While modern science has given us insight into how the body processes alcohol, there is no exact formula or single answer for how long it takes to go through our system. Every person is different, and a number of additional factors come into play, such as age, sex, weight, and the amount of food a person consumes before or while drinking.
That said, we can make estimates based on factors like how long it takes for alcohol to make you feel drunk, and how long it takes the body to metabolize alcohol. Learning more about how long alcohol actually stays in your system can help you better understand your relationship with alcohol, and motivate you to make a change.
How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System?
The simple answer is that alcohol can stay in your system for anywhere from 6-72 hours. It’s worth noting that those numbers aren’t indicative of how long you will continue to feel the effects of alcohol, but rather how long it will take your body to process it. The amount of alcohol in your system at any given time also varies by how you’re measuring it. Here’s a breakdown of what specific tests are able to detect alcohol in your system:
- Blood test: The average person’s liver can process one standard drink per hour. So if you consume three glasses of wine, you can expect alcohol to be detectable in your blood for at least three hours after you finish the last glass. However, most alcohol detection tests can measure alcohol in the blood for up to 6 hours, regardless of how much or how little a person has had to drink. Other more sensitive blood tests report they can measure alcohol for up to 12 hours after consumption.
- Urine test: This is a perfect example of how varying test methods can provide varying results. Ordinarily, a urine test can detect alcohol anywhere from 12-24 hours after a person finishes drinking, though newer, more advanced methods can detect alcohol in the body for up to 80 hours after drinking.
- Saliva test: While not a very common method of alcohol detection, saliva tests can detect alcohol in the system anywhere from 12-24 hours after drinking.
- Hair test: Alcohol remains detectable through hair testing for the most prolonged period by far. A standard hair test can detect alcohol up to three months (or 90 days) after a person consumes alcohol.
How Long Does Alcohol Make You Feel Drunk?
The average, healthy person will begin to feel the effects of one standard drink within 15 to 45 minutes. Individuals with alcohol use disorder may experience a higher tolerance, and notice needing greater amounts of alcohol to feel drunk. When you start cutting back on alcohol, your tolerance also lowers. Online alcohol treatment can help you get there.
Several other factors determine how quickly alcohol will affect you:
1. Weight: The less you weigh, the more a standard drink will influence your alcohol blood content (otherwise known as ‘BAC’).
2. Sex: Men typically have more water in their body, so their systems are able to dilute alcohol more efficiently. Most men also have more alcohol dehydrogenase in their body, which is an enzyme that allows them to process alcohol quicker than the average woman. Therefore, the effects of drinking can be shorter-lived.
3. Age: As you grow older, you lose lean muscle mass, resulting in a higher concentration of alcohol in the bloodstream. And after age 65, your circulation begins to slow, resulting in less blood passing through the liver. This results in more pronounced effects from alcohol, even if the amount of alcohol remains unchanged.
4. Food: Having food in your stomach can help slow the effects of alcohol. Food very effectively absorbs alcohol and, in turn, stops it from coming into contact with the lining of the stomach. This, in turn, slows the absorption rate in the small intestine, where alcohol gets funneled into the bloodstream. The more food a person has in their stomach, the slower they will feel the effects of alcohol.
Learning more about exactly how alcohol makes you drunk can also help you better understand how long it takes for alcohol to make you feel drunk.
Just beginning your sobriety or moderation journey? This group is for you. Join a supportive discussion about the challenges you may encounter in the earlier days, including physical, emotional, and social changes. This group will include peer sharing, and a Q&A portion. Check out the Schedule
Free Support Group: Beginning a sobriety or moderation journey
Just beginning your sobriety or moderation journey? This group is for you. Join a supportive discussion about the challenges you may encounter in the earlier days, including physical, emotional, and social changes. This group will include peer sharing, and a Q&A portion.
Check out the Schedule
How Does the Body Process Alcohol?
When we drink alcohol, it first travels through our digestive system – but that’s not where it gets processed. Unlike food, alcohol enters the upper gastrointestinal tract and begins to be absorbed straight into the bloodstream. Since blood rapidly circulates throughout the entire body, you may begin to feel the effects of alcohol throughout your entire body right away. This is why a single drink can start to make you feel drunk within minutes, while a three-course meal will only make you feel full after you’ve finished your dessert and paid for the bill.
