Alcohol is predominantly broken down by the liver, which can metabolize roughly 1 standard drink per hour for men. Factors such as age, weight, gender, and amount of food eaten can affect how fast the body can process alcohol. The rate of alcohol absorption cannot be increased by sleeping or drinking water.
How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System?
Depending on the body system and test used, alcohol detection times may vary. Alcohol can stay in your system between 6-72 hours in most cases depending on the detection test used. Alcohol detection tests can measure alcohol in the blood for up to 6 hours, on the breath for 12 to 24 hours, urine for 12 to 24 hours (72 or more hours with more advanced detection methods), saliva for 12 to 24 hours, and hair for up to 90 days. The half-life of alcohol is between 4-5 hours.
|Body System||Time in System|
|Blood||Up to 6 Hours|
|Urine||12-24 Hours; 72 Hours or more for newer test methods|
|Hair||Up to 90 Days|
How Is Alcohol Metabolized?
Although alcohol passes through the digestive system, it does not undergo extensive digestion within the digestive tract in the same manner as food. When it enters the upper gastrointestinal tract, a significant portion is absorbed straight into the bloodstream through the tissue lining of the stomach and small intestines. Once in the bloodstream, it is carried throughout the body and travels to the brain.1
The absorption mechanism may be slightly slowed when there is food in the stomach. Food can absorb alcohol, inhibit it from coming into contact with the stomach lining, or slow its transit from the stomach into the duodenum (the first portion of the small intestine), where it otherwise is very rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream.1
How Long Does It Take for Alcohol to Kick In?
A healthy person will generally experience the effects of a drinkwithin 15 to 45 minutes.1
Most men with minimal to no tolerance will begin to exhibit some characteristics of intoxication when their blood alcohol level (BAC) reaches 0.05%, and their ability to drive will be significantly impaired at 0.07%. At 0.10%, they will be clearly intoxicated.2
A woman who weighs 150 pounds will reach a BAC of 0.1% (intoxication) if she consumes about 4 drinks in an hour.2
How Do You Know When You’re Drunk?
The higher your BAC, the more likely you will be to display signs of intoxication, which include:3
- Lowered inhibitions.
- Slurred speech.
- Impaired coordination.
- Trouble remembering things.
- Difficulty concentrating.
- Breathing problems (e.g., decreased respiratory effort, respiratory depression).
People who are drunk are also more at risk for:3
- Motor accidents.
- Risky behaviors, such as unprotected sex.
- Suicide and homicide.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Drink Out of Your System?
Alcohol is predominantly broken down in the liver through the actions of an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase. On average,the liver can metabolize 1 standard drink per hour for men, or about 0.015g/100mL/hour (i.e., a reduction of blood alcohol level, or BAC, by 0.015 per hour). In addition to liver processing, about 10% of alcohol is eliminated through sweat, breath, and urine.1
A standard drink is defined as:4
- 12 fl oz of regular beer.
- 8-9 fl oz of malt liquor.
- 5 fl oz of wine.
- 1.5 fl oz shot of distilled spirits (gin, rum, tequila, vodka, whiskey).
Factors that may influence how fast alcohol is broken down include:5
- How much food the person ate.
- Type and strength of the alcohol.
- Whether the person has taken any medications.
Take Our “Am I an Alcoholic?” Self-Assessment
Take our free, 5-minute “Am I an Alcoholic?” self-assessment below if you think you or someone you love might be struggling with an alcohol use disorder (AUD). The evaluation consists of 11 yes or no questions that are intended to be used as an informational tool to assess the severity and probability of an AUD. The test is free, confidential, and no personal information is needed to receive the result.
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. As long as your rate of consumption is greater than your rate of elimination, your BAC will continue to rise.1
When Is Alcohol No Longer Detected on a Test?
The amount of time alcohol can be detected in your system depends on the type of test used.
- Blood: up to 6 hours
- Breathalyzer: 12-24 hours
- Saliva: 12-24 hours
- Urine: 12-24 hours for older methods of testing; 72 hours or longer for newer methods that test for ethanol metabolites such as ethyl glucuronide and ethyl sulfate
- Hair: up to 90 days2,6
Since alcohol is metabolized fairly quickly, most clinicians rely on observations of alcohol use—such as slurred speech or the smell of alcohol—or a breathalyzer test to confirm intoxication or recent drinking.2
How Much Alcohol Will Kill You?
