Drug and Alcohol - Sobriety

How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System?

How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System?

Do you know how long alcohol stays in urine? Learn how alcohol can be detected in your system in various ways and more in our blog.

Written by

brian-mooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

jeremy-arztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

Drug and Alcohol


March 31, 2023

So, how long does alcohol stay in your system?

Alcohol abuse is a severe public health issue in the United States, where alcohol consumption and related issues have recently increased. Several factors may contribute to the rise in alcohol abuse in the USA, including stress, economic instability, social isolation, and the availability of alcohol. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic has also been a contributing factor, with many people experiencing increased stress and anxiety, leading to increased alcohol consumption.

By the Numbers:

According to data from the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 14.5 million adults aged 12 and older had an alcohol use disorder (AUD), and less than 10% of individuals had an AUD in the previous year received any treatment.

How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System?

The detection time of alcohol in urine depends on various factors, including the amount of alcohol consumed, the individual's metabolism, and the sensitivity of the testing method used. Typically, alcohol can be detected in urine for up to 12-24 hours after the last drink. However, in some cases, it can be detected for up to 48-72 hours or even longer.

The most commonly used method for alcohol testing in urine is the ethyl glucuronide (EtG) test. This test can detect alcohol consumption for up to 80 hours after the last drink. However, the EtG test has limitations, as it can also detect alcohol from other sources, such as alcohol-containing medications or personal care products, which can result in false-positive results.

Another method for alcohol testing in urine is the alcohol urine test, which measures the concentration of alcohol in the urine. This test can detect alcohol for up to 6-12 hours after the last drink, but it is less sensitive than the EtG test and may miss low levels of alcohol consumption.

However, urine alcohol tests are not reliable indicators of alcohol intoxication, as they only detect the presence of alcohol in the urine and not the level of impairment. In addition, urine tests cannot differentiate between recent alcohol consumption and past use. Thus, the detection time of alcohol in urine depends on various factors and can vary widely among individuals.

What Are the Factors that Affect How Long Alcohol Stays in the System?

The amount of time that alcohol stays in the system can vary depending on several factors, including:


Older adults may metabolize alcohol more slowly than younger individuals, leading to longer detection times.


Women tend to have less body water than men, resulting in a higher concentration of alcohol in the blood and a longer detection time.

Body Weight and Composition

Individuals with higher body weight and muscle mass may metabolize alcohol more quickly than those with lower weight or muscle mass.

Food Consumption

Consuming food before or during alcohol consumption can slow down the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream, leading to a longer detection time.


Some genetic factors can affect how the body processes alcohol, leading to metabolism and detection time variations.

Liver Function

The liver is responsible for metabolizing alcohol, and individuals with liver damage or disease may have a longer detection time as their liver may not function properly.

Type and Amount of Alcohol Consumed

The type and amount of alcohol consumed can affect the metabolism and detection time. For example, drinking high-alcohol-content beverages or drinking large amounts of alcohol can increase the detection time.

Hydration Levels

Dehydration can slow down the metabolism of alcohol, leading to a longer detection time.

Medications and Health Conditions

Some medications and health conditions can affect the metabolism and elimination of alcohol from the body, leading to longer detection times.

What Are the Ways Alcohol Is Detected in Your System?

Alcohol can be detected through various methods, including:

How Long Does Alcohol Stay In Your System? This chart shows how long Alcohol stays in urine, saliva, blood, and hair


This is a common method law enforcement uses to test for alcohol impairment. The breathalyzer measures the concentration of alcohol in the breath, which reflects the alcohol concentration in the blood. The results are provided in blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels.

Blood Test

A blood test can measure the amount of alcohol in the bloodstream, accurately measuring the individual's BAC. Blood tests can also detect other substances, such as drugs and alcohol.

Urine Test

Urine tests can detect the presence of alcohol in the body, although they are less accurate than blood tests. Urine tests are typically used in workplace testing or probation situations, as they can detect alcohol consumption up to several days after consumption.

Saliva Test

Saliva tests can measure the concentration of alcohol in the saliva, indicating the individual's BAC. Saliva tests are less invasive than blood tests and can provide rapid results.

Hair Test

Hair tests can detect alcohol use up to several months after consumption. The test measures the ethyl glucuronide (EtG) concentration in the hair, a metabolite of alcohol.

