Last Updated on May 29, 2024 by Dr. Alberto Solà

If you’re someone who drinks alcoholic beverages occasionally or on a regular basis, you may be wondering how long that alcohol stays in your system. How long does alcohol stay in the body? How long does alcohol continue to affect you? Even after the mental and physical effects have dissipated, can alcohol still be detected in your body through testing? Is alcohol still affecting your body even though you no longer feel it? Read on to learn all the answers to these questions and more. 

What If I Drink Regularly?

Whether you’re a regular or occasional drinker, understanding how long alcohol stays in your system is crucial. While habitual drinkers might experience a certain tolerance, meaning they don’t feel the effects of alcohol as strongly as they did initially, this does not change the duration alcohol stays in their system. Just because the impacts seem less pronounced doesn’t mean that alcohol is not lingering in your body; it just implies that your body has adapted to its presence, reducing its noticeable effects.

This common misunderstanding about alcohol tolerance may lead some to believe that their frequency of drinking influences the duration alcohol remains in their system. However, this is not the case. The persistence of alcohol in your body is determined by numerous factors, none of which include how often you drink.

Alcohol, specifically ethanol, is the psychoactive compound found in alcoholic beverages. It gets absorbed swiftly and primarily via the stomach and small intestines once consumed. Various aspects can influence the rate and efficiency of this absorption. The type and strength of the alcohol consumed play a role – stronger beverages tend to be absorbed faster. The consumption rate can also affect absorption, with binge drinking leading to quicker absorption due to the larger volume ingested at once.

Whether or not the individual has eaten before drinking significantly impacts alcohol absorption. Consuming food before swallowing, particularly high-protein meals, can slow down the absorption process by reducing the speed at which alcohol moves from the stomach to the small intestine, where it is absorbed much faster.

How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System?

So, how long does alcohol stay in your system? The answer to this question is complicated because a lot of factors contribute to it. Of course, the amount of alcohol you consume matters immensely; the more alcohol that you drink, the longer it will take to leave your body. However, there’s another big factor that plays a part as well, and that’s your physical makeup. People who are heavier and more muscular may not feel alcohol as much as someone who is smaller, but the alcohol may stay in the bigger person’s system longer than, the smaller person’s.

Other factors that contribute to the metabolization of alcohol include gender and age. And the amount of food the drinker drank before or during drinking alcohol can play a part, too.

 Because of all of the above factors, it can be very difficult to determine how long alcohol will stay in the system of any one person. However, it’s possible to make some ballpark guesses when all of these things are considered and taken into account.

There are a variety of alcohol detection tests used in alcohol testing. Anyone who takes an alcohol drug test may have to take a test that tests one’s urine, blood, breath, saliva, or hair. Although the amount of time that alcohol stays in your body obviously does not depend on the kind of test you take, each of these tests has a different level of sensitivity. Therefore, someone may test positive for alcohol on one type of test but not on another. 


How long does alcohol stay in your urine? Most urine tests can detect alcohol in someone’s system for 12 to 24 hours, but newer urine testing methods may be able to detect it for up to 72 hours.


How long does alcohol stay in your blood? Blood tests are the least sensitive tests when it comes to alcohol detection. Alcohol only remains detectable in a blood test for up to six hours for most people.


How long does alcohol stay on your breath? Breathalyzer tests are a common way to detect alcohol use, especially when people are suspected of drunk driving.  Although the legal limit of alcohol in someone’s system varies by state, a breath test can detect alcohol in someone’s system for 12 to 24 hours in most cases. 


Saliva tests are another way to detect alcohol in someone’s system. These tests generally detect alcohol for 12 to 24 hours as well.


Hair tests are the most sensitive tests when it comes to testing for alcohol or for any drug. Alcohol can be detected in a subject’s hair in an alcohol hair test for up to 90 days after he or she last consumed alcohol. 

How The Body Processes Alcohol

Alcohol is absorbed into the blood as it enters the gastrointestinal tract. From there, it travels to the brain. Alcohol absorption speed can vary based on the factors described above – weight, gender, age, and the amount of food in the drinker’s body. Regardless of how quickly it enters the bloodstream, the alcohol is then broken down by two enzymes – alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) and aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH). First, these enzymes turn the alcohol into a toxic substance – a carcinogen – but later, it’s further broken down into water and carbon dioxide. It’s in these forms that alcohol leaves the body.

How to Get Alcohol Out of Your System

So, what’s the fastest way to get alcohol out of one’s system? Do you wonder if cleaning your system from alcohol is possible? The answer is simple – only time can do that. There are no magic ways to clear one’s system of alcohol. You have to wait it out.

How long will it take? Well, the answer again depends on all those factors: age, gender, weight, and so on. 

But, keeping those factors in mind, some calculations can be made to determine when you’re mostly sober after drinking or when it’s safe to drive a car. The “average” person eliminates alcohol at the rate of one average drink per hour. That’s one beer, one glass of wine, or one shot of liquor per hour. If you have three drinks, it will take about three hours for the majority of the alcohol to leave your system. Five standard drinks are metabolized in about five hours.

However, keep in mind that although the majority of the alcohol in your system will have metabolized on this timetable, and if you wait the same number of hours as drinks you had before getting behind the wheel of a car, alcohol will still be detectable in your system for the longer periods outlined above regarding various alcohol detection tests. Just because someone is sober doesn’t mean there is absolutely no alcohol at all in his or her system.

Getting Help in Clear Sky Recovery

If you think you are drinking too much and are unable to stop on your own, it may be time to get help. At Clear Sky Ibogaine, we can help you to break free from your addiction to alcohol without you having to suffer from a painful detox from alcohol. Our innovative ibogaine treatment can not only help you to break free from your addiction, but it can also help you get to the root of it. Please consider joining us at our facility in Cancun, Mexico to experience ibogaine for alcoholism. Our experienced staff is standing by to answer all of your questions. Please contact us today.