So you’re now kind of drunk and you want to know how long does alcohol stay in your system?

A lot of research is done on the span of alcohol in the body, and it is said that alcohol has a short life span with 20 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) as a metabolic rate. If a body has 20 mg/dL of alcohol in the blood, it will take about one hour to metabolize it. However, let’s dive deeper into each alcoholic drink.

How long does alcohol stay in your system, really?

A general estimate of the comparison between different alcohol types helps determine the average time to metabolize the alcohol in the blood.

  • A few drinks need several hours to metabolize.
  • A large glass of wine takes at least three hours to metabolize.
  • A pint of beer takes at least two hours to metabolize.
  • A small shot of liquor needs at least one hour to metabolize from the blood.

The metabolism of alcohol varies from person to person. Still, alcohol is metabolized at a constant rate, but some people feel dizziness and the effects of alcohol even after the metabolization time. The reason behind this variation is that the concentration of blood and alcohol vary person to person.

If two persons have blood alcohol levels of around 40 mg/dL, alcohol is metabolized from the body in two hours. Still, the Blood Alcohol concentration can be very different because BAC refers to the amount of alcohol to the amount of water in your blood.

Factors affecting Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC):

According to studies, the BAC is affected by numerous factors:

  • Drinking many drinks in a short period of time, or binge drinking.
  • Liver disease.
  • Medications.
  • Drinking alcohol on an empty stomach.
  • Weight.
  • Age. 


Different medications affect the rate of alcohol absorption and hence the alcohol effect on the body. There is a particular medication that lowers the emptying into the small intestine and liver and also those that increase the blood alcohol concentration.

The medications may increase the alcohol toxicity towards the body systems hence it is recommended to avoid alcohol consumption while using certain medications. Generally, the medications are:

  • Hypertension medication
  • Analgesics
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Medications for anxiety
  • Diabetes medication
  • Sedative pills

So being on medications, one should strictly avoid alcohol consumption because it may turn even more toxic. Hence above mentioned are the factors that affect the alcohol metabolism in the body. So, it usually depends on the amount of alcohol to take and how your local factors affect the metabolic rate of alcohol.

The effect of alcohol depends on the brand because some have a more significant amount of alcohol, and some have small amounts of alcohol, so it affects your Blood Alcohol concentration and eventually the time needed to wear off the effect of alcohol.

Biological sex

Alcohol has a long-term effect on women as compared to men. This is because there is a high-fat ratio in a female’s body and less water in the body than the men. Moreover, hormones may also affect alcohol metabolism such as the blood alcohol concentration raises right before menstruation in females.

The enzyme aldehyde dehydrogenase that metabolizes alcohol is less in females as compared to men. We can say that regardless of body size, age, and weight, females have the more prolonged effect of alcohol than men.

Body size

A person’s body size, height, and weight also affect the rate at which alcohol is consumed because it affects the blood alcohol concentration (BAC). The person with high fatty tissue absorbs and metabolizes alcohol slowly compared to persons with high body water.

Obesity can cause a long-term effect of alcohol on the patients. In people with a small stature, the blood alcohol concentration is more means a higher rate of alcohol metabolism than the persons with short length.

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Having food in the stomach also lowers the rate of alcohol metabolism. On an empty stomach, the blood alcohol concentration is three times more compared to the person who had food before drinking alcohol. The food makes the passage of alcohol from your stomach to the small intestine harder, which then results in lower alcohol metabolism and a longer duration of alcohol effect on the person.


With the increase of a person’s age, the alcohol is processed in the body at a lower rate. In older people, the alcohol stays in the liver for a longer duration and takes time to reach the systemic circulation and get metabolized. This may be because of two reasons.

One is a decrease in body fluids.

Second is the consumption of different medicines by the older people, which are also metabolized by the liver, so alcohol metabolism is affected and becomes slow. Alcohol becomes more toxic for people of older age.

How to measure Blood Alcohol Concentration?

  • 2% is associated with warmth, euphoria, and relaxation.
  • 5% is associated with slurring words, poor vision, speaking louder, altered body movements.
  • 8% refers to a patient who has no concentration and self-control.
  • 10% refers to a patient who is struggling to control functions like walking.
  • 15% refers to a patient who is heavily degraded in decision making and body control.
  • 20-29% refers to a patient who is a blackout of memory.
  • 30-39% refers to a patient with no control of bladder and breathing and has an increased probability of death.
  • 40-49% refers to a patient suffering from stroke or conditions like this and potentially deadly outcomes.

What steps can you take to metabolize alcohol quicker?

Following are some essential factors that help to increase the rate of metabolism of alcohol in the blood.

  • Avoid caffeine.
  • Increase water intake.
  • Increase food intake that helps the body to metabolize the alcohol more quickly.

How does the metabolism of alcohol happen?

