how long does alcohol stay in your system

How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System?

“How long does alcohol stay in your system” and “How long does alcohol stay in your blood” are two commonly asked questions regarding alcohol in the body, and they’re asked for several reasons. Perhaps you’re awaiting alcohol testing for a job, or you’ll be enrolling in a detox program soon. The answers to these questions is dependent on a variety of factors, including the amount of alcohol consumed and the number of drinks consumed. Also, it’s important to keep in mind that alcohol stays in different parts of the body for different amounts of time. These factors also determine how long it takes for a person to reach a state of sobriety.

To answer the “How long does alcohol stay in your system” question, a normal, healthy liver can process roughly one drink per hour, so typically one drink will stay in your system for one hour. That means that if you finish a drink at 6:00, you will generally be in the clear by 7:00. However, if you have a second one at 6:30, the time is added. You’ll have 30 minutes left from the first drink, plus the additional hour from the second one, meaning you’ll be intoxicated until 8:00. Do you really have the time for more?

    • How long does alcohol stay in your urine? About 80 hours.
    • How long does alcohol stay in your blood? The average liver can process one drink per hour.
    • How long does alcohol stay in your hair follicles? Approximately three months.

How Long Does It Take to Sober Up?

The BAC chart indicates how much alcohol it takes for a person to reach a given level. However, it does not show how long it takes to sober up.

The process of breaking down alcohol begins in the stomach. A little bit is broken down there, but the rest reaches the small intestine and absorbs into the bloodstream. The liver begins to metabolize what it can, and the rest is distributed throughout the body.

Self-Assessment: Are You an Alcoholic?

There’s a fine line between excessive alcohol consumption and alcoholism, and it’s not always easy to determine what side you’re on. If you’re concerned that your drinking or that of a loved one has become an addiction, consider the following online assessments. These tests can help you determine if you’re an alcoholic by evaluating your drinking habits. For the most accurate assessment, please be completely honest with your responses. The tests are 100 percent confidential and free:

CAGE Alcohol Assessment Quiz

Although the CAGE Alcohol Assessment includes only four questions, it has been shown to identify 9 out of 10 alcoholics.

MAST Alcohol Assessment Quiz

MAST Alcohol Assessment is one of the oldest tests available for identifying alcoholism. This version of the test has 22 yes/no questions to help you determine if you’re an alcoholic.

AUDIT Alcohol Assessment Quiz

AUDIT Alcohol Assessment is a quiz of 10 multiple choice questions created by the World Health Organization (WHO) to help you determine if you’re an alcoholic.

How Much Is Too Much? At What Point Is It Okay to Drive?

Monitoring your alcohol intake can be a tricky thing, and there’s plenty of hearsay about how to sober up quickly and how clear your head should be before leaving the bar. Sure, you’re not going to hop in the driver’s seat when the world is swimming (we hope). But what about when you’re just a little buzzed? How long does alcohol stay in your blood?

The reality is that alcohol sticks around much longer than many people expect, and just a little bit left in your bloodstream is enough to trigger a positive in an alcohol test. So before you have a drink, understand how alcohol long alcohol stays in your system. It might save your life.

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Alcohol doesn’t have to control your life. To speak with someone who can help, call our Alcohol Hotline now.

What Is One Drink?

Every type of drink (beer, wine, etc.) has a different amount of pure alcohol in it. For example, one beer is 12 fluid ounces, and it contains 5% alcohol. A much more concentrated drink is wine, at 12%. Just 5 fluid ounces of wine is considered one drink. And one shot of rum, vodka, or gin at 40% alcohol (80 proof) is considered one drink. All three have the same amount of pure alcohol.

At a bar, drinks are generally standardized to easily keep track of how much alcohol you’ve had. A standard “drink” is 0.6 ounces of pure alcohol. When inside an actual glass, this looks like:

Alcohol can be detected in urine, blood, saliva, sweat, breath, and even your hair follicles.

So if you have one glass of wine (5 fluid ounces), your liver will be able to metabolize it in about one hour. But it you have two shots of vodka one after the other, it will take two hours to get sober again.

And remember—alcohol is alcohol. A breathalyzer can’t tell if you had a shot or “just a beer.” It affects your BAC the same way.

Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) and Liver Metabolism Rate

Drinking isn’t a guessing game—there are science-backed methods to understand how intoxicated you are based on your body type.

Your blood alcohol content (BAC) is the percentage of your bloodstream that’s made up of pure alcohol.

The blood alcohol concentration (BAC) scale shows how much of your bloodstream is pure alcohol. For example, if you have a BAC of .10, it means that .1% of your bloodstream is alcohol.

The scale looks like this:

  • At .04, most people begin to feel relaxed.
  • .08 is the legal intoxication level in most states. However, driving can be impaired by BACs as low as .02.
  • At .12, most people feel the need to vomit.
  • At .30, many people lose consciousness.
  • By .40, most people lose consciousness.
  • A BAC of .45 is usually fatal.

BAC charts make it easy to see what a healthy range is for you. The charts are separated by male and female, as the male body tends to have more water and therefore a higher alcohol tolerance. Women also have significantly less of the enzyme that breaks down alcohol in their stomach than men do.

blood alcohol concentration (BAC) chart

Everybody is different in how many drinks they need to reach a given BAC. For a man who weighs 180 pounds, three drinks will put him at .06%. An hour later, he’ll have a BAC of .04%. Based on this chart, a woman who weighs 140 pounds and has two drinks in an hour will have a BAC of .07.