Alcohol overdose, or alcohol poisoning, can be serious. You can overdose when there is a high enough amount of alcohol in your system to cause life-supporting functions such as breathing or heart rate to dangerously slow or shut down.4
As your BAC rises, you may begin to feel more negative effects of intoxication and your risk of overdose increases: 4
- 06% – 0.15% BAC: speech, memory, attention, coordination, balance moderately impaired; driving ability significantly impaired
- 16% – 0.30% BAC: significant impairments in speech, memory, attention, balance, reaction time, and coordination; driving ability dangerously impaired; judgment and decision-making impaired; risk of blackouts; vomiting; loss of consciousness
- 31% – 0.45% BAC: risk of life-threatening overdose and risk of death from suppression of breathing, heart rate, and body temperature
Symptoms of an overdose include: 4
- Profound mental confusion.
- Loss of consciousness.
- Clammy skin.
- Pale or bluish skin color.
- Low body temperature.
- Slow heart rate.
- Slowed or irregular breathing.
Your risk of overdose increases if you binge drink which, by one definition, entails consuming 4 drinks in 2 hours for a woman or 5 drinks in 2 hours for a man. Extreme binge drinking is drinking 2 or more times the binge drinking thresholds. Drinking a large amount of alcohol in a short time greatly outpaces the liver’s ability to clear alcohol from the body and leads to a rapid increase in BAC. 4
The risk of overdose may become even greater if a person mixes alcohol with opioid or sedative-hypnotic medications, such as painkillers, sleep medications, or anti-anxiety drugs. These drugs also suppress breathing, and combined with alcohol, these effects are intensified and can lead to an overdose with even moderate levels of alcohol. 4
Risks of Alcohol Abuse
According to theNational Survey on Drug Use and Health, roughly 14.5 million people age 12 or older had an alcohol use disorder in the U.S. in 2017. This figure represents 5.3% of all people in this age group. Alcohol-related deaths are the third-leading cause of preventable death in the country, with about 88,000 people dying each year from liver failure, overdose, drunk driving, and other accidents.5,6
As alcohol use continues to be a widespread and potentially deadly national public health crisis, it’s important to know that help is only a phone call away. If you or someone you know is abusing alcohol or has an addiction to alcohol, American Addiction Centers (AAC) is here to help. For more information about our treatment programs, give us a call today at
Find Drug and Alcohol Detox Treatment Centers Near You
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Knowing more about how alcohol is metabolized and keeping track of your likely blood alcohol levels can help you prevent unintended over-intoxication and accidental death from alcohol poisoning. Understanding the dangers of alcohol can also help avoid a cycle of growing tolerance, physical dependence and, ultimately,a compulsive pattern of problematic alcohol use that culminates in addiction development.See Also15 food delivery promo codes and offers to help you save money on your next meal - The Points GuyDifferences Between AA Open and Closed MeetingsThe Conference Cost Estimator for Budgeting | Social Tables2022 Top 19 Best Hair Transplant Clinics & Surgeons in Istanbul Turkey
- Bowling Green State University. Alcohol Metabolism.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2006). Substance Abuse: Clinical Issues in Intensive Outpatient Treatment.
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Overview of Alcohol Consumption.
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2018). Understanding the Dangers of Alcohol Overdose.
- United Kingdom National Health Service. (2018). How long does alcohol stay in your blood?
- American Society of Addiction Medicine. (2017). The ASAM Appropriate Use of Drug Testing Consensus Document.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2018). Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results from the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2018). Alcohol Facts and Statistics.
How long until alcohol is 100% out of your system? ›
The half-life of alcohol is four to five hours. A half-life is how long it takes for your body to get rid of half of it. But you need about five half-lives to get rid of alcohol completely. So, it takes about 25 hours for your body to clear all the alcohol.How long is alcohol staying in your system? ›
Alcohol detection tests can measure alcohol in the blood for up to 6 hours, on the breath for 12 to 24 hours, urine for 12 to 24 hours (72 or more hours with more advanced detection methods), saliva for 12 to 24 hours, and hair for up to 90 days. The half-life of alcohol is between 4-5 hours.Will alcohol be out of my system in 7 hours? ›
In general, a blood test can measure alcohol in your body for up to 6 hours after your last drink, while breathalyser tests work for between 12 and 24 hours. Urine tests, such as the ethyl glucuronide (EtG) test, are also effective for around 12-24 hours after use.How do you flush alcohol out of your body? ›
- Coffee. ...