The metabolism of alcohol is simple; first, it simply enters our digestive system, but it is to be noted that the digestion of alcohol is not similar to other drinks and food products.

It is estimated that 18-20 percent of alcohol from a single drink quickly moves into the vessels and is carried to the nervous system, remaining alcohol is left in the bloodstream.

Elimination of alcohol from the body is done with the help of the liver. The liver metabolizes the alcohol and moves it to the urine system which removes it from the body.

But suppose the liver has some enlargement like in hepatitis. In that case, alcohol metabolism is highly slowed down, so that’s why it is recommended that people who have hepatitis should avoid alcohol.

What tests are there to detect alcohol?

We use many tests to detect the alcohol in our body, but here we discuss majorly two, one is a urine test, and the other is a breath test. These tests are looking for the trace amount of alcohol in our bodies.

Breath tests

Breath tests can only detect the alcohol for a very short interval of time; researchers suggest that this test can only detect the presence of alcohol within 24 hours after alcohol consumption.

The breathalyzer is the instrument used to measure Blood Alcohol Concentration. If the breath test reveals that the level of alcohol is 0.02, it is not advised to drive.

Urine tests:

A urine test can only detect the presence of alcohol within 48 hours after drinking alcohol. Some advanced tests can detect alcohol even after 80 hours after alcohol consumption.

Hair, blood, sweat, and saliva tests:

Scientists suggest that alcohol can be present in the hair for up to 90 days. Additionally, alcohol can also be detected for some time in blood, sweat, and saliva.

What is alcohol poisoning?

If intake of alcohol exceeds a limit, it cause alcohol poisoning; people having alcohol poisoning have to seek emergency protocol because the symptoms include:

  • Slow breathing.
  • Reduced blood temperature.
  • Vomiting.

The alcohol poisoning patient passes out as it is a dangerous medical condition. The complications seen in the alcohol poisoning patient is as follows:

  • Extremely low blood pressure.
  • Asphyxiation.
  • Seizure.
  • Brain damage.
  • Cardiac arrest.

If someone at your home or with friends is in this condition of alcoholic toxicity, immediately call the emergency as it is a life-threatening condition.

How does alcohol exit the body?

As we know, alcohol has different rates of absorption in the human body depending upon various factors. Still, the rate of elimination is the same regardless of various factors and different methods to get rid of it.

The average rate of alcohol elimination is the same for everyone that is a blood alcohol concentration of 0.016 is removed per hr. doing different things would not affect its rate of elimination such as drinking coffee, drinking water and taking a bath and even vomiting can’t help it.

If you are going to have a urine or blood test to check the presence of alcohol, it is advised to comply and do the test. Being intoxicated not only poses a danger to yourself but to people around you. There is no scientifically proven way to defy the test. It is very dangerous to drive if the alcohol level is more than 80 mg per 100ml of blood.

The body takes different timings to eliminate the different concentration of blood alcohol such as for the removal of 0.016 BAC the body requires an hour, for 0.05 body requires 3.75 hours, for 0.08 BAC body requires 5 hrs, for 0.10 BAC body requires 6.25 hrs, for 0.16 BAC body requires 10 hrs, for 0.20 BAC body requires 12.5 hrs and for 0.24 BAC body requires 15 hrs for the elimination of the alcohol.

The alcohol elimination rate only depends on blood alcohol concentration.

It also depends on the patient’s health because liver health can affect elimination. The above timings for elimination are of a healthy liver. This may increase or decrease depending on a person’s liver health.


To put everything in a nutshell, we can say that alcohol is present in blood, urine, hair, and saliva. It can be detected by different tests alcohol can also be detected from the breath of the person.

It also has different effects on the human body, such as slurred speech, ataxia, euphoria, and poor judgment. Its consumption can also be detected by these features. Different factors affect its detection timings that include age, sex, and genetics, etc.

We also know that there is no specific way to get rid of alcohol and move it out of our systems until a particular time has passed required for its elimination.

Some people show long-term, and others show short-term alcohol effects depending on alcohol metabolism depending on age, gender, medications, and food consumption among other factors.

Alcohol has different effects on different parts of the body and has different timings on different people. The only constant in the equation is the rate of elimination.

Alcohol is detrimental to health in every aspect and highly contraindicated in pregnant females and patients on certain medications. It may lead to alcoholism, liver toxicity, and cancer, etc. It is not advised to consume alcohol if you are unsure of its effects on your body.

Wondering what effects alcohol might have on Benadryl? We got you covered here.


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Amy Revene M.B.B.S.
Amy Revene M.B.B.S. graduated from the University of Sharjah. She is currently working as a General Physician at New Hope Medical Center. Amy has a passion for research and offers her expertise and opinions helping people in their quest to lead healthy, happy lives.

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