Alcohol Test: How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System

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Alcohol Test: How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System

Alcohol Test: How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System

Alcohol Test: How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System

After having an alcoholic drink, have you thought about how long the alcohol stays in your system? The simple answer to this question would depend on the quantity of alcohol you’ve consumed. However, various other factors can influence how long alcohol stays in your system. Read on to learn about how alcohol is metabolized and how long it stays in your system.

Alcohol Metabolism

Alcohol has a short life span in the body. Alcohol metabolism is when your body breaks down the alcohol and eliminates it from the body.

When you consume alcohol, it enters the digestive system. About 20 percent of the alcohol from a single drink moves directly to the blood vessels. From there, it’s carried to your brain. The rest of the 80 percent goes to your small intestine, then directly to your bloodstream.


Since the alcohol goes to your brain, lungs, and other tissues, you may feel the effects of alcohol almost immediately after you’ve had a drink. The effects of alcohol may continue to build for about 15 to 45 minutes. In the last step of the alcohol life cycle, the liver enzymes break down the alcohol into its by-products and remove them from the body.

Factors Affecting How Long the Effects of Alcohol Will Last

Many factors affect how long the effects of alcohol can last. Primarily it depends on the time your body takes to efficiently and quickly break down and eliminate the alcohol. Here are some other factors:

  • Your weight
  • Your age
  • Your sex
  • The type and amount of alcohol consumed
  • Your liver’s health

How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System?

Blood alcohol concentration or BAC is the percentage of pure alcohol in the bloodstream. Breath tests can detect alcohol in your system for about 24 hours. A breathalyzer is a machine used to measure the BAC. If the BAC is above 0.02, it is considered to be at an unsafe level for safety-based tasks such as driving.

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. However, hair tests cannot determine a person’s blood alcohol content. It can only determine if the person has been drinking within the last 90 days. Alcohol tests can also detect alcohol in sweat, saliva, or blood.

Tips to Keep Low Alcohol Blood Content and Drink Safely

  • Choose drinks with a low percentage of alcohol. For example, choosing a low percent drink like a light beer instead of one with high percent alcohol like gin or vodka can minimize the BAC rate.
  • It’s advisable to stick to one alcoholic beverage per hour.
  • Eat a meal, preferably a protein-rich meal, before or while you are drinking. Ensuring that you are pairing food with alcohol can slow its absorption and reduce its effects.
  • Drinking an excessive amount of alcohol in a short time is called binge drinking. It’s best to avoid binge drinking as those who binge drink have higher BACs. It also takes longer for the alcohol to metabolize.
  • Instead of chugging or gulping your alcoholic beverage, it’s preferable to sip it slowly. The longer you take to consume one drink, the lower the BAC in an alcohol test.
  • Choose non-alcoholic drinks alternatively to give your body time to break down the alcohol. You could alternate between water and alcohol as this can reduce the absorption rate. Drinking water also keeps you hydrated.
  • Those who are active and have a higher metabolic rate can process and alcohol faster. Exercise and have an active lifestyle, so your body can eliminate the alcohol from your body quicker.

Always ensure that you are not driving after drinking. Breastfeeding mothers should avoid nursing for 2 to 3 hours for each drink they’ve had as alcohol interferes with the baby’s sleep and development. Pregnant women should avoid alcohol altogether.

Though several factors like age, weight, sex, and genetics can affect how alcohol affects you, it’s best to know your limitations. Safety and moderation are crucial, and it’s ideal to limit consumption to a few drinks per week. Remember that you can slow down the rate at which alcohol enters your body, but you can’t increase its elimination rate from the body. This is why prevention is the best cure for a hangover.

Works Cited

Cherney, Kristeen. “How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System?” Healthline, Healthline Media, 29 Mar. 2019,

# Tags:
Alcohol, Alcoholism, Heart Health, Mental Health, Metabolism, Prevention
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