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How Long Does It Take Alcohol To Leave Your System

Alcohol is a depressant that doesn’t stay in the human body for too long. Once ingested, the body will start breaking it down at a rate of 1 standard drink/hour (12 ounces of beer or 1.5 ounces of whisky or 5 ounces of wine). 

And although alcohol is processed at a constant rate for all people, factors like age, gender, food consumed, type of alcohol consumed, overall health, and body composition tend to influence how long an individual remains intoxicated. 

Read on as we take a closer look at factors that affect metabolism and how long it takes for alcohol to leave your body. 

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How Is Alcohol Metabolized In The Human Body?

Although alcohol enters the digestive system after consumption, it isn’t digested like other drinks and food. Roughly 20% of ingested alcohol is absorbed directly by the blood vessels, where it is ferried to the brain.

The other 80% is absorbed directly into the bloodstream through the stomach (tissue linings) and small intestines. All alcohol in the bloodstream is then carried to the brain.

The absorption of alcohol is usually slowed down if you have food in the stomach as it slows the transit of alcohol from the stomach to the small intestine, where it usually gets rapidly absorbed.

The last step of alcohol’s life cycle in your body is its removal through the liver. Please note that any issues with the liver can effectively slow down the removal of alcohol from your body.  

What Is Blood Alcohol Concentration?

Blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is the measure of how much alcohol is in an individual’s bloodstream. It is usually expressed as a percentage of ethanol present in the blood. 

On average, 1 ounce of alcohol produces a .015% blood-alcohol concentration. The more alcohol you consume, the longer it stays in your body.

The negative effects of alcohol tend to increase after your blood-alcohol levels hit the .05% mark. Once you hit that mark, the feelings of happiness, relaxation, and calm turn into irritability, disorientation, and depression.

Should you continue drinking and hit the .07% blood alcohol level (and above), your balance deteriorates, and your motor skills become impaired. You might also vomit if the alcohol in your bloodstream is too much for your body to metabolize. 

How Long Does Alcohol Stay In Your System?

Although the body processes alcohol at a pretty fast rate, it will require some hours to fully metabolize and remove alcohol from the system. Of course, the amount of alcohol consumed is crucial to determining how long alcohol stays in your system.

Since a standard drink will be metabolized within an hour, it might take your body more hours to completely metabolize several drinks.  

However, when it comes to alcohol detection, the kind of test undertaken will play a huge role in determining whether or not alcohol will be found in your system.  

Breath: Breath tests can detect alcohol for about 24 hours after the last consumption. If you ingest low quantities of alcohol, your BAC should be low when measured by a breathalyzer.  

Blood: The amount of alcohol consumed determines blood alcohol concentrations and how long it takes to be eliminated from the blood. A normal blood test, however, will detect alcohol around 6-12 hours after the last drink. 

Urine: Urine tests can detect alcohol for approximately 10-12 hours (traditional method). However, advanced methods like the ethyl glucuronide (EtG) test can detect alcohol in urine even 3-5 days after the last consumption.

Hair: A hair follicle test can detect alcohol for up to 90 days after the last consumption. 

Factors Affecting The Rate Of Alcohol Processing In The Body

Although alcohol is processed by the human body at a uniform rate, some of us might experience its effects faster or longer depending on several factors, as discussed below.


As we grow older, our bodies’ capabilities tend to reduce, meaning they won’t be performing as they would when younger.

The overall amount of water in the body tends to reduce with age, which leads to a higher BAC, meaning alcohol will remain in the system for a lot longer than before. 

Moreover, the performance rate of the human liver also reduces with age—thereby resulting in a slow breakdown of alcohol.


Studies point out that compared to men, women have a lower amount of acetaldehyde dehydrogenase, an enzyme used to metabolize alcohol.

Additionally, women tend to have low percentages of body water and more body fat than men, which results in slow alcohol metabolism rates. And since men tend to have more body water, their systems are better placed to dilute and process alcohol than those of women.


There’s a reason why everyone’s urged to eat before indulging in alcohol. Food influences how the body processes alcohol by slowing down its absorption in the small intestine.

Eating snacks while drinking can also help reduce enzyme activity in your liver and effectively slow down the alcohol absorption rate in your body.


Most medications can alter the body’s metabolism when they interact with alcohol. This can affect the body’s ability to process alcohol and result in quick intoxication and higher BAC levels. 

Drugs like cough and cold medicines, ADHD medications, and anti-anxiety medications are known to increase BAC levels and lead to faster intoxication.

What Is Alcohol Poisoning?

Alcohol poisoning is an emergency condition that occurs after consuming a large amount of alcohol than your body can break down or process quickly enough. Excessive alcohol consumption in a single sitting can lead to potentially fatal outcomes if not immediately handled.

Some of the symptoms of alcohol poisoning include:

  • Passing out
  • Reduced breathing rate
  • Reduced blood temperature
  • Vomiting

Always seek emergency services if you suspect a loved one (or even a stranger) has alcohol poisoning. You should also turn the passed-out individual on their side to ensure they don’t choke from vomit. 

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Don't go through the process of recovery alone. There are people who can help you with the struggle you're facing. Get in touch with one today.

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How Can I Prevent The Harmful Effects of Alcohol 

The best way to prevent the harmful effects of alcohol is to avoid consuming alcoholic drinks altogether. While quitting alcohol and seeking addiction treatment from the best drug rehab centers can sound scary, doing so will improve your life for the better and improve your quality of life. 

With the right support from both loved ones and licensed professionals, anyone can break the chains of addiction and overcome alcoholism. 

Contact an addiction treatment center today to learn more about the available treatment methods and kickstart your journey to lifetime sobriety. 

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