Sweat Patch Test

Sweat patch tests can detect alcohol consumption over several days to a week. The patch is applied to the skin and collects sweat, which is then tested for alcohol.

The choice of testing method depends on the purpose of testing, accuracy, and detection time required. For example, law enforcement typically uses breathalyzers or blood tests, while workplace testing may use urine or saliva tests. Hair and sweat patch tests are less commonly used but can provide a longer detection time.

What Is the Half-Life of Alcohol?

All drugs have what researchers call a half-life: the amount of time it takes for half of a dose of a particular drug to leave the body. Although factors like age, amount of alcohol drunk, whether or not a person was eating while they were drinking, and more determine alcohol's half-life, in general, the half-life of alcohol is around four to five hours.

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What Is Alcohol?

Alcohol is a chemical substance that's part of the alcohol family of organic molecules. Ethanol or ethyl alcohol are other names for it that are frequently used. Ethanol is a clear, colorless liquid with a burning flavor and a pleasant aroma. It is frequently used as a solvent, a recreational drug, and a constituent in a wide range of goods, such as alcohol, personal care items, and fuel.

Ethanol is produced naturally by the fermentation of sugars and starches. Fermentation is a process in which microorganisms, such as yeast, break down sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide. This process occurs without oxygen and can produce various alcoholic beverages, such as beer, wine, and spirits.

The substance has a wide range of effects on the body, depending on the amount consumed and the individual's tolerance. In small amounts, it can produce feelings of relaxation and euphoria. However, in large amounts, it can lead to impaired judgment, motor coordination, and decreased concentration ability. Long-term alcohol abuse can lead to a wide range of health problems, including liver disease, heart disease, and various types of cancer.

Alcohol is also a highly addictive substance. Chronic alcohol use can lead to physical dependence, resulting in withdrawal symptoms when a person attempts to quit drinking. Alcohol addiction is a severe condition that can profoundly impact an individual's life, relationships, and overall well-being.

Thus, alcohol is a chemical compound commonly used as a recreational drug and an ingredient in a wide range of products. While it can produce feelings of relaxation and euphoria in small amounts, it can also have a wide range of negative effects on the body and can be highly addictive.

How Does Alcohol Work?

Alcohol, also known as ethanol, is a psychoactive substance that can affect many different systems in the body. When consumed, alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream through the walls of the stomach and small intestine. From there, it can travel to all body parts, including the brain.

Once in the brain, alcohol affects the way that neurons (brain cells) communicate with each other. It does this by altering the balance of certain neurotransmitters, which are chemicals that transmit signals between neurons. Alcohol affects several neurotransmitters, including gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), glutamate, and dopamine.


GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that helps calm down the activity of neurons in the brain. Alcohol increases the activity of GABA, which can result in feelings of relaxation, sedation, and anxiety reduction.


Glutamate is an excitatory neurotransmitter, meaning it helps to increase the activity of neurons in the brain. Alcohol decreases the activity of glutamate, which can lead to a slowing down of certain brain functions. This can result in impaired judgment, slowed reaction times, and difficulty with coordination.


Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is associated with pleasure and reward. Alcohol increases the release of dopamine, which can contribute to feelings of euphoria and reinforcement of the drinking behavior.

Alcohol also affects the function of the liver, which is responsible for metabolizing (breaking down) alcohol. The liver can metabolize alcohol reasonably consistently, but if a person drinks more alcohol than their liver can handle, the excess alcohol can accumulate in the bloodstream and lead to intoxication.

Alcohol can also affect the cardiovascular system by causing blood vessels to dilate, leading to a drop in blood pressure. This can cause dizziness, lightheadedness, and even fainting in some people. In addition, alcohol can increase heart rate, which can strain the heart and increase the risk of heart disease.

Alcohol can also affect the gastrointestinal system, leading to irritation of the stomach lining and inflammation of the pancreas. This can lead to nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain.

Thus, long-term alcohol use can lead to changes in the brain and the development of tolerance, dependence, and addiction. Over time, excessive alcohol use can also lead to liver damage, cognitive impairment, and an increased risk of certain types of cancer.

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What Are the Signs of Addiction to Alcohol?

Alcoholism, or alcohol use disorder (AUD), often known as alcohol addiction, is a chronic disease marked by obsessive drinking and a loss of control over one's use. It can have serious physical, psychological, and social consequences, and it is important to recognize the signs of alcohol addiction so that individuals can seek help.

