Addiction Alcohol Use How Long Alcohol Stays in Your System By Buddy T | Reviewed by Richard N. Fogoros, MD Updated June 12, 2018 Share Flip Email Print Illustration by Joshua Seong. © Verywell, 2018. More in Addiction Alcohol Use Binge Drinking Withdrawal and Relapse Children of Alcoholics Drunk Driving Addictive Behaviors Drug Use Nicotine Use Coping and Recovery Knowing how long alcohol remains in your system is important for avoiding dangerous interactions with medications as well as impairments in your physical and mental performance. The metabolism of alcohol has been studied in detail, but there are many individual factors that determine how long it will be active in your body and how long it will take to be eliminated. Detection Times Determining exactly how long alcohol is detectable in the body depends on many variables, including which kind of drug test is being used. Alcohol can be detected for a shorter time with some tests but can be visible for up to three months in other tests. The following is an estimated range of times, or detection windows, during which alcohol can be detected by various testing methods: Breath: Alcohol can be detected in your breath via a breathalyzer test for up to 24 hours.Urine: Alcohol can be detected in urine for three to five days via ethyl gluconoride (EGT) metabolite or 10 to 12 hours via traditional method.Blood: Alcohol can show up in a blood test up to 12 hours.Saliva: A saliva test can be positive for alcohol from one to five days.Hair: Like many other drugs, alcohol can be detected with a hair follicle drug test for up to 90 days. The timetable for detecting alcohol in the system is also dependent upon each individual's metabolism, body mass, age, hydration level, physical activity, health conditions and other factors, making it almost impossible to determine an exact time alcohol will show up on a drug test. How Alcohol Is Absorbed The reason that alcohol levels build up in your system is that, for most people, it is absorbed into the system more rapidly than it is metabolized. For a person weighing 150 pounds, for example, one standard drink will increase their blood-alcohol concentration about 0.02 percent, but the body can only remove about 0.016 percent per hour. Therefore, even if you consume only one drink per hour, your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is going to continue to increase. If you drink more than one per hour, it rises much more rapidly. The rate at which alcohol is absorbed depends on a lot of variables such as your total body weight, the water content of your body, and how much food you have had to eat prior to drinking. Gender is a factor, too. Women tend to absorb alcohol at a much quicker rate than men. How Alcohol Is Removed From Your Body The body metabolizes alcohol by oxidizing the ethanol to acetaldehyde to acetic acid to carbon dioxide and water. About 5 percent of the alcohol you drink is excreted by the body through sweat, breath, urine, feces, and saliva. Most of the alcohol you consume, however, is metabolized in the liver, and the liver can process only so much alcohol per hour. The liver metabolizes alcohol at an average rate of 0.016 percent BAC per hour (less than one drink). The rate of metabolism is also affected by the size of your liver and how well it is functioning. In addition, there are genetic variations in the enzyme systems that that break down alcohol. You Can't Speed up the Process Regardless of how fast your body absorbs alcohol, it "burns off" at the rate of 0.016 BAC per hour. Nothing you do will speed up the process—drinking coffee, drinking water, taking a shower, or even vomiting. If you know that you are going to have to take a breath, blood, or urine test for the presence of alcohol in your system, the only way you can lower your blood-alcohol content results is to delay taking the test as long as possible after your last drink, because only time will reduce your BAC. The following table shows the length of time it takes for your body to eliminate alcohol at varying BAC levels: BAC Levels Hours Until 0 0.016 1 0.05 3.75 0.08 5 0.10 6.25 0.16 10 0.20 12.5 0.24 15 Time Needed for Alcohol to Clear Your System The above times reflect the metabolism rate of a healthy, functioning liver. If you are a heavy or long-time drinker, your liver may not be completely healthy or functional and could take longer to eliminate alcohol from your body. Other Factors Affecting the Metabolism of Alcohol The metabolism times above are estimated for the average person. There are other factors that can affect how quickly or slowly your body will eliminate alcohol from your system. Some of those factors include: Genetic sexEthnicityBody fat contentAgeHow much you had to eat before drinking or while drinkingFat content of the food you ateMedicationsHow fast you consumed the alcohol Binge Drinking and Blood Alcohol Testing To put it simply, if you engage in binge drinking—five or more drinks for men, four for women during a single drinking session—it can take many hours for the alcohol to completely clear from your system. It is possible for your system to still have enough alcohol in it the next morning that you could fail a urine or blood test for driving under the influence. You would definitely have a problem trying to pass a test that is designed to detect the presence of any alcohol. Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! Learn the best ways to manage stress and negativity in your life. Email Address Sign Up There was an error. Please try again. Thank you, , for signing up. What are your concerns? Other Inaccurate Hard to Understand Submit Article Sources Alcohol Metabolism: An Update. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Cederbaum AI. Alcohol Metabolism. Clinics in Liver Disease. 2012;16(4):667-685. doi:10.1016/j.cld.2012.08.002. Drugs of Abuse Reference Guide. LabCorp, Inc. Ethanol. American Association for Clinical Chemistry. Continue Reading Article Alcohol Metabolism Could Be Key to Alcohol's Dangers Article How Much Can You Drink Before You Are Affected? Article How Impairment From Alcohol Begins With the First Drink List Facts You Need to Know About Alcohol Article How Blood Alcohol Concentration Impairs the Brain, Body, and Behavior Article Are There Such Things as Hangover Cures? Article What Is Alcoholism and How Can Someone Get Help for Addiction? 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