If you consume alcohol, you have probably wondered how long it stays in your system. Alcohol is mostly broken down in the liver, which metabolizes roughly one drink per hour for men. However, factors such as age, weight, gender, and how much food you have eaten play a role in how long alcohol stays in your system.
Many people think that there are ways to clear alcohol out of their systems faster. However, it is important to note that drinking coffee, sleeping, or drinking water does not cause alcohol to metabolize quicker.
Knowing how long alcohol stays in your system can help you in many ways. First, it can give you an idea of when it is safe to drive. It can also help you avoid drinking too much at once.
How is Alcohol Metabolized in the Body?
While alcohol is mostly metabolized by the liver, other parts of the body play a role in clearing your system of the substance.
When you have a drink, the first stop alcohol makes is in your stomach. Some people have enzymes in their stomach that prevent some of the alcohol from going into their bloodstream, but not everyone has these enzymes. When you don’t have enough of these enzymes, the alcohol will go directly into the small intestine where it enters your bloodstream and brain, causing you to feel the effects of alcohol.
After alcohol passes through your stomach, intestines, and bloodstream, it will enter the liver. This is where alcohol is metabolized. The liver will remove 90% of alcohol from your blood and discard it. The rest of the alcohol leaves your system through your kidneys, lungs, and skin.
How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System?
How long alcohol stays in your system depends on the amount of alcohol you drink. For example, two glasses of straight liquor will take longer to metabolize than two glasses of wine, as there is more alcohol in liquor.
To understand how long alcohol stays in your system, you must first understand how much alcohol a standard drink has. One standard drink is about 14 grams of ethanol (alcohol). This amount of alcohol can be found in:
- 12 ounces of beer that contains 5% alcohol
- 5 ounces of wine that contains 12% alcohol
- 1.5 ounces of distilled liquor (80 proof) that contains 40% alcohol (about one shot of liquor)
After you begin drinking, it takes between 60 to 90 minutes for alcohol to enter the bloodstream and take full effect. Then, the body will begin to break it down.
The half-life of a substance is how long your body takes to get rid of half of it. For alcohol, the half-life is about four to five hours. However, it takes 5 half-lives to completely rid alcohol from your system. This means that it takes about 25 hours for alcohol to leave your body.
Factors That Affect the Metabolism Timeline
Everyone knows that some people have a faster metabolism than others. This is usually discussed when it comes to eating food. However, the same goes for metabolizing alcohol.
In other words, there is no set time frame for how long it takes your body to rid itself of alcohol. The factors that affect your metabolism include:
- Medications – Certain medications interact with alcohol, causing it to be metabolized at a different rate than usual. You should always check with your doctor to see if your medications interact negatively with alcohol before drinking.
- Gender – Studies have shown that women take a longer time to metabolize alcohol than men.
- Age – As you age, the speed of your metabolism slows down. This means that the older you are, the longer it will take for alcohol to leave your system.
- Weight – The less you weigh, the less water you have in your body. When alcohol is being metabolized, it enters the water in your blood. If you have less water in your body, your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) will be higher than someone who weighs more.
- Health conditions – If you struggle with kidney, liver, or stomach conditions, your body will have a harder time metabolizing alcohol.
How Long Can Tests Detect Alcohol in Your System?
If you are wondering how long you have to wait after drinking alcohol to pass a drug test, there are no clear-cut answers. Sensitive or higher quality tests can pick up smaller amounts of alcohol than cheap tests. Additionally, everyone metabolizes alcohol at their own rate, making it impossible to pinpoint exactly how long you will fail an alcohol drug test.
In general, there is a maximum amount of time that tests can detect alcohol after you drink it. These include:
- Blood- 12 hours
- Breath- 24 hours
- Saliva- 48 hours
- Urine- five days
- Hair- 90 days
While drinking water and eating food can change how your body metabolizes alcohol, it cannot change how fast the substance is cleared from your system. In other words, if you are trying to pass a drug test by eating food and drinking a lot of water you are wasting your time. Alcohol leaves the system after about 25 hours, but the metabolites it leaves behind will last in your system for the amount of time mentioned above.
Find Help for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Today
If you or a loved one suffer from alcohol abuse, it’s time to receive help. Drinking large amounts of alcohol can quickly lead to the development of alcoholism, also known as alcohol use disorder. This condition can cause an array of health complications, including liver damage and physical dependence.
To avoid the consequences of long-term alcohol abuse, consider attending a professional alcohol treatment program. Contact New Jersey Interventions today to get connected with a top-rated alcoholism rehab near you.
Medically Reviewed: August 10, 2022
All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.