How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System?

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By: Renaissance Recovery

Medically Reviewed by: Diana Vo, LMFT

Last Updated: 7/1/2021

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Authored By: Joe Gilmore

Table of Contents

When you consume alcohol, your body processes the substance at an hourly rate of one standard drink.  Knowing how long alcohol stays in your system is important information if you are looking for help with substance abuse.

NIAAA (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism) defines a standard drink as any of the following:

  • 12oz beer with 5% alcohol content.
  • 5oz wine with 12% alcohol content.
  • 1.5oz distilled spirits with 40% alcohol content.

Many variables can influence how long alcohol stays in the system, including gender, age, body make-up, and health status.

How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System?

Detection times for alcohol in the system vary from 6 to 72 hours, depending on the type of test.

  • Blood tests: 6 hours.
  • Breath tests: 12 to 24 hours.
  • Urine tests: 12 to 24 hours.
  • Saliva tests: 12 to 24 hours.
  • Hair follicle tests: 90 days or more.

The half-life of alcohol is between 4 and 5 hours. It takes from 4 to 5 half-lives for a substance to be processed completely.

What Is Blood Alcohol Concentration?

BAC (blood alcohol concentration) measures the percentage of alcohol in your system.

In most cases, BAC is expressed as a percentage of ethanol (alcohol) present in the blood.

1oz of alcohol typically produces a BAC of 0.015%. This amount of alcohol will remain in your system for 10 hours. After this point, you will have little or no alcohol in your bloodstream.

The more alcohol you consume, the longer it stays in your system.

When blood alcohol concentration reaches levels of 0.05% to 0.055%, the positive effects of alcohol (relaxation and happiness) start shifting into confusion, disorientation, and depression.

Balance and motor coordination are both drastically impaired when BAC levels reach 0.08%. Vomiting often occurs when blood alcohol concentration becomes this high. This manifests as the body is unable to metabolize alcohol quickly enough – more on this directly below.

If blood alcohol concentration is 0.08% or above, you are legally intoxicated for the purposes of driving a vehicle.

How Does the Body Process Alcohol?

When you consume alcohol, the substance enters your digestive system before traveling to your stomach and small intestine. Your stomach absorbs 20% of the alcohol, with your small intestine processing most of the remaining 80%. From here, alcohol enters your bloodstream.

When alcohol enters the bloodstream, it is quickly transported throughout your body, impacting multiple bodily systems.

Ultimately, most of the alcohol you consume ends up in your liver. Here, alcohol is metabolized at the rate of one standard drink per hour. Consuming alcohol at an increased rate causes the liver to become saturated, with excess alcohol accumulating in the blood and tissues until it can be processed.

The amount of time alcohol stays in the system is largely based on how much alcohol you consume.

An image of a person pouring wine | How long does alcohol stay in your system

What Factors Can Influence How Long Alcohol Stays in Your System?

The following factors can affect blood alcohol concentration and the speed at which alcohol is processed:

  • Age: If you are a teen, a young adult, or a senior, you will metabolize alcohol at a slower rate.
  • Sex: Females eliminate alcohol from the system quicker than males, and they also tend to have higher blood alcohol concentration levels.
  • Heavy drinking: If a man drinks more than 15 standard drinks per week, or a woman consumes more than 8 standard drinks weekly, this is classified as heavy drinking. This abusive pattern of alcohol consumption increases the rate of metabolism.
  • Alcohol use disorder: If you have alcohol use disorder, especially if you have developed advanced liver disease, this can decrease the rate of metabolism.
  • Food: Food increases the metabolic rate, helping to process alcohol slightly more rapidly.
  • Exercise: If you exercise, this helps accelerate the process of metabolizing alcohol.
  • Time of day: The body metabolizes alcohol more rapidly at the end of the day.
  • Alcohol content of drink: The alcohol content of the beverage will influence processing time.

Despite the number of factors that can play a part in alcohol processing times, most people find that one standard drink per hour is removed from their system.

Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder at Renaissance Recovery

While there is no cure for alcohol use disorder, the condition typically responds well to evidence-based treatment. If you kickstart your recovery at Renaissance, you can reclaim your life from alcoholism without the restrictions or the costs of residential rehab.

Engage with treatment at the following levels of intensity according to the severity of your alcohol use disorder:

  • OP: standard outpatient program providing up to 3 hours of therapy sessions per week.
  • IOP: intensive outpatient program providing up to 15 hours of therapy sessions per week.
  • PHP: partial hospitalization program providing up to 35 hours of therapy sessions per week.
  • Virtual IOP: remote rehab for alcoholism delivering therapy via video calls.
  • Medical detox: we can connect you with licensed medical detox centers throughout Orange County, enabling you to streamline alcohol detox and withdrawal.

All our treatment programs for alcoholism at Renaissance Recovery Center draw from a combination of holistic interventions and research-backed treatments.

MAT (medication-assisted treatment) delivered alongside counseling and psychotherapy like CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) is proven effective for the treatment of alcoholism. Access a personalized array of therapies at Renaissance and build a stable platform for sober living.

When you complete your outpatient program here at our Orange County treatment facility, you can step down to a less intensive program or shift directly back into day-to-day life. Either way, you will have an aftercare plan and relapse prevention strategies in place to maximize your chances of sustained sobriety.

Reach out to admissions today by calling 866.330.9449.

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Diana is an addiction expert and licensed marriage and family therapist who has been in the field of mental health for over 10 years.

Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country

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