How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System?

Alcohol consumption is common for many while they are socializing or relaxing after work. However, after drinking some vodka shots, have you wondered how long alcohol stays in your system? What are the dangers?

Due to its addictive nature and mental impairment, activities like driving and certain jobs are prohibited if a person has consumed alcohol in a certain amount. It can make one drowsy, slow to react, and often cause them to lose balance and judgment. When you drink alcohol, it metabolizes to byproducts in the liver. These byproducts are detected in the urine and the blood to produce blood alcohol levels.

Alcohol can be detected in up to 12–24 hours in the urine. If you’re required to pass the alcohol test, it’s crucial to know alcohol’s impact and how soon you may sober up after drinking. We’ll discuss all this in detail, whether you must pass a simple breathalyzer test or urine and blood test for alcohol detection.

how long does it take for alcohol to leave your system

Alcohol Metabolism Process

Are you thinking about how long does alcohol stays in your urine and blood? Your body’s metabolism has all the answers. Alcohol metabolism is a complex process that requires several steps.

  • The primary absorption takes place in the stomach and small intestine. When you consume alcohol, it reaches the bloodstream through the stomach and intestine lining.
  • In a few minutes, the alcohol will reach the liver via blood while also being distributed to the other organs. This is where alcohol is primarily metabolized. The liver breaks down the alcohol into two enzymes.
  1. Alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH): This is a toxic byproduct after ethanol is converted to acetaldehyde in the liver.
  2. Aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH): Acetaldehyde is converted to acetate, a less toxic compound than ADH. Acetate is further converted to carbon dioxide and water, which is then exhaled or urinated.
  • About 10% of alcohol is eliminated via sweat, urine, and breath, and the rest of it is eliminated via the liver.

Factors Affecting Alcohol Metabolism

There are several factors that impact the body’s metabolism of alcohol. We’ll discuss these below:

Body Weight and Composition

Those who have a higher body weight will require more alcohol in their system to feel drunk in comparison to someone who has a lesser body weight. Since the alcohol is distributed throughout the body’s water content, a lower volume will be distributed to someone with a larger body.

Gender Differences

As women have fewer alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) enzymes in their stomach and liver, they will have a slower alcohol metabolism and a high BAC. In comparison, men have highly active forms of ADH in their stomach and liver, resulting in a fast alcohol metabolism. The difference in body fat between men and women also leads to a low water percentage and a high volume of alcohol in the body in women. In addition, hormonal fluctuations in women can also result in high BAC.

Liver Function and Health

The liver dictates how long does it takes for alcohol to leave your system.  The liver metabolizes 90–98% of ingested alcohol. It can metabolize 0.015% of alcohol per hour. Besides, your current health will impact your alcohol metabolism. If you have been drinking for years, your liver may develop a disease like cirrhosis that can reduce your alcohol metabolism. This may result in a high BAC.

Amount and Type of Alcohol Consumed

Your choice of alcohol also tells BAC, in case you’re wondering, “How long does being drunk last vodka?” Consuming more alcohol will result in you getting drunk faster with a higher BAC. Additionally, beverages with high alcohol content, like vodka, gin, or whiskey, will get you drunk faster than beer or wine.

Food Intake

Food may also impact how long alcohol stays in your blood system. If there is no food in your body, you’ll get drunk faster as your stomach and intestines will quickly absorb the alcohol. If you eat before drinking, it may affect alcohol absorption by physically obstructing it and delaying its passage into the small intestine. That is why it is recommended to eat well.

Medications and Other Substances

The liver metabolizes medications, and if you combine alcohol, it may result in more intoxication. Certain medicines like painkillers, aspirin, and acetaminophen may add more stress to the liver when metabolizing alcohol simultaneously.

How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System for Various Tests?

Here are some of the common alcohol tests. You may have to go through them to prove that you’re sober or fit to drive after drinking. Read and find out how long does alcohol stays in your system for a probation drug test.

