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How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System?

If you suffer from alcoholism, you’re certainly not alone. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, over 14.1 million Americans suffer from alcohol use disorder.

Alcohol use disorder doesn’t have to run your life. At Granite Recovery Centers, we can help individuals suffering from alcohol use disorder recover. Part of the process of recovery is detoxing. Granite Recovery Centers provides medical detoxification for people who do not need immediate medical intervention, are not a danger to themselves, and are capable of self-evacuation in the event of an emergency. To ensure that you’re able to detox fully, you need to know how long alcohol stays in your system.

How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your Body?

Alcohol drinkers may not realize how long the alcohol stays in their system. It’s often the reason why so people many feel that they can drive after drinking. Because they don’t feel like they’re drunk or because they think it’s been long enough for the alcohol to have metabolized, they choose to drive.

Alcohol circulates through your body in a few stages. Because of that, it lingers in your system for different durations depending on the location. The main areas it affects are:

  • Blood
  • Breath
  • Urine
  • Saliva
  • Hair

An alcoholic drink is metabolized by your liver. Depending on your age, weight, the amount of food you ate with the alcohol and your gender, your liver will take around one hour to metabolize the alcohol per standard drink. One common misconception about metabolizing alcohol is that water can influence the process, but this isn’t the case.


Water has no effect on increasing the speed of your metabolism. If you want to truly help lower the threshold for how long alcohol stays in your system, then you need to eat food while you drink.
In blood, alcohol remains in your system for up to six hours. This is an important figure because alcohol uses your bloodstream to travel to your brain. Since it’s in your blood for six hours, it’s likely affecting your brain for just as long. Even if you start to feel your intoxication decreasing, if you’re still in that six-hour threshold, then you’re still intoxicated.


In your breath, it can take anywhere from 12 to 24 hours for the alcohol to leave. If you plan on having any kind of drug test within that time, then you shouldn’t be surprised if the test comes back positive. This is also important for breath tests taken on the road. Even if it’s the next day, there’s a chance that you might blow the test positive if you’re pulled over. You may not feel drunk, but your breath will say that you are.


Similar to your breath, alcohol stays in your urine for anywhere from 12 to 24 hours, so this can affect any kind of drug test that you need to take. Drinking to excess the night before a urine test could ruin your chances of landing a job or passing some other qualification.


Your saliva also takes 12 to 24 hours for the alcohol to fully leave it.


Interestingly, alcohol takes the longest to leave your hair: up to 90 days. One interesting feature of alcohol use disorder is that it can actually promote hair loss. Alcohol raises the amount of estrogen in your body, and this hormone often leads to hair loss.

Alcohol lowers zinc in your body, which is necessary for hair growth. It can also impede nutrient uptake in your body. Vitamins like B and C are required to keep your hair healthy and promote growth. With alcohol blocking them from being able to perform their jobs, your hair weakens, and the scalp starts to lose more hair.

This is especially problematic when you consider how long alcohol stays in your hair. For up to 90 days, even if you don’t drink again during that time, alcohol could be ravaging your hair.

Understand How Long Alcohol is Metabolized in Your Body

The reason it can take so long for some parts of your system to get rid of alcohol is because of how alcohol is metabolized. There’s a common misconception that, because alcohol is metabolized through your digestive system, it behaves like food. This isn’t the case.

Before the alcohol is primarily destroyed by the digestive system, a large portion of it escapes into your bloodstream. It does so by being absorbed by your stomach lining as well as your small intestine. The problem is that, once it hits your bloodstream, it’s difficult to break it down.

The alcohol in your blood heads for your brain. There’s no digestive system in your brain. Instead, the alcohol has to eventually transfer to one of the areas of elimination in your body. Those areas include your urine, breath and sweat. Around 90% of the alcohol in your body will be metabolized by your liver. The rest is slowly disposed of whenever you breathe or sweat.

One way that you can help metabolize alcohol is by eating food. Having a large meal with alcohol slows intoxication and promotes digestion because food blocks the ability for alcohol to easily pass through the stomach lining and small intestine. While some alcohol will inevitably reach your bloodstream through your mouth and throat, the primary location for their absorption will be limited.

How Long Will it Take Before You Feel the Effects of Alcohol?

Depending on how much food you have in your system, you may notice the effects of alcohol within 15 to 45 minutes of consuming a drink. For men, their blood alcohol level needs to reach around 0.05 in order to start to feel the effects. It becomes too dangerous to drive when their blood alcohol content is 0.07. Once they reach 0.10, they are noticeably intoxicated and may require help.
For women, if they have four drinks in an hour, their blood alcohol count will likely raise up to 0.10; in which case, they’ll feel severely impaired.
Because alcohol can sometimes take awhile for you to start feeling the effects, it’s easy to push yourself past your limit without even realizing it. You may feel that you’re okay to drive, but five minutes after pulling onto the road, your vision might start to become blurry, and your reactions may slow.
Understanding how long alcohol stays in your body and how long it can take to feel its effects is vital to keeping yourself and others safe.

