How Long Does Alcohol Stay

You take a pint or two of alcohol, and it makes you feel great, get into the social conversation, and meet new friends. But alcohol has it’s implication in body and just like other substances, if you misuse it, it can result in safety and health risks. A big concern people have is, knowing how long it’s going to take for alcohol to clear out of their system.

How Long does Alcohol stay in your blood

How is Alcohol Processed In Body?

The body has a straightforward way of processing alcohol when you ingest it, so the time it will take for the substance to be in the body largely depends on much you drink, though there are some other factors like age, race, and alcohol content. You may have recalled a day when you were taking the drink and it reached a point when things went bad. The body will make the blood and tissue of the body to be reservoirs of alcohol at some point, when the substance is not being metabolized.2

Many factors affect how the body processes alcohol, however, on average, we can see that the liver is able to process about one ounce of alcohol in every hour. Alcohol can be detected within an individual’s blood for several hours; it can take several days to clear out of urine. Alcohol can bring about impaired memory, slurred speech, confusion, and nausea – these can affect the way you behave or make judgments.

It’s estimated that about 20 percent of alcoholic drink a person takes is absorbed into the bloodstream via the stomach and about 80 percent will be absorbed in the small intestines.1

So, if there is any alcohol amount that has not been metabolized, it will leave the body through different ways including urine, sweat, and saliva. When you take alcohol and it gets into the bloodstream, it is taken to the liver for processing and metabolization. In the liver, there are enzymes that help break down substances including alcohol molecules.

When an individual is taking alcohol very quickly, it overwhelms the liver and it cannot process it all, so you will have some remaining the body. If there is higher amount of alcohol remaining in body because it cannot be processed, then you may have a high blood-alcohol concentration or BAC. This induces effects in body such as impaired balance and coordination.

How Long Does Alcohol Stay In Your Urine?

Urine tests are used to detect alcohol in body from the time you had that last drink. The tests check for alcohol metabolites. The average time a person is likely to test positive of alcohol in their urine test is between 12 to 48 hours after they have taken the drink. Some advanced testing methods may give traces of alcohol in an individual’s urine sample up to 80 hours following their last drink.3

When the body of an individual has absorbed alcohol, and about 5 percent of ethanol has reached the kidneys, excretion through urination actively begins. It paramount to note that alcohol in body can inhibit the production of vasopressin, this is a hormone known to help conserve fluids in the body. So, if you have insufficient production of vasopressin hormone, it tends to increase the amount of urine being released. This implies that the body may begin to excrete alcohol in as short as 20 to 25 minutes following the consumption.8

Also, the absorption rate (which is not same as the metabolism rate) may be affected by gender. For example, a man who weighs 140 pounds and who takes, let’s say, two drinks within an hour, he may have a lower BAC or blood alcohol level compared to a woman who weights same 140 pounds and who takes same quantity of alcohol within the same timeframe. The reason this happens is believed to be the levels of an enzyme known as hydrogenase – men are said to have a higher amount of this enzyme than women.

When alcohol reaches the stomach, enzyme hydrogenase begins to break it down to help facilitate the metabolization of the alcohol by organs and tissues, especially the liver. Another thing is that women tend to show high blood alcohol levels when compared to men, particularly just before they have menstruation. This occurs because during that time, the percentage of water in the women’s body is lower and the alcohol-retaining fat cells are higher.8

Ethyl Glucuronide abbreviated as EtG is being used by some labs to test people of alcohol. Ethyl Glucuronide is actually a biomarker that can help to check if an individual’s body has recently metabolized alcohol. The EtG test is popularly being given the name “80 hour test” because it’s able to confirm ingestion of alcohol up to 4 days following the intake, that’s about 80 hours following the metabolization of alcohol by the liver. The existence of EtG in urine can indicate ingestion of alcohol.

How Long Does Alcohol Stay In Your Blood?

When you take alcohol and it enters the bloodstream, it will travel to the liver, the processing organ of the body. It’s in the liver where alcohol metallization takes place. The State University of New York says that an individual’s liver metabolizes and breaks down alcohol at same rate regardless of whether a person is of different weight, race, or sex. However, the rate may be slower in people who have liver disease. Again, it is important to know that absorption of alcohol is not the same thing as metabolizaiton – so there are factors that will impact the absorption of alcohol in body including race, gender, genetics, and medications you have taken.

It takes about one hour for the liver to break down an ounce of alcohol. In many people, having one ounce of the drink will create a 0.015 blood-alcohol concentration. The more a person drinks the longer it’s going to stay in their system.

Generally speaking blood alcohol tests can show positive results in 12 to 24 hours.

How Long Does Alcohol Stay In Your Hair?