Blood Test

Alcohol will hit your bloodstream quickly after a few minutes of drinking. This will happen after absorption from the intestine and the stomach lining. A blood test can find alcohol for up to 6 to 12 hours after your last drink. Several factors, such as food intake, gender, weight, and metabolism, impact the blood alcohol level.

Urine Test

A urine test detects alcohol metabolites for 12–24 hours. Some sophisticated tests may be able to detect the byproducts in up to 48 hours. That’s why there is no set answer for “How long does alcohol stay in your system for a urine test?” For a blood test, weight and metabolism can influence the detection time. If you drink heavily, you may get a positive alcohol detection for longer. Note that some metabolites may be detected for up to 72 hours in the urine for probation drug tests.

Saliva Test and Hair Test

A saliva test may detect alcohol for up to 12 hours. A hair test can determine the alcohol’s presence for up to 90 days, which is not usually done as alcohol’s impact only stays for a few hours till the BAC level is zero.

Breathalyzer Test

The device measures the amount of alcohol in your breath, which correlates with your blood alcohol concentration (BAC). This test is done to see if you’re fit to drive after drinking. The BAC limit for this test is 0.08%. It can be detected even after 15 minutes of alcohol consumption. If you’re wondering how long it takes for alcohol to get out of your system to drive, it will depend on the amount of alcohol and several other factors.

Type of Test Detection Time 
Blood test 6-12 hours
Urine test 12-24 hours
Breathalyzer test 15 minutes to 12 hours
Saliva test 12 hours
Hair test 90 days

Understanding Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC)

Blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is the amount of alcohol that is present in your bloodstream. It may be calculated as a percentage or weight. If the BAC is 0.10%, it implies that 1/10 of a percent of your blood is alcohol. In other words, for every 1000 parts of your blood, one part is alcohol in the body.

A higher BAC indicated more intoxication due to a higher alcohol concentration in the blood. This will have a direct impact on your judgment and decision-making. We’ll discuss the BAC ranges and their impact on the brain and body.

List of BAC ranges and corresponding effects

  • 0.02-0.03%: (Mild euphoria) You’ll feel that your mood is elevated and light. At this stage, you won’t be impaired.
  • 0.04–0.06%: (Relaxation, slight impairment) The alcohol impact will be more noticeable with high relaxation and good mood. You may feel a bit impaired with less coordination.
  • 0.07–0.09%: (Impaired balance, speech) You may have impaired balance, speech, and coordination at this level. Your reaction time may slow down, and you will no longer be allowed to drive.
  • 0.10-0.15%: (Significant impairment) You’ll be intoxicated at this point with impaired judgment and lack of coordination.
  • 0.16–0.20%: (Severe impairment) You might lose muscle control at this level while feeling confused, dizzy, and nauseous.
  • 0.21-0.30%: (Confusion, stupor) You may start to vomit or stupor at this level.
  • 0.31–0.40%: (Risk of life-threatening symptoms) This is a dangerous zone with a high risk of alcohol poisoning. One may experience respiratory depression, coma, and even death.
  • 0.41% and above: (Possibly fatal) This is a fatal level of alcohol consumption and can result in coma and death with the loss of the body’s vital functions.

Sobering Up and Getting Alcohol Out of Your System

Trying to find out how long it takes to get sober from alcohol? Understanding how sobering up works and getting alcohol out of your system is kind of tricky, as it will depend on individual factors. The time required to sober up is different depending on how much you drank, your weight, and your gender. The average elimination rate of alcohol is 0.015 g/100mL/hour. This may change depending on your intoxication level and if you have taken any other medication. Several factors have to be considered.

For instance, if the blood alcohol content (BAC) is 200 at 12:00 am, then you may be able to sober up by 2:00 pm with 0.000 BAC in your blood.

Common Myths About Sobering Up

Some common myths about sobering up involve drinking water and coffee. Apart from this, some people may think taking a cold shower, throwing up, or sleeping will help them get sober. Once alcohol enters your blood, drinking water, energy drinks, and water will not be able to dilute that.

Actual Methods of Alcohol Removal

The only ways to remove alcohol from the blood are through breath, the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase, sweat, and urine. If you’ve had one standard drink, your liver will work at an average alcohol elimination speed of 0.015% BAC per hour.