Given enough time, the body can metabolize 90-98% of the alcohol that comes into its system. Whatever alcohol doesn’t get metabolized then gets removed through urine, feces, vomit, or sweat.
That said, when alcohol is consumed at a rate faster than the body can process it (about one drink per hour), damage occurs to the brain and other tissues. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines binge drinking as 5 or more drinks for males and 4 or more drinks for females in about 2 hours. Pacing out your drinks so that you are not binge drinking can help give the body enough time to metabolize alcohol without causing as much harm.
In general, moderate to zero alcohol consumption is the best way to prevent health consequences from alcohol use. The CDC defines moderate drinking as no more than 2 drinks a day for men or 1 drink a day for women.
Factors That Affect How Long Alcohol Stays in Your System
In the same way that weight, sex, food consumption, and age determine how quickly and how much alcohol affects you, these factors also influence the amount of time that alcohol will stay in your system. While there are many “remedies” on the market for speeding up the process of getting alcohol out of your system, most have little to no effect.
We’ve all heard the advice to drink coffee to help sober up, but the truth is that coffee does nothing to expel alcohol from the system, and neither does drinking more water or eating a big meal. Once alcohol has entered your system, the only thing you can do is let time do its work.
Of course, since alcohol causes dehydration and low blood sugar, drinking plenty of water and eating food during and after drinking is essential to help offset the negative effects of alcohol and hangovers.
If you have concerns about how alcohol is affecting your well being, it may be time to seek professional guidance to reduce or even eliminate your alcohol consumption. At Monument, you can speak with a specialized physician about how your body is processing alcohol, and learn about your treatment options, like medication to stop drinking. You can also join free therapist-moderated alcohol support groups and explore one-on-one therapy to learn effective tools for cutting back. It’s never too early or too late to start changing your relationship with alcohol and improving your overall health and happiness.
- American Addiction Centers. “How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System?” https://americanaddictioncenters.org/alcoholism-treatment/how-long-in-system. Accessed Aug 7, 2022
- Healthline. “How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your Body?” https://www.healthline.com/health/how-long-does-alcohol-stay-in-your-system
- UAMSHealth. “Can Drinking a Lot of Hot, Black Coffee Help You Sober Up After Drinking a Lot of Alcohol?” https://uamshealth.com/medical-myths/can-drinking-a-lot-of-hot-black-coffee-help-you-sober-up-after-drinking-a-lot-of-alcohol/
- The Recovery Village. “How Long Does Alcohol Stay In Your System?” https://www.therecoveryvillage.com/alcohol-abuse/how-long-does-alcohol-stay-in-your-system/
- Alcohol Rehab Guide. “How Long Does Alcohol Stay In Your System?” https://www.alcoholrehabguide.org/alcohol/how-long-alcohol-stay-system/#:~:text=Blood%3A%20Alcohol%20is%20eliminated%20from,hours%20via%20the%20traditional%20method.
- Bradford Health Services. “Alcohol 101: Ten Facts You Didn’t Know.” https://bradfordhealth.com/alcohol-101-learning-new-facts-remembering-what-you-forgot/
- Cleveland Clinic. “Are Your Drinks Getting Stronger, or Are You Just Getting Older?” https://health.clevelandclinic.org/why-youll-feel-alcohols-effects-more-after-age-65/
Disclaimer: Our articles and resources do not constitute clinical or licensed therapy or other health care services. If you need counseling or therapy services please contact a licensed provider. If this is a medical emergency, call 911.
About the Author
Rob Mancini is a freelance content writer and copywriter. His passions include health and wellness, personal development, nature, meditation, sustainability, food, travel, and sleeping in his Birkenstocks. Connect with him on Linkedin at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/robmancinicopy/
More From Monument
By Jenn Payne
Expert InsightsHow Does Alcohol Affect Your Appearance and Skin?
By Tiffany Hopkins
By Connor O’Reilly
Will alcohol be out of my system in 7 days? ›
On average, a urine test could detect alcohol between 12 to 48 hours after drinking. Some advanced urine tests can detect alcohol even 80 hours after you've had a drink. Alcohol can stay in your hair for a period of up to 90 days. However, hair tests cannot determine a person's blood alcohol content.How long does it take for alcohol to leave your system to drive? ›
Even though you may have stopped drinking the night before, alcohol can remain in your blood for 6 hours and on your breath for up to 24 hours. You might feel okay to drive, but if the police pulled you over then you could be prosecuted for drink driving.Will I fail a drug test if I drank the night before? ›
Since alcohol can stay in your body anywhere from several hours to a few days, the best way to guarantee you'll pass a drug test is to not use alcohol for about 2 or 3 days before taking a test. Especially if the type of test your taking looks for intake of both drugs and alcohol, it's better to stay safe than sorry.How do you remove alcohol from your body? ›
- Coffee. ...