Signs That You’re Drunk

It may be difficult to know when you’re having a good buzz vs. when you’re drunk. While being intoxicated at any level can lead to problems, it’s obvious that the more drunk you are, the more likely you are to have an accident or cause a problem.
Some signs that you’re approaching a drunken state include:

  • Lowered inhibitions
  • Impaired coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Confusion
  • Breathing problems
  • Trouble remembering things

These signs can lead to serious motor accidents if you decide to drive. One of the main issues is that it lowers your inhibitions. You may feel invincible or untouchable, which could cause you to make decisions like driving while drunk or performing some other dangerous action.
Yet because of impaired coordination or difficulty in concentrating, when presented with a real threat, you may be unable to react in time. This might include crashing into another car, crashing into a tree, driving off of the road or causing an injury to yourself.
Considering how long it takes for alcohol to leave your system, you’ll be impaired for a long while. Without supervision, you could be in trouble long after everyone else has left to go home.

How Quickly is Alcohol Absorbed Into the Body?

Because alcohol is absorbed into the body through a few different ways, there are different rates by which the alcohol is absorbed. As quickly as 30 seconds is all it takes for alcohol to enter your bloodstream. It travels to your brain and starts to impede certain brain activities.

After five minutes, the alcohol reaches your digestive system. Although some of it remains there to be digested and passed through your urine later, the majority of it is absorbed by your stomach lining and small intestine. If you also have food in your system, it may take longer than five minutes for the alcohol to be absorbed.
After about 20 minutes, the alcohol is finally sent to the liver to be metabolized.

Does Drinking Coffee or Taking a Shower Speed Up Digestion of Alcohol?

No. Many people believe that having a pot of coffee or drinking a lot of water can make their intoxication disappear. Water and coffee have no effect on decreasing your blood alcohol content; the only thing that they do is make you feel more aware. While it may feel like you’re sober, your reactions are still delayed. It’s always dangerous to drive or perform other actions under the influence.
A similar thought pattern is that taking a shower can help sober you up. While taking a shower may make you feel more awake and alert, it doesn’t actually react with your blood alcohol content in any way.
The only way you can help decrease your blood alcohol content faster is to eat food and stay away from drinking more alcohol.

Alcohol Poisoning and How Long Alcohol Stays in Your System

One of the biggest dangers that alcohol poses is its ability to inflict alcohol poisoning. Part of the reason why someone can undergo alcohol poisoning is because of how slowly alcohol leaves the system and how long it can take to feel the effects. You may drink several alcoholic beverages because you’re not feeling its effects. Before you know it, it’s hitting you all at once, and you’re starting to experience the effects of alcohol poisoning.
A few signs that you’re starting to experience alcohol poisoning are:

  • Slow heart rate
  • Vomiting
  • Slowed or irregular breathing
  • Stupor
  • Extreme mental confusion
  • Clammy skin
  • Blue or pale skin color
  • Loss of consciousness

Binge drinking is the most likely culprit behind alcohol poisoning. For a man, binge drinking is defined by drinking five drinks in two hours. For women, it’s four drinks in two hours. Drinking even more during this time interval classifies as extreme binge drinking.

Detoxing and Alcohol Longevity

When you seek treatment at our rehab center, one of the first steps you need to take is detoxing. Recovery cannot begin until all traces of alcohol have left your body. Due to how long alcohol can exist in the body, your detox may seem like it’s taking forever. Granite Recovery Centers provides medical detoxification for people who do not need immediate medical intervention, are not a danger to themselves, and are capable of self-evacuation in the event of an emergency.

However, we’re here to help you through it. If you experience symptoms of withdrawal during your detox, then we have policies and treatments in place to help make it a little easier.
Once the alcohol has completely left your body, you’re able to start receiving therapy and other treatments designed to help repair and rewire your mind away from your addiction.
You can’t start therapy before your detox is over because this is a crucial moment where you have to fight your addiction. Your brain will be your primary enemy. It will call for the effects that alcohol provides to the point where you may even feel like you’re going to die without it. You won’t. Our staff will be there to support you every day.

It’s important that you don’t detox on your own. Medical professionals will help ensure that you detox properly and remain safe throughout the process. You may not fully know when the alcohol has left your body. We have access to tools that can test your blood alcohol content to determine where you are in your detoxification process.
Once that interval is over, you’re on the road to recovery.

Find Help with Us Today

At Granite Recovery Centers, we’re eager to help you take back your life and recover from alcohol use disorder. By understanding how long alcohol stays in your system, you can make impactful decisions that lower your risk of injury to yourself and to others. Our Admissions Specialists are available 24/7 and would be more than happy to discuss your specific situation and treatment options. Please don’t hesitate to give us a call today at 855.712.7784.