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Alcohol & Health
Helping Alcoholics
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Updated on September 14, 2023
8 min read

How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System?

Mara Sugue
Elena Borrelli M.S.PAC
Written by 
6 Sources Cited
Mara Sugue
Written by 
6 Sources Cited

Alcohol leaves the body gradually. For most people, it takes about an hour for their body to eliminate one drink. People who consume higher quantities of alcohol tend to eliminate alcohol faster.

How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System?

The average drug testing or alcohol test shows alcohol's presence approximately two to 24 hours after consuming a drink. But different urine tests and other types of tests have additional detection capabilities. For example:


Alcohol stays in the urine for 12 to 72 hours, depending on how recently and how much you drank.


Alcohol stays in your saliva for two to 48 hours.


Alcohol stays in your blood for up to 12 hours.


Alcohol stays in your hair for up to 90 days.


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How Do You Measure Alcohol in the Body?

Alcohol levels in the body are measured by blood alcohol content (BAC). BAC measures the amount of alcohol in grams per 100 mL of blood.

Your BAC can range anywhere between 0% to 0.4%. A 0% BAC means that there is no alcohol inside the body. The higher the BAC, the greater the alcohol in a person’s blood.

The approximate blood alcohol content (BAC) of an average person of 150-pounds who consumes a standard drink will be between 0.02 and 0.03.

A standard drink is around 14 grams of alcohol. For reference, here’s what one standard drink looks like:

  • 12 ounces of regular beer
  • 8 to 10 ounces of malt liquor
  • 5 ounces of table wine
  • 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits

Factors That Affect How Long Alcohol Stays in Your System

Many factors play a role in how the body processes alcohol. The following factors affect how long alcohol will stay in your system.

Biological Gender

Women tend to have higher BAC than men since they have less alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH). ADH is an enzyme that breaks down alcohol in the liver and the stomach. Men typically need to consume twice as much alcohol to reach the same level of intoxication as women.

Body Composition

People with smaller frames are more likely to have higher BAC. This is because there will be more alcohol per unit volume in their bodies.

If two people have the same weight and gender, the person with a lower body fat percentage will have a lower BAC than the one with a higher body fat percentage.

Type of Alcohol Consumed

Consuming alcohol with a higher alcohol content will result in a higher BAC. For example, wine typically has 12% alcohol by volume, while beer contains 4%. It will take longer for wine to leave your body than beer, even if you consumed the same amount. 


The older we are, the slower it takes for alcohol to metabolize. Our muscle mass is also replaced by fatty tissue as we age. As a result, alcohol stays longer in the bodies of older people.


Eating before drinking affects how quickly you’ll get drunk and whether you will feel sick after drinking. However, if you continue to consume alcohol, the food you ate beforehand eventually becomes a moot point.


Certain medications can affect how your body metabolizes alcohol. Medications like antidepressants and antibiotics can slow down the breakdown of alcohol in the body.


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How Long Do Alcohol's Effects Last?

On average, the body purges alcohol at a rate of about 0.015 grams of alcohol per deciliter of blood each hour. 

To get a better idea of how fast your body eliminates alcohol based on this rate, it takes about five and a half hours to metabolize the alcohol in your system if your BAC is 0.08. People who begin with blood alcohol levels of 0.20 will take between 12 and 14 hours to process the alcohol in their system.

Assuming you weigh approximately 160-pounds, the following estimates help you determine how long it will take to sober up and for the effects of alcohol to wear off after drinking:

  • 0.04 (2 drinks) 2.5 hours
  • 0.08 (4 drinks) 5 hours (legally considered drunk driving because of how it affects reaction time behind the wheel)
  • 0.10 (5 drinks) 6.25 hours
  • 0.16 (8 drinks) 10 hours
  • 0.20 (10 drinks) 12.5 hours

Alcohol poisoning (intoxication) occurs at a rate of 0.25 or more.

Most heavy drinkers or those who engage in binge drinking, such as those with alcohol use disorder (AUD), tend to process alcohol faster than moderate, occasional, and first-time drinkers. 

Heavy drinking and alcohol addiction tend to change alcohol metabolism and give the appearance that a heavy drinker has a higher tolerance for handling alcohol.

How to Tell When Alcohol is Out of the Body

In most cases, a chemical test is the only way to prove that alcohol is no longer in a person’s system. Alcohol metabolites in blood, urine, saliva, sweat, hair, and breath remain in the body for up to 80 hours after your last drink, depending on how much was consumed and the test administered. 


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How Long One Standard Drink Shows Up on an EtG Test

An EtG test measures the amount of Ethyl Glucuronide (EtG) in your system. EtG is a metabolite formed within a few minutes after drinking alcohol. It begins forming as soon as you start drinking.