Hair follicle test can be used to test if someone has had the drink, and it’s the test that has the longest window for detecting the substance in your body. The test has been used in drug treatment and workplace screening, however, the mechanism in which alcohol gets absorbed into a person’s hair follicles hasn’t been clearly understood4, it’s however, known that drug metabolites found in bloodstream can reach the hair follicles.

Substances are trapped in hair strands after a period of about 7 to 8 days following the last time you took them, where they can remain for as long as three months.

On average, it would take around 3 months for alcohol traces to be still detected in hair follicles.

How Long Does Alcohol Stay In Your Breast Milk?

Many women ask themselves, is it safe to drink alcohol while they are breastfeeding. And this is a big question that women need to understand. The American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Drugs5 says that women can actually drink when at the same time they are breastfeeding.

Of course, studies have also indicated that when you take alcoholic drinks while breastfeeding, it can affect the baby. However, if you can control and monitor your alcohol consumption while breastfeeding, it can indeed have fewer effects on the baby.

Alcohol can affect babies in the following ways:

  • Health of the baby: Studies6 suggest that taking alcohol while you breastfeed affects the sleep of the baby. In one study, it found out that babies having exposure to alcohol from the breast milk of their mothers had 25 percent deprivation in sleep compared to those not exposed.
  • Effects on production of milk: It may not be a good idea to take alcohol at a time when you breastfeed, especially if you have a baby that is a big eater. Studies6 show that if a breastfeeding woman takes alcohol, it is likely to disrupt hormones associated with the production of milk. This could mean that the woman produces less milk and the baby may not get full in one feeding. So if the baby is feeding more often, it can be a problem.

There has been the idea that by pumping the breast milk following an episode of drinking alcohol and throwing it away does help to prevent exposing the baby to alcohol. Well, doctors say that you may consider waiting for the alcohol to get out of the system than wasting the previous milk for the child. Remember breast milk is very nutritious for the baby, and there may be no equivalent of it.

It’s important for breastfeeding mothers to note that, contrary to what they hear, it is not possible for alcohol to be trapped in the breast milk. So pumping and dumping doesn’t really help. Alcohol will pass through the breast milk in a similar way like it does in bloodstream – the same rate.

In breast milk, alcohol will peak in about 30 to 60 minutes following one drink. If you stop taking the drink, the level of alcohol in breast milk will gradually begin to fall because it is leaving the bloodstream and the breast milk.7

The detection window for alcohol in a woman’s breast milk is between 12 to 24 hours, it’s actually the same period it would be detected in blood stream.

How Long Does Alcohol Stay In Your Saliva?

Unlike food and other forms of drugs, alcohol usually requires little time for it to be digested – breaking it down into a form that is digestible. When you take an alcoholic drink and it gets to the stomach, 20 percent of it moves directly to your small blood vessels. These are the vessels that carry nutrients and water into other parts of the body. You also find that the remaining 80 percent travels to the small intestines in which it gets into another set of blood vessels allowing it to travel to other parts of the body.

It’s important to understand that the rate in which alcohol enters the body system is slower if you ingest it with food. This means that the slower absorption rate makes an individual to take longer for them to be intoxicated.

In saliva, alcohol can be detected for up to 12 to 24 hours, just at it would happen in case of blood.

Factors That Determine How Long Alcohol Stays in Body

A number of things will influence how alcohol is able to stay in your body:

Food digestion

If you eat food before or while taking alcohol, the stomach enzymes are going to be preoccupied in digesting the food rather than processing the alcohol. When this happens, you may have alcohol delaying to infiltrate into the bloodstream. So, the BAC will be at its peak in about 60 minutes to 6 hours following the last time you had the drink.

If the stomach is empty and you take alcohol, you can have blood-alcohol level peaking within just 30 minutes, probably up to 2 hours following the last drink. Again, taking high protein food such as meat seems to delay the alcohol absorption than when you take non-protein foods.


Enzymes aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) as well as alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) – are thought to control the metabolism of alcohol. The body has genes that encode these two enzymes in different forms. So genes play a role to influence the time alcohol stays in individuals’ bodies.

Other factors that influence how alcohol is able to remain in the body are such as:

  • Medication ingestion
  • Diseases and illnesses

Reference List

  1. How the body processes alcohol.
  2. How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System?
  3. How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your Body?
  4. How long Does Alcohol Stay in Your Hair for Drug Testing.
  5. The Transfer of Drugs and Other Chemicals Into Human Milk.
  6. Effects of exposure to alcohol in mother’s milk on infant sleep.
  7. Breastfeeding & Alcohol: Is It Safe To Drink?
  8. Determining How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System, Urine, Hair Or Saliva.

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