- Cold showers. ...
- Eating and drinking. ...
- Sleep. ...
- Exercise. ...
- Carbon or charcoal capsules.
Urine tests can detect alcohol in your system much longer after you've consumed alcohol. 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.How long do you need to be clean to pass a urine drug test? ›
Stimulants including cocaine, meth, and ADHD medications are detectable for about 2 or 3 days. Benzodiazepines and MDMA generally flag a urine test for up to 4 days after last dose. Marijuana stays in the system a bit longer, with amounts being detectable for between 1 and 7 days after last use.Can you 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 .Can water dilute alcohol in urine? ›
Dilution is not effective for defeating alcohol test. One cannot significantly alter the alcohol concentration in urine even by drinking a large amount of water.What foods get rid of alcohol in your system? ›
- Lean Fish.
- Orange Juice.
- Raisins and other dried fruit.
Ethanol is rapidly metabolized, and detection can easily be avoided by not drinking alcohol 8-12 hours before the urine specimen is collected.
How long before a urine test should I drink water? ›
The only thing that affects a dilute sample is the amount of fluid taken in within a short period of time prior to providing the urine sample. If you are seeing results that show you are getting close to a dilute sample, try to stop drinking any fluids 2-4 hours prior to providing the sample.Will a sip of alcohol show up in a urine test? ›
Even when drinking a small amount, EtG can be detected (found) within the urine. An EtG test is the most accurate test as EtG can be detected within someone's urine for about two days or 48 hours. If the drinking is heavier, it can be detected for up to three days or 72 hours.Why do they tell you not to flush after a drug test? ›
If you have actual clean urine and a few drops of dirty urine gets into the sample it won't be enough to test positive.Will alcohol be out of my system in 4 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.How long does it take to get 12 units of alcohol out of your system? ›
How long does it take for alcohol to leave my system? Medical studies suggest that on average, the body removes alcohol at the rate of about one unit per hour.What happens if you have 100 alcohol? ›
It is dangerous as 100% ethanol (commonly known as alcohol) kills biological cells by absorbing the water associated with them. Pure ethanol effectively dessicates cells as the equilibrium state of ethanol in the atmosphere is 95% ethanol and 5% water.How many hours after drinking can I drive? ›
A small shot of liquor: 1 hour. A pint of beer: 2 hours. A large glass of wine: 3 hours.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 it take for 2 bottles of wine to leave your system? ›
However, alcohol detection tests will be able to measure alcohol on the breath, saliva and in the urine for up to 24 hours. For a heavy drinker who may drink about two bottles of wine a day (more or less ten glasses), it can take up to 15 hours or more for the body system to fully process the alcohol.Does drinking water make you less drunk? ›
Does drinking water with alcohol make you less drunk? It won't make you less drunk, but it will help you be less sick the next day. A big part of a hangover is dehydration, and the rest is alcohol poisoning. Drinking lots of water helps with the dehydration and also helps your body flush out the toxins.
Is sleep drunk a thing? ›
Sleep drunkenness is a sleep disorder that describes feelings of sudden action or reflex upon waking up. It's also called confusional arousal. Cleveland Clinic estimates that it happens in 1 in 7 adults, but the actual number of people can be much greater.Can I wake up still drunk? ›
Could you still be intoxicated the morning after? Yes. Whether your blood alcohol is still above the limit depends on a number of factors. The main ones are how much alcohol you consumed last night and at what time.Which drink is most alcoholic? ›
- Polmos Spirytus Rektyfikowany Vodka. Proof: 192 (96% alcohol by volume) ...
- Everclear 190. Proof: 190 (95% alcohol by volume) ...
- Golden Grain 190. ...
- Hapsburg Absinthe XC. ...
- Balkan 176 Vodka. ...
- Sunset Very Strong Rum. ...
- Stroh 160 Rum. ...
- Devil's Springs Vodka 160.
So, now on to the all-important question, which alcohol is easiest on the liver? The quick answer is, none of them. The reason is that the main liver-damaging ingredient in all types of alcohol is ethanol. It doesn't matter which alcohol you chose, be it weak beer or grain alcohol.What blood alcohol level is blackout? ›
When Do Blackouts Occur? Blackouts tend to begin at blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) of about 0.16 percent (nearly twice the legal driving limit) and higher. At these BACs, most cognitive abilities (e.g., impulse control, attention, judgment, and decision-making) are significantly impaired.