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How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System?

Alcohol use disorder affects over 29.1% of the U.S. population, or 68.5 million people. About 75% of alcohol consumed is done through binge drinking. More than 19.8% of adults who experienced an alcohol use disorder have sought treatment or help for their drinking.

Watching a loved one suffer from alcohol addiction may be scary, and you might not know what to do or how to help. You may have many questions regarding alcohol use such as, “How long does alcohol stay in your system?”, “How do I know if I or a loved one has a problem?”, or “Who can I turn to for help?” There are warning signs and behaviors to look out for if you aren’t sure if you or a loved one is suffering from addiction.

Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Addiction

Alcohol addiction comes with many warning signs. Some of the immediate signs include slurred speech, loss of coordination, poor memory, and impaired thinking. Behavioral signs include being unable to drink, hiding alcohol use, distress when alcohol isn’t readily available, participating in risky behaviors, denial of an alcohol problem.

According to the DSM-5, a professional must find the patient meeting two or more of the 11 criteria during a period of 12 months. The more symptoms a person has, the more severe the grading will be (mild, moderate, or severe).

The 11 criteria are as follows:

  • Desire to stop drinking but unable to.
  • Feeling powerless to control drinking.
  • Decreased participation or interest in social aspects and hobbies.
  • Problems at work, school, or home due to alcohol. Also includes relationships.
  • Continuing to use alcohol despite the problems it’s causing.
  • Devoting significant time and money on alcohol.
  • Using alcohol in high-risk situations (e.g. driving).
  • Developing a tolerance for alcohol (i.e. needing more alcohol to get the same effects as before).
  • Experiencing cravings for alcohol when not drinking.
  • Experiencing withdrawal when not drinking (e.g. shaking, nausea, cravings, sweating).
  • Drinking to negate the symptoms of withdrawal.

It’s important to note that alcohol withdrawal is dangerous. If a person is planning to quit drinking as a heavy drinker or alcoholic, they should speak with a healthcare professional before doing so.

Some withdrawal symptoms can be life-threatening. Withdrawal symptoms can appear two hours after your last drink and symptoms may last for weeks. Withdrawal symptoms include anxiety, shaking, wanting to drink. The most severe symptom is delirium tremens (DTs), which can bring a fever, confusion, and rapid heartbeat.

How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System?

Alcohol consumption has immediate effects that can sometimes last longer depending on several factors. There are tests that answer the question “How long does alcohol stay in your system?” but there are contributing factors. The body goes through several processes from the minute you consume alcohol.

Your stomach absorbs 20% of alcohol, while the small intestine takes 80% to the bloodstream. The main way to excrete alcohol is by metabolizing it through the liver. Generally, the liver can process one stand drink per hour. Your body will excrete 10% of alcohol through urine, breathing, and sweating. But how long does alcohol stay in blood? How long does alcohol stay in urine?

How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Blood?

Alcohol in your bloodstream is metabolized at a consistent rate for everyone. It leaves at .015% per hour. If you happen to get tested for alcohol consumption, it may appear for up to 12 or more hours on a test.

How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Urine?

Urine tests for alcohol vary depending on the type of test conducted. The older methods test for alcohol consumption for 12 hours or less after your last drink. However, the new tests screen for alcohol metabolites like ethyl sulfate or ethyl glucuronide. These detect alcohol consumption for up to 5 to 7 days after your last drink.

Can Alcohol Consumption Be Detected in Other Ways?

Yes! There are hair follicle tests, breathalyzers, and saliva swabs that can detect alcohol consumption. Breathalyzers and saliva swabs can only detect from 12 to 24 hours after your last drink. Hair follicle tests are commonly used by probation officers, rehab centers, sober living facilities, or companies with strict drug and alcohol policies. They can detect the presence of alcohol from 90 days after your last drink.

How Does Alcohol Affect the Body?

Alcohol has immediate effects on the body that include:

  • Slowed reaction times
  • Blackouts
  • Poor motor skills and coordination
  • Impaired judgment
  • Impaired memory
  • Slurred speech

As alcohol use progresses, the body begins to suffer. Someone with a drinking problem may look gaunt in appearance, have hair loss or thinning, and dark circles.

