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How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System?

Knowing how long alcohol stays in your system is important for health, safety, and legal reasons. The time varies based on how much you drink, your metabolism, and the type of test used to detect alcohol. Keep reading to learn about alcohol metabolism, detection times, and treatment options.

Absorption, Distribution, and Metabolism

When you drink alcohol, it first enters your digestive system. Alcohol is absorbed into your bloodstream primarily through the lining of your stomach and the small intestine. This process happens relatively quickly, which is why you can feel the effects of alcohol shortly after consuming it.

Once in your bloodstream, alcohol is distributed throughout your body. It affects various organs, including the brain, which is why alcohol impacts your mood, coordination, and behavior.

The liver plays a crucial role in metabolizing alcohol. About 90% of the alcohol you consume is processed by the liver, where it is broken down by enzymes. The liver converts alcohol into acetaldehyde, a toxic substance. Acetaldehyde is then quickly broken down into acetate, which is further broken down into water and carbon dioxide. These byproducts are eventually expelled from the body through urine and breath.

The liver can process a limited amount of alcohol per hour, typically around one standard drink. If you consume alcohol faster than your liver can metabolize it, the excess alcohol continues to circulate in your bloodstream, leading to higher blood alcohol concentration (BAC) and prolonged effects.

Factors Affecting Alcohol Metabolism

Several factors influence how quickly your body processes alcohol, and these can vary widely between individuals.

  • Age: Younger people generally metabolize alcohol more quickly than older adults. As you age, your metabolism slows down, and the efficiency of your liver decreases, resulting in slower alcohol processing.
  • Gender: Women typically metabolize alcohol more slowly than men. This difference is due to various factors, including body composition and the levels of enzymes that break down alcohol. Women generally have a higher body fat percentage and lower water content, which leads to a higher concentration of alcohol in the blood.
  • Body Weight: Heavier individuals may metabolize alcohol more slowly. A larger body mass means a greater volume in which the alcohol is diluted, potentially leading to a slower increase in BAC. However, this also depends on other metabolic factors.
  • Genetics: Genetic differences can affect the production and activity of liver enzymes that metabolize alcohol. Some people have variations in these enzymes that cause them to process alcohol more quickly or more slowly than others.
  • Health Conditions: Chronic liver conditions, such as hepatitis or cirrhosis, can impair the liver’s ability to metabolize alcohol efficiently. Other health issues, like metabolic disorders, can also affect alcohol metabolism.
  • Food Intake: Eating before or while drinking can slow the absorption of alcohol into your bloodstream. Food in the stomach delays the emptying of alcohol into the small intestine, where absorption is more rapid. This results in a slower rise in BAC.
  • Medications: Some medications can interact with alcohol, affecting how it is metabolized. For example, certain drugs can increase the effects of alcohol or cause adverse reactions.

Alcohol Detection Times

Blood, Breath, and Urine Tests

Different tests detect alcohol at various stages:

  • Blood tests can find alcohol for up to 12 hours.
  • Breath tests (like a breathalyzer) can detect alcohol for up to 24 hours.
  • Urine tests can detect alcohol metabolites for 12-48 hours, sometimes up to 80 hours after heavy drinking.

Hair and Saliva Tests

Hair tests can find alcohol for up to 90 days, although they are less common. Saliva tests can detect alcohol for 1-5 days, depending on how much you drank.

Treatment Options at Buckeye Recovery Network

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Buckeye Recovery Network treats both alcohol addiction and mental health issues. This approach includes:

  • Medical Detox: Safe, supervised detox to manage withdrawal symptoms.
  • Therapy: Individual and group therapy to address addiction and mental health issues.
  • Medication: Medicines to reduce cravings and manage mental health symptoms.

Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)

Our Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) offers flexible treatment while you continue your daily life. It includes regular therapy sessions, workshops to build life skills, and support groups.

Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP)

The Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) provides intensive care. It includes daily therapy sessions, regular health check-ups, and holistic treatments like yoga and meditation.

Aftercare Services

Recovery is ongoing, and our Aftercare Services support long-term sobriety. This includes continued therapy, support groups, and relapse prevention planning.

Get Help Today With Our Team Today

Alcohol stays in your system for different lengths of time depending on several factors. Understanding these factors and recognizing the signs of addiction are key to recovery. Buckeye Recovery Network offers comprehensive treatment programs to help with both alcohol addiction and mental health issues. If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol addiction, reach out for help. Share this blog post to spread awareness, or contact our team to learn more about our programs.


Alcohol can be detected in the blood for up to 12 hours, in the breath for up to 24 hours, in urine for 12-48 hours (sometimes up to 80 hours), in saliva for 1-5 days, and in hair for up to 90 days.

Age, gender, body weight, and food intake all affect how long alcohol stays in your system. Younger people, men, and those who have eaten before drinking process alcohol more quickly.

Show compassion, encourage them to seek professional help, and help them find a treatment center. Set boundaries to protect your own well-being.

We offer Dual Diagnosis Treatment, Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP), Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP), and Aftercare Services to address both addiction and mental health issues.

Professional treatment provides the medical care and therapeutic support needed to manage withdrawal symptoms, address underlying issues, and develop strategies for long-term sobriety.

Today is going to be the best day of your life.

Kelsey Gearhart

Director of Business Development

Kelsey carries multiple years of experience working in the substance abuse and mental health treatment field. Her passion for this field comes from her personally knowing recovery from addiction.

Prior to Buckeye she held titles of Recovery Coach, Operations Director, and Admissions Director. Kelsey was brought on at Buckeye Recovery as the Director of Business Development. She has a passion for ensuring every individual gets the help that they need, and does so by developing relationships with other providers.

Kelsey also oversees our women’s sober living environments – The Chadwick House for Women. She is committed to creating a safe, nurturing, and conducive environment for all women that walk through the doors of Chadwick.