This rate will remain constant even when you have consumed more drinks. If you reach the peak of intoxication, your liver will remove blood alcohol content by 0.015% every hour. For example, if your BAC is 0.20%, it may take up to 13 hours (0.20 / 0.015) to process all the alcohol and sober up.

If you have had one standard drink of 1.5 oz. vodka or 12 oz. beer, your body will take about an hour to process. For multiple drinks with varying alcohol content, your body can take longer to metabolize the alcohol.

Tips for Responsible Drinking

Drinking responsibly and taking care of hydration and nutrition is no harm. Here are some tips to ensure a good drinking experience.

  • Do not consume too many drinks in a short time, as they will get you drunk faster.
  • Drink one drink per hour to give your body time to metabolize the alcohol.
  • Make sure you eat a balanced meal before drinking so that you’re not drinking on an empty stomach.
  • Avoid drinking too many strong drinks or mixing different types of alcohol.
  • Monitor your alcohol consumption the whole time so that you don’t go overboard.
  • Take small sips and try to have drinks that take longer to finish, such as wine and cognac.

When to Seek Help

Alcohol abuse may take over your physical health and life if you do not seek help at the right time. It may start as a few fun drinks and turn into a serious issue where you cannot stay sober even for a few hours. You may find it hard to stop, even if you wish to and fall into the pattern of heavy drinking.

After a point, you can develop alcohol tolerance and may need more to retain the same amount of intoxication. As a result, your liver will work overtime to metabolize the alcohol. Soon, this can turn into financial and legal troubles if you cannot manage your drinking habits.

Staying impaired may make you more susceptible to diseases related to the liver, kidney, and heart. Your quality of health and life will suffer due to excessive alcohol consumption.

Connect with local authorities, alcohol rehab programs, and help groups, such as Alcohol Anonymous, to begin your sobering journey. Consult with a doctor to learn more about your health after years of drinking. Several online resources help people with a history of alcohol abuse.


Does a Sip of Alcohol Show Up in a Urine Test?

A sip of alcohol is less likely to show up in a urine test. When you consume alcohol, most of it is metabolized by the liver. A small sip may not be enough to register on the urine test after it has been metabolized and broken down. Usually, urine alcohol tests work to detect the content for 12–48 hours after drinking. If you take a small sip hours before the urine test, it won’t get detected.

Does Drinking Too Much Water Help Pass Alcohol Urine Tests?

Drinking a lot of water will not help you pass the urine test. The test detects the EtG and EtS metabolites. They may be present in the urine for up to 72 hours after drinking alcohol. While drinking a lot of water can temporarily dilute urine and lower the concentration of alcohol metabolites, it does not prevent their detection.

How Long Does It Take to Sober Up From Alcohol?

Several factors, such as age, gender, weight, and amount of alcohol consumed, determine the time it may take to sober after drinking alcohol. On average, it may take six to ten hours to sober up if you’re moderately intoxicated.

How Long Does It Take for Alcohol to Get Out of Your System to Drive?

The more you drink, the longer it takes for alcohol to be processed by your liver and eliminated from your body. If you have one drink, you’ll be able to drive sooner. However, if you have had a few drinks, waiting at least 6-8 hours before you drive is better. It will also depend on your age, weight, and gender.

How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your Blood System?

Alcohol can be detected in the blood for up to 12 hours after consumption, depending on the amount consumed, your metabolism, gender, and body size. The effects and impairment from alcohol may be present for longer than it can be detected in the blood.


Now you know how long alcohol stays in the system and is metabolized by the liver at a constant rate of 0.015% per hour. Always drink responsibly and know what’s your limit when it comes to handling alcoholic drinks. It’s very easy to go overboard, so try to pace yourself as per your alcohol metabolism.

Choose drinks that are usually low in alcohol content and keep hydrating between each drink. Make a point not to drive or handle machinery when drunk for your and others’ safety. Seek professional help if you have fallen into alcohol addiction to manage your health and urge to drink.

Similar Posts

Medical Reviewer