Lastly, if you eat before drinking, you’ll be able to keep your BAC lower since it prevents the alcohol from moving to the small intestine too quickly. But the only way to keep lower amounts of alcohol from reaching the bladder is to keep lower amounts from entering your bloodstream overall.

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What Happens During an Alcohol Test

Alcohol testing is performed for a variety or reasons. There are two types of alcohol tests you may be asked to take, such as in a police investigation or as part of an alcohol treatment program. There are also different types of tests for different parts of your body, and each one has multiple uses. For example, if you’re being tested in a medical setting for intoxication, doctors are more likely to take a blood sample. In a legal setting, such as after an accident or a suspected DUI, you’re likely to be given a breath test.

Alcohol can be detected in urine, blood, saliva, sweat, breath, and even your hair follicles.

Regardless of what part of the body the test is for, though, most alcohol tests are looking for one of two chemicals: ethanol or EtG.

The Ethanol Test

While 92-98% of alcohol is metabolized in the liver, the remaining 2-8% leave the body through urine, sweat, and breath. Ethanol is beverage alcohol that can be detected in urine up to one or two hours after the alcohol has left the body.

Ethanol Urine Tests

When it comes to ethanol urine tests, there’s going to be a bit of a lag as the body filters the alcohol from the blood into the bladder. It can take up to 2 hours for alcohol to show up in your urine.

But once it’s there, a single ounce of pure alcohol is detectable for about 1.5 hours. If you reach a higher BAC, the alcohol will be detectable for longer, up to roughly 12 hours.

How Ethanol Tests Are Used

Ethanol urine tests are not the most accurate, partly because the alcohol concentration in urine tends to lag behind the actual concentration of alcohol in the blood. Also, ethanol is also created naturally in the body by bacteria.

If you have diabetes or a yeast infection, your body can naturally create enough ethanol to trigger a false positive. This is especially true if the urine sample is left out at room temperature, where the microorganisms can continue to ferment glucose and create more alcohol.

To combat inaccurate readings, you might be asked to give a second urine sample a half hour after the first one. This serves as a comparison to give a better picture of how long the alcohol has been in the bladder.

With each drink, you give away your humanity and freedom to a lie that will take from you until you have nothing left to give. Has this happened to you? If you’re reading this, you already know that alcohol is not the way. You don’t need temporary relief. You need complete healing. That’s what we do here at The Recovery Village. Call 352.771.2700 now. You don’t have to be afraid, ashamed or alone anymore.

EtG Tests

EtG is shorthand for ethyl glucuronide, a substance that’s created when the liver metabolizes alcohol. It’s generally used for situations where the timing of the drink doesn’t matter, such as when the individual is required to be completely abstinent. This is because EtG hangs around in the body far longer than ethanol itself.

The EtG test has been called the “80 hour test,” but in reality, it can register a positive up to five days later, depending on how much alcohol the person drank. There’s no hard and fast rule, but here’s a snapshot of real-world test results:

  • One beer was detectable 16 hours later
  • Six shots of vodka taken in 3 hours was detectable 54 hours later

How EtG Tests Are Used

EtG tests are considered the gold standard of alcohol tests because they are much more accurate than other tests. However, they are not helpful for situations where the timing of the alcohol is important. For example, in a suspected DUI, an EtG test may register a positive even though the person drank alcohol the day before and isn’t actually intoxicated anymore.

Did You Fail an Alcohol Test?

If you find yourself failing an alcohol test for a new job or a legal situation, there might be a bigger problem at hand. An alcohol dependence can start with a few bad days and become a long, life-consuming habit.

High functioning alcoholics may try to hide drinking habits, and may struggle to pass an alcohol test. Both may point to a larger problem. Don’t wait to reach out for support. Learn more about our alcohol detox programs and drug rehab treatment.

Understanding How Alcohol Affects the Body

When alcohol is consumed, it has the potential to affect the brain, heart, liver and many other parts of the body. This fact often prompts the “How long does alcohol stay in your system?” and “How long does alcohol stay in your blood?” questions. The answers to these questions depend on the form of alcohol testing, the type of alcohol consumed, and the rate of metabolism. Typically, it can stay in the urine for up to 80 hours, in hair follicles for up to three months, and in the blood for up to 24 hours.

“How Alcohol Is Metabolized in the Human Body.” HAMS. The HAMS Harm Reduction Network, Inc. Web. 2 Feb 2016 <>.

“Urine alcohol testing.” DrugCheck. Express Diagnostics Int’l. Web. 2 Feb 2016 <>.

“Effects of Blood Alcohol Concentration.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 17 Aug 2015. Web. 2 Feb 2016 <>.

“Health Consequences of Excess Drinking.” Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. Web. 2 Feb 2016. <>.

“Alcohol Poisoning.” Drinkaware, Sep 2015. Web. 3 Feb 2016. <>.

Hanson, David J., PhD. “How Long Can Urine Alcohol Tests Detect Drinking?” Alcohol Problems and Solutions. D. J. Hanson. Web. 3 Feb 2016 <>.

“Blood Alcohol Percentage Charts.” TABC. Texas Alcohol Beverage Commission, 23 Dec 2010. Web. 3 Feb 2016 <>.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide 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.