EtG tests can detect recent alcohol consumption, even if there is no measurable ethanol in your system. If there is EtG in your urine, there’s a good chance you consumed alcohol directly or indirectly in the last few days. 

Even small amounts of alcohol can be detected in an EtG test.

It usually takes about two hours for EtG to show up in urine. It remains present for up to 80 hours. EtG can also be detected in a person’s hair or nails.

EtG tests are more sensitive than other alcohol tests. Some of the advantages of this type of test include detecting:

  • Recent alcohol consumption
  • Alcohol consumption for a more extended period than other tests, including a breathalyzer or standard urine test
  • Small amounts of alcohol and enforcing zero-tolerance restrictions

Additionally, EtG tests effectively monitor patients in treatment programs because they detect a risk of relapse. These tests serve as a warning system because they are sensitive to small amounts of alcohol for up to three to five days after consumption. 

EtG can also be used with other tests to get the most comprehensive results. 

There are some limitations to EtG tests. They can produce a positive test from mere exposure to alcohol in many daily use products.

How Does the Body Process Alcohol?

When you swallow alcohol, it takes several steps before reaching your bloodstream.

The stomach absorbs around 20% alcohol, while the small intestines absorb the remaining 80%.

Afterward, it travels through the bloodstream and affects your bodily functions. The liver is where most of the alcohol metabolism takes place. On average, your liver can metabolize one standard drink per hour.

If you drink more than one standard drink per hour, the remaining alcohol will accumulate in your system. As a result, your BAC will increase as you consume more drinks.

The liver can metabolize around 90% of all the alcohol you consume. The remaining alcohol is removed from the body through sweat, urine, and respiration. And until the body completely breaks down alcohol, it’s detectable in sweat, urine, and breath.

Common Questions and Answers

Can you pass an alcohol urine test in 48 hours?

It depends on how much alcohol you consumed and how fast your body eliminates alcohol, which varies from person to person.

You have a good shot at passing the test, but there are no guarantees. If you are concerned about passing a test, your best bet is to detox and stop drinking at least 80 hours before the test.

How do you flush alcohol out of your system?

Your body processes alcohol at its own rate, and there isn’t much you can do to speed up how long alcohol stays in your system.

For some people, exercising and drinking lots of water seems to hasten the process. However, there isn’t consistent scientific evidence that anything works aside from drinking water.

If you are scheduled to take a test, and you have 24 hours or more, a sweat-inducing workout won’t hurt, but drinking plenty of water is the only thing that might help.

Does drinking water reduce EtG?

Yes. Studies have shown that drinking water drastically reduces EtG concentration in urine. Drinking water is the only thing that can help you “sober up” after drinking. Alcohol dehydrates the body, and water hydrates the body.

Eating after you’ve consumed alcohol, vomiting, sweating, drinking coffee, or showering are only myths and do nothing to eliminate alcohol from your system. These things might help you feel better but will not affect alcohol test results. They only create an illusion of sobriety.

Are there ways to sober up fast from alcohol?

Not really. Aside from consuming a lot of water, there is very little you can do to modify the amount of alcohol in your system. Stopping drinking and allowing time to pass is the only true way to sober up.

Alcohol Addiction Treatment Options/Resources

Several treatment options are available for anyone who has tried to stop drinking and failed or believes they drink too much. For example:

  • Inpatient treatment center
  • Outpatient treatment program
  • Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
  • Medication-Assisted Therapy

In addition to addiction treatment and support, programs offer assistance with detox, alcohol withdrawal, behavioral health, mental health, and other substance abuse aspects. 

Updated on September 14, 2023
6 sources cited
Updated on September 14, 2023
All Alcoholrehabhelp content is medically reviewed or fact checked to ensure as much factual accuracy as possible.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only link to reputable media sites, academic research institutions and, whenever possible, medically peer reviewed studies.
  1. “Understanding Blood Alcohol Content (BAC):” College of Saint Benedict & Saint John’s University.
  2. Wojcik, M. H., and J. S. Hawthorne. “Sensitivity of Commercial Ethyl Glucuronide (ETG) Testing in Screening for Alcohol Abstinence.” Alcohol and Alcoholism, 2007.
  3. Danel, Thierry, et al. “The Effect of Alcohol Consumption on the Circadian Control of Human Core Body Temperature Is Time Dependent.” American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory, 2001.
  4. Paton, Alex. “Alcohol's Effects on the Body.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2005.
  5. Zakhari, Samir. “Overview: how is alcohol metabolized by the body?.” Alcohol research & health: the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism journal, 2006.
  6. Nieschalk, M., Ortmann, C., West, A., et al. “Effects of alcohol on body-sway patterns in human subjects.” Int J Leg Med, 1999.
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All content created by Alcohol Rehab Help is sourced from current scientific research and fact-checked by an addiction counseling expert. However, the information provided by Alcohol Rehab Help is not a substitute for professional treatment advice.
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