- Cold showers. ...
- Eating and drinking. ...
- Sleep. ...
- Exercise. ...
- Carbon or charcoal capsules.
Your body would have started to metabolize the alcohol at dinner, but it would be 12 hours later by the time all of the alcohol leaves your system. Even if you've metabolized a large portion of the alcohol by 8 am, you could still be register over .Is it OK to drive 12 hours after drinking? ›
The advice from the police is clear: avoid alcohol altogether if you plan to drive. Because there is no way to speed up how long your body takes to process any alcohol in your system, there's no fail-safe way to guarantee all the alcohol you have drunk will be gone by the time you wake up the next day.Will I pass a breathalyzer after 10 hours? ›
Generally, a breathalyzer test can test positive for alcohol for up to 12 hours after consuming one alcoholic drink. The average urine test can also detect alcohol 12-48 hours later. If your BAC is 0.08, it will take approximately 5 hours to metabolize the alcohol completely before you can become “sober” again.How much alcohol will fail a drug test? ›
You fail a drug or alcohol test by testing positive to a drug test, or registering a 0.04 or greater alcohol content.Will 2 beers show up on a drug test? ›
Light drinking (defined as approximately 2 standard drinks), will likely be detected the following morning after consumption and possibly 24 hours after drinking. Moderate drinking (defined as approximately 4-5 standard drinks) may be detected up to 48 hours after drinking.Will a sip of alcohol show up in a urine test? ›
Even after drinking a small amount of alcohol, there is enough EtG or EtS to be detected in a urine sample.
How long does it take for your liver to detox? ›
Most expert guidelines suggest avoiding drinking alcohol for 30 days to help your liver restore to its normal function. After, it's imperative to follow moderate drinking guidelines or, even more helpful, to continue abstaining from alcohol use.Does drinking water with alcohol help liver? ›
If you are drinking alcohol, ensure you drink plenty of water too—just alternate drinks. This will allow your liver to better process the alcohol and reduce damage.How Long Will 2 beers show up on a breathalyzer? ›
Because alcohol metabolism is different for everyone, there is no single answer as to how long a breathalyzer can detect alcohol in a person's system, but in general, a breathalyzer can first detect alcohol in a person's system about 15 minutes after it has been consumed and up to 24 hours later.Is it OK to go to sleep drunk? ›
The person can simply stop breathing.
Your blood alcohol level can still rise whilst you're asleep and lead to alcohol poisoning. That's the big deal… putting a drunk person to sleep doesn't automatically remove the undigested alcohol from their system. They're body still needs to process it and break it down.
Drinking water cannot sober you up, but it can prevent you from drinking too much too fast. Since you metabolize alcohol over a set amount of time, drinking water between drinks allows your liver time to process the alcohol.Can I wake up still drunk? ›
Can you still be drunk after 24 hours? While in some extreme cases a hangover can last for up to two days, you will not remain drunk after 24 hours. However, you may feel drunk the morning or afternoon after a heavy night of drinking in that you may be less focused, more irritable, and less coordinated than normal.How do you tell if you're sober enough to drive? ›
- Slurred Speech. Slurred speech is one of the classic signs that you're drunk. ...
- Trouble with Balance. ...
- Slowed Reaction Time. ...
- Unusual Speech. ...
- Trouble with Recall. ...
- Failed Field Sobriety Test. ...
- Try Phone Apps.
Driving with a hangover could land you with a hefty fine or six months in prison. MOTORISTS know drink-driving is illegal - but you might not realise that getting behind the wheel the day after a big night out could also get you in trouble.How long after a night out can I drive? ›
David Frost, from the Morning After campaign, said: “As an example, using the 'one hour per unit' equation, if you drink three large (250ml) glasses of wine (15% alcohol) you should avoid driving for around 13 hours after you stop.How much alcohol is on a breath test? ›
Evidential Alcohol Breath Test Results
Although the legal limit is 35 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath, suspects with breath test readings between 36 & below 40 should be released with caution or without charge.