Physical Problems Associated with Alcohol Use

  • Vitamin deficiencies: They may show symptoms of vitamin deficiencies. Thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency is extremely common with alcohol use. B1 is a critical vitamin for brain health and body tissues.
  • Liver: Alcohol kills liver cells that can lead to cirrhosis. Heavy alcohol use may contribute to fatty liver disease, impairing the function of the liver.
  • Heart disease: Studies show that heavy drinking may lead to heart disease because of the lack of blood flow to the heart.
  • Anemia: Anemia is another common effect of heavy drinking. Your body may suffer from ulcers or inflammation.
  • Cancer: Studies show a link between alcohol and several types of cancer.
  • Digestive issues: Drinking can cause inflammation of the stomach lining leading to heartburn, nausea, and ulcers. Digestive enzymes can build up over time in the pancreas and cause pancreatitis.

Psychological Problems

Alcohol also affects you psychologically immediately, leading to poor decision making and memory lapses. Over time, sleep troubles may begin to form along with mental health disorders like anxiety or depression.

How Long Does It Take to Sober Up?

You may have heard from a friend that eating bread or drinking a lot of water or coffee not only cures hangovers but sobers you up. Unfortunately, there are no quick fixes. Those methods might make you more alert, but they won’t remove the alcohol from your blood. So how long does it take to sober up then?

Time is the only factor when it comes to sobering up. Your gender, body weight, and height do not matter. The rate that alcohol leaves the body is constant for everyone. However, some people may feel the effects of alcohol longer than others due to several factors. These factors include:


Your age affects how long alcohol stays in your liver before it travels to your bloodstream or is metabolized. Your body’s water decreases with age, this makes your BAC higher.

Body Size

Your body size contributes to your BAC. Those with higher body fat percentages have a higher BAC than someone who is muscular. However, if a person is muscular but shorter, their BAC will be higher than someone that’s similar in muscle structure but taller.

Food Consumption

Eating a meal before drinking slows the rate of alcohol absorption.


Studies have found that women have less of the enzyme acetaldehyde dehydrogenase. This enzyme helps metabolize alcohol in the stomach. Women have higher body fat percentages and lower water percentages compared to males. Even if a male and woman are the same height and weight, the woman’s BAC will be higher. Hormones also play a role when it comes to metabolizing alcohol. Women tend to have higher BACs before they menstruate.


Many medications interact with alcohol. Certain medications slow the stomach from emptying into the small intestine and liver. This makes alcohol more easily absorbed and can cause a higher BAC.

Alcohol leaves the body at a rate of 0.015% per hour, averaging out to about ½ of a drink per hour. Overall, if your blood alcohol content (BAC) is .20 then it would take roughly 15 hours to be completely sobered up. Drinking more naturally adds on to that timestamp and isn’t recommended.

Treatment for Alcohol Addiction

There are several types of treatment for alcohol addiction. Each rehab facility or program may offer many types of treatment or focus on certain areas. It’s important that you find a facility that best fits your needs. Typically, you would find the facility that’s best suited for you. During intake, a clinician will discuss the different types of therapies, the type of treatment plans they have to offer, and what treatment plans they recommend.

CNV Detox is a facility that offers a wide variety of treatment options for you or a loved one. Some of their treatment options include non-medical detox, an intensive outpatient program, an outpatient program, and holistic forms of addiction treatment.

Is Alcohol a Stimulant or a Depressant?

Non-Medical Detox

There are three levels of non-medical detox. The first is outpatient detox, where you detox at home but visit a facility regularly. The second is outpatient as well but you spend days at a facility where you’re monitored by nursing staff. At night you return home. The third is inpatient where you spend your detox living at a facility with round the clock care. At CNV, an intake assessment is conducted to determine the safest method for your recovery. They focus on the three components of detox: evaluation, stabilization, and fostering entry into treatment. 

Intensive Outpatient Program

An intensive outpatient program (IOP) allows patients to receive intensive care during the evenings but return home at night. They are designed for people who need to maintain their daily work while receiving treatment for their addiction.

Outpatient Program

Outpatient programs vary based on your recovery stage. This type of treatment occurs during the day or evenings and the rest of the time you are home. It’s recommended for those who are stable in their recovery and don’t need monitoring or for those with mild substance abuse issues.

Holistic Forms of Addiction Treatment

Holistic addiction treatment aims to address your well-being, mindfulness, and more. Holistic treatments aren’t meant to be standalone treatments but a complement to your current program. There are many different forms of holistic treatment like yoga, meditation, Tai Chi, acupuncture, and nutrition. Holistic treatments may also include different forms of therapy like art therapy (Gestalt method, Active Imagination, “Third-Hand” approach), wilderness therapy, and massage therapy.

Take the Next Step

The path to recovery is only one step away. Begin your treatment at CNV Detox in Los Angeles, California as soon as the same day. For your convenience, we work 24/7. Our team is ready to help as soon as you reach out.