohol intake is examining your hair’s ethyl glucuronide and fatty acid ethyl esters. Both of them indicate alcohol consumption when there is a high BAC level. Usually, the hair alcohol test is employed for legal purposes such as DUI cases, parental custody cases, clinical services, and underage driving investigations.

This test can detect alcohol consumption for up to 90 days. The hair test result is more accurate when hair is analyzed carefully.

People who use chemical treatments on their hair may receive a false positive because these chemicals can have the presence of alcohol.

Blood Test

A blood test will reveal alcohol in your bloodstream for up to six hours after consuming your last drink. A blood alcohol test is used for medical and legal purposes.

When you drink a glass of wine, your stomach and small intestine absorb your blood. As your BAC level rises, it will be detectable during the blood test.

How long does Liquor stay in your body?

Liquor, also known as spirits, is an alcoholic beverage that has 20 percent of alcohol content, but few have 40 percent content in it. A healthy liver can process one drink in an hour, so one drink will stay in your system for an hour.

The alcohol content is detected through various tests, and each test is valid for a specific time. It also depends on the quantity of alcohol and whether your urine, blood, saliva, or breast milk is being tested.

What is the half-life of alcohol?

Alcohol metabolism depends on the strength and amount of drink you consume. One standard drink has 14 grams of alcohol, and it takes 60 to 90 minutes to reach a high level of alcohol in your blood. Then your body begins to break it down. The half-life of alcohol is around four to five hours. You need five half-lives to remove alcohol from your system. Alcohol metabolism will take more time if a person is going through alcohol intoxication.