How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System? Timeline and Effects

Here’s a quick question we’d like to ask you: what’s the most addictive substance in America today?

Is it methamphetamine? Almost, but not quite. 

Is it heroin? Not even close.

Is it ketamine? Not really. 

Well, you’ll be surprised to know the answer: alcohol.

With alcohol readily available in stores all over the United States and millions of ounces being consumed each day, many find themselves in vulnerable positions of addiction. Unfortunately, minimal control over these products has been enforced in the past few decades, resulting in increasingly overwhelming waves of alcoholism across demographics.

How long does alcohol stay in your system?

Why Length Matters

The topic of the duration of alcohol in the body comes up for a number of reasons, the most common of which being: 

  • Rehab tests and evaluations
  • Substance tests for job applications
  • Work welfare and safety processes
  • Driving or road safety
  • Sobriety processes
  • Organ transplantation
  • Legal investigations

Regardless of the reason for necessity, understanding the length of time at which alcohol stays in the body’s systems is incredibly important because it allows struggling alcoholics to take control of their predicaments. 

How Long Does Alcohol Typically Stay In Your System?

Although the rule of thumb dictates that the average human body processes alcohol at a constant rate of about one standard drink an hour, specific times can vary depending on these factors:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Body composition
  • Overall health

And many other biological factors.

To give you a better idea of how long alcohol can last in your body (or that of a loved one), let’s look at some of the most pivotal factors to watch out for and take into consideration: 

  • Weight And Health

For starters, the rate at which your body absorbs alcohol depends on various factors such as weight and health, as these determine precisely how your physiological traits kick in. Over time, these two factors can affect the duration of the presence of alcoholic beverages over time and cause it to lengthen (or, in some rare cases, shorten).

  • The Type Of Alcohol That You Consume

One of the main defining factors that affect the presence of alcohol in your body is the type of beverage you’re drinking. This is mainly related to the alcoholic concentration that a drink possesses, typically as a result of the processes and ingredients involved. For example, liquor such as whisky or vodka can reach levels of 40 percent on average, red wine has a range of eight to 12 percent, and beer reaches up to eight. 

does alcohol expire
How Long Does Alcohol Last

On top of the actual alcoholic drinks that are consumed, the other ingredients that they’re mixed with have a direct effect on the duration of their presence in the body. When drinks are served with ingredients like soda or carbonated water, the body absorbs the alcohol much faster—which can also result in a quicker dispersion.

  • The Liver

Another critical factor to consider when assessing the potential duration of alcohol in the body is the liver.

Generally, healthy livers process 0.016 percent blood alcohol content (BAC) per hour—a number that is often compared with the overall alcoholic concentration of beverages consumed. Over time, however, this rate can become slower because of various factors related to age, weight, and health because of how they interact with the body’s ability to process BAC. 

How Long Will It Be Detected In Your System?

When it comes to matters of detection, the main factor that you’ll want to look at is the body’s ability to reach 0 percent BAC. This can range between one hour and a full day. However, it’s important to note that taking a whole day for any presence of alcoholic beverages to settle down is typically a sign of being at risk of coma or death from alcohol poisoning.

To detect the presence of alcohol in the body, a BAC test is carried out by a testing authority. It is only accurate within six to 12 hours after someone has had their last drink when determining whether someone was legally intoxicated. This particular type of test comes in multiple forms:

  • Blood Tests – These are used to determine the scale of alcohol content in the body—an indicator that references to what level a person is intoxicated at a specific time. Blood tests are sought in rare cases or low availability of other tests. Alcohol can be detected for up to 12 hours after the last drink because the presence of alcoholic substances in the blood lasts for as long.

  • Breath Tests – Seen as the fastest, easiest, and most accurate testing method for alcohol content, breath tests—commonly known as breathalyzer tests—are commonly used by law enforcement officers on the field. Through the use of this method, alcohol can be detected on one’s breath for up to 24 hours from the time they last drank.

  • Urine Tests – Second to breath tests, urine tests are another method used to detect alcohol in the body by seeking the presence of ethyl glucuronide, also known as EtG. Like saliva, urine carries the detectable presence of alcohol consumption for up to 12 hours from the last sip, making it a favored option for testing parties.

Side Effects of Alcohol Use

Whenever alcohol is consumed, a person can experience its short-term effects on the mind and body because the liver metabolizes compounds found in such substances. Here’s a quick rundown of the effects that can arise shortly after consuming alcoholic drinks (especially in copious amounts):

  • Skin flushing
  • Lowered inhibitions—leading to poor social judgment
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Loss of coordination
  • Loss of critical judgment
  • Dulled perception, especially vision
  • Mood swings
  • Reduced core body temperature
  • Raised blood pressure
  • Passing out
  • Vomiting

Long-Term Effects Of Alcohol Abuse

When regular alcohol consumption develops into addiction and abuse, several effects occur apart from the aforementioned short-term side effects. 

Here are some key signs of alcoholism:

  • Diminished gray matter and white matter in the brain
  • Memory loss
  • Loss of attention span
  • Trouble learning
  • Alcoholic hepatitis
  • Liver fibrosis
  • Steatosis (i.e., fatty liver)
  • Throat, mouth, larynx, breast, liver, colorectal, or esophageal cancer
  • High blood pressure
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Stroke
  • Irregular heartbeat


If you or a loved one have been struggling with a certain degree of alcohol dependency, then you’re probably looking to part ways with the harmful habit at all costs. Considering that going cold turkey isn’t necessarily the most productive approach for doing so, you’re most likely taking it slowly, one day at a time.

Depending on how long the addiction or dependency has been going on, cutting alcoholic drinks can either be a slow or entirely arduous process. Unfortunately, there can be moments wherein quitting can be inconvenient because of how long the substance stays in your system.

When it comes to understanding the overall effects that alcohol has on the body, it’s crucial to be especially familiar with the duration of its presence in one’s systems. Through the help of this guide and the key points mentioned above, you’ll be able to ensure that you approach any sign of alcoholism in the most effective and proactive way possible right away.