How do you dilute alcohol in your system? ›
Eating a meal and having food in the stomach prior to drinking can have a powerful influence on the absorption rate of alcohol. Food helps dilute the alcohol and slow the emptying of the stomach into the small intestine, where alcohol is rapidly absorbed.Does peanut butter help you pass a breathalyzer? ›
In short, using peanut butter to beat breathalyzer tests isn't an effective solution, and here's why: high levels of sodium found in peanuts and other legume by-products will neutralize ethanol (or alcohol) — but not by much.Will a routine blood test show alcohol? ›
A standard, routine blood test does not detect ethanol (drinking alcohol). However, alcohol testing, as well as 5-panel and 10-panel drug tests, is very common for blood sample testing.How long does 3 glasses of wine stay in your system? ›
A large glass of wine takes about 3 hours to completely metabolize, whereas some drinks can take as long as 6. Another thing to consider is how long alcohol use (wine or otherwise) can be detected. Consumption can be noticeable for up to 12-24 in breath/saliva or urine, and up to 90 days in hair particles.How long does 2 bottles of wine stay in your system? ›
For a person with alcoholism who may consume closer to 10 glasses of wine (about two bottles) in a day or binge, it could take up to 15 hours or more for the body to fully metabolize and eliminate the alcohol consumed from the bloodstream.How Long Will 2 beers show up on a Breathalyzer? ›
Because alcohol metabolism is different for everyone, there is no single answer as to how long a breathalyzer can detect alcohol in a person's system, but in general, a breathalyzer can first detect alcohol in a person's system about 15 minutes after it has been consumed and up to 24 hours later.Can a doctor tell if you have been drinking? ›
Medical professionals are able to detect, however, if you are making up this information as there may be certain indicators that appear. For example, elevated enzyme levels or high blood pressure might give them a clue into excessive drinking habits.Does drinking alcohol the night before affect a blood test? ›
In general, alcohol the night before should not affect your blood test results, Dr. Krajcik says. If you begin fasting 12 hours before the test (including alcohol), it will most likely be metabolized, as long as you keep it to a drink or two. However, if the panel is specific to your liver enzymes, they may be altered.What blood test shows too much alcohol? ›
A blood alcohol concentration (BAC) test is commonly used to see if a person has been drinking recently. It is also called a blood alcohol content test. This test can find alcohol in your blood for up to 12 hours after drinking. It can also show the amount of alcohol that you drank.Can you flush out alcohol with water? ›
Does Drinking Water or Coffee Help You Sober Up? The breakdown and elimination of alcohol cannot be sped up by drinking water or sleeping, and neither coffee nor a shower will sober you up faster. They might make you more alert, but they will not eliminate alcohol from your blood.
Will a sip of alcohol show up in a urine test? ›
Even after drinking a small amount of alcohol, there is enough EtG or EtS to be detected in a urine sample.What is heavy drinking for a woman? ›
Heavy drinking: For women, heavy drinking is 8 drinks or more per week. For men, heavy drinking is 15 drinks or more per week.Can I still be drunk after 12 hours? ›
Your body would have started to metabolize the alcohol at dinner, but it would be 12 hours later by the time all of the alcohol leaves your system. Even if you've metabolized a large portion of the alcohol by 8 am, you could still be register over .When can I drive after drinking a bottle of wine? ›
As a general rule, the average adult takes about an hour to process one unit of alcohol. There is nothing that can be done to speed this up. The alcohol from one bottle of wine would take 11 hours from when someone has stopped drinking to leave the bloodstream before it is safe to drive.How many hours after drinking can I pass a breathalyzer? ›
After your last drink, alcohol stays in your system: In Your Blood: Up to 6 hours. On Your Breath: 12-24 Hours. In Your Urine: 12-24 Hours.Can I pass a breathalyzer after 6 hours? ›
Generally, a breathalyzer test can test positive for alcohol for up to 12 hours after consuming one alcoholic drink. The average urine test can also detect alcohol 12-48 hours later. If your BAC is 0.08, it will take approximately 5 hours to metabolize the alcohol completely before you can become “sober” again.How do you dilute alcohol in your system? ›
Eating a meal and having food in the stomach prior to drinking can have a powerful influence on the absorption rate of alcohol. Food helps dilute the alcohol and slow the emptying of the stomach into the small intestine, where alcohol is rapidly absorbed.