Here are some of the most common signs and symptoms of alcohol addiction:


People with alcohol addiction experience intense and uncontrollable urges to drink. They may feel a strong need to drink at specific times of the day or in response to certain emotional triggers.


Over time, individuals with alcohol addiction need to drink more and more alcohol to achieve the desired effect. This is because their body has become accustomed to alcohol and has developed a tolerance.

Withdrawal Symptoms

When people with alcohol addiction stop drinking, they may experience a range of physical and psychological symptoms, including tremors, sweating, nausea, vomiting, anxiety, depression, and seizures. Alcohol withdrawal can be severe and even life-threatening, so it is essential to seek medical help before quitting alcohol cold turkey.

Drinking Despite Negative Consequences

Individuals with alcohol addiction may continue to drink even when they experience negative consequences, such as relationship problems, legal issues, or health problems.

Loss of Control

People with alcohol addiction find it difficult or impossible to control their drinking. They may have unsuccessful attempts to quit or reduce their alcohol consumption.

Neglecting Responsibilities

Individuals with alcohol addiction may neglect their work, school, or home responsibilities to drink.

Social Withdrawal

People with alcohol addiction may isolate themselves from family and friends to drink without interference.

Spending a Lot of Time Drinking or Recovering From Drinking

People with alcohol addiction may spend a lot of time drinking, recovering from drinking or planning their next drinking session.

Increased Risk-Taking Behavior

Alcohol addiction can lead individuals to engage in risky behaviors, such as driving under the influence or having unprotected sex.

Physical Changes

Long-term alcohol use can cause physical changes, such as liver damage, heart disease, and brain damage, which can have lasting consequences.

Treatment of Alcohol Addiction

Alcohol addiction, or alcoholism, is a chronic and often debilitating disease with severe physical and psychological consequences. Effective treatment of alcohol addiction typically involves a combination of medical detoxification, behavioral therapy, and support from family, friends, and addiction specialists.

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Medical Detoxification

The first step in treating alcohol addiction is detoxifying the body of alcohol. This process involves withdrawing from alcohol in a medically supervised environment, typically in an inpatient drug rehab or medical drug detox setting. During this time, patients are monitored closely for withdrawal symptoms, including tremors, seizures, hallucinations, and delirium tremens. Medications may be used to manage withdrawal symptoms and prevent complications.

Behavioral Therapy

Once the patient has completed detoxification, they will begin behavioral therapy. This type of therapy helps patients understand the underlying causes of their addiction, develop coping strategies to deal with stress and triggers, and learn new behaviors that support sobriety. Several types of behavioral therapy are effective in treating alcohol addiction, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), motivational interviewing (MI), and contingency management.

Support Groups

Support groups can be an essential part of the treatment process for alcohol addiction. These groups provide a safe and supportive environment for individuals to share their experiences and receive encouragement and guidance from others who have struggled with addiction. Support groups can also provide a sense of community and belonging, which can be critical in helping individuals maintain sobriety over the long term.


Medications can be used to help individuals manage cravings for alcohol and reduce the risk of relapse. The most commonly used medications for alcohol addiction include disulfiram, naltrexone, and acamprosate. Disulfiram works by causing unpleasant side effects if the individual drinks alcohol, while naltrexone and acamprosate work by reducing the pleasurable effects of alcohol.

Holistic Approaches

Holistic approaches, such as yoga, meditation, and acupuncture, can help treat alcohol addiction by promoting relaxation, reducing stress, and improving overall physical and mental health.

Thus, the treatment of alcohol addiction typically involves a combination of medical detoxification, behavioral therapy, support from family and friends, and medications. But where do you find all of these valuable assets?

A drug rehab center.

Alcohol Abuse Can Be Lethal. Get Treated at The Edge Treatment Center

The Edge Treatment Center focuses on treating alcohol misuse by offering extensive therapies designed to help patients break their alcohol dependence. Our team works hand-in-hand with our clients to provide personalized treatment plans tailored to their needs.

Our outpatient drug rehab also offers support services like family counseling, case management, and aftercare programs to help patients stay sober and prevent relapse. In addition, The Edge Treatment facility is committed to providing compassionate care to people suffering from alcoholism and assisting them on their path to a healthy, sober life.

Want to learn more about our effective, evidence-based treatment for alcoholism? Contact The Edge Treatment Center today.

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If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, there is hope. Our team can guide you on your journey to recovery. Call us today.