When it comes to breaking down alcohol, the liver is responsible for most of the work. For the average man, the liver can metabolize about one drink an hour. Many factors play a role in this process. If you are wondering how long alcohol stays in your system, consider the following information.

The length of time alcohol stays in your system depends on many variables. There are various methods used to detect alcohol. Some tests may only detect alcohol in your system for several hours, while other tests range back a couple of months.

Many factors play a role in how long alcohol will stay in your system. The general timeframe alcohol stays in an individual’s system is pretty consistent, but factors like age, weight, and gender have a notable impact.

How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your Blood?

Blood tests typically show alcohol in your system for up to six hours following consumption.

How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Urine?

Testable levels of alcohol remain in your urine for anywhere from 12 to 24 hours following consumption.

How Long Does Alcohol Stay on Your Breath?

In terms of your breath and saliva, alcohol generally stays in your system from 12 to 24 hours following consumption.

How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your Hair?

Alcohol is traceable in hair for up to 90 days.

How Does Alcohol Affect the Body?

how long does alcohol stay in your system


Alcohol contains ethanol, which classifies it as a drug. Alcohol is characterized as a depressant drug type, meaning it slows down the body’s vital functions. After consuming alcohol, slowing down takes place in speech, reaction time, and movement. Small amounts of alcohol tend to make people feel stimulated. It’s not until someone drinks past their limit that they feel the side effects of intoxication.

Side Effects of Intoxication

Alcohol affects each individual differently. The following symptoms of alcohol may range from mild to severely intensive, depending on the amount consumed and other biological factors. Some side effects of intoxication include:

  • Slurred speech
  • Poor coordination
  • Lowered inhibitions
  • Memory Loss
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty breathing

How Long Does It Take to Sober Up?

The average person may feel the effects of alcohol around 15 to 45 minutes following consumption. At around .07% blood alcohol level, or BAC, the average person’s ability to drive or operate machinery is impaired. Most people with a BAC of .10% are considered intoxicated.

Most of the body’s alcohol breakdown process occurs in the liver. For men, studies show the liver can metabolize one drink per hour (.015g/100mL per hour), reducing the blood alcohol level by .015 per hour.

One standard drink is defined as:

  • 5 fl oz. of wine
  • 12 fl oz. of standard beer
  • 8-9 fl oz. of malt liquor
  • 1.5 fl oz. shot of distilled spirits (whiskey, gin, rum, vodka, tequila)

Processing Alcohol

Each individual processes alcohol at a different rate. Some factors that play a role include weight, age, gender, medication, consumption speed, diet, and health issues. The listed variables affect the rate of variance in BAC in a given individual. The female body metabolizes and processes alcohol quicker than the male body, requiring fewer alcoholic beverages to increase their BAC.

Do Women Process Alcohol Differently From Men?

The reason women’s bodies process and metabolize alcohol quicker than men is simple: Women’s bodies have less water content than men on average. Therefore, a man and woman with the same weight and overall body composition will experience the effects of alcohol differently. Since women have less water in their bodies, their blood alcohol level increases quicker than men.

Women have a “higher liver volume per unit of lean body mass” compared to men. This small detail allows the female body to send alcohol to the brain and bloodstream quicker than the male body. Similarly, women generally have a higher body fat content than men. Higher body fat results in a higher percentage of concentrated alcohol in the bloodstream.

Lastly, women have less alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) in their bodies compared to men. ADH is an enzyme in the stomach and liver that helps to break down alcohol. Since women have less of the enzyme, alcohol is not broken down as efficiently in the female body, resulting in a higher BAC.

Age and BAC

Younger individuals with a less developed body will experience intoxication much quicker than an older person. The younger person’s body will process the alcohol quickly, resulting in more alcohol in the bloodstream — and a higher BAC. Adult bodies take longer to process alcohol which lessens the amount of alcohol content reaching the bloodstream.

How Fast You Drink

Another aspect that plays a role in how your body processes alcohol is the pace of your consumption. The speed at which you consume alcohol has a significant impact on your BAC. If you consume multiple drinks within an hour, the body attempts to break down the alcohol at one time, causing you to have a higher BAC.

Drinking While on Medications

Always consult your physician before consuming any alcohol while on medication. Most medications’ effects change if alcohol is introduced to the body. Many drugs, over-the-counter or prescription, can have adverse or dangerous effects if consumed while drinking alcohol.


High protein food (and food in general) help to absorb alcohol in your body. It’s always safer to consume alcohol while not on an empty stomach. By helping to absorb alcohol in the system, a hearty meal can keep the effects of alcohol predictable and safe.

Drinking on an empty stomach ensures a higher alcohol content in your brain and bloodstream. It is also unhealthy for the body. Drinking on an empty stomach increases the chances of stomach pain, nausea, and vomiting.

Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder

At Rock Recovery, our rehab programs are structured around an abstinence-based approach. Our treatment programs are designed to help restructure areas of a person’s life that addiction has taken over. We focus on rising above addiction and developing an elevated level of satisfaction with life. Many treatment centers focus on breaking habits and living with temptation. We help clients find true satisfaction and joy within their lives, replacing triggers with healthy life activities.

Traditional Rehab Program

Rock Recovery’s traditional rehab program utilizes proven techniques that help many individuals recover from addiction. The program includes life skills training, relapse prevention training, addiction education, and more. We focus on each individual and offer assistance based on their medical and personal needs.

Our qualified medical staff is experienced in making assessments and ensuring each client has an individualized plan with a lifetime of support. In our traditional rehab program, you can expect to participate in many activities and therapeutic techniques such as:

  • Individual therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Adventure therapy
  • Family sessions
  • Employment coaching

Rock Recovery uses the best and latest practices to put our clients in a position to achieve a lifetime of recovery.

Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient treatment works well for people with mild to moderate addiction issues. Addiction is an unforgiving disease, and in many cases, treatment is the only option. Many people cannot put their life on hold to receive treatment. Outpatient treatment works to offer quality treatment while allowing clients to continue life responsibilities.

Outpatient treatment is not for everyone, though, as it doesn’t offer around-the-clock supervision and clinical support. Many people that find success in the outpatient setting have completed a traditional rehab program. In these cases, outpatient programs work well as a continued level of care for those still wanting to participate in a recovery program. Outpatient programs offer several benefits, such as:

  • Flexibility for those with families or jobs to attend to
  • Affordability and more cost-efficient than a traditional live-in program
  • Same quality of treatment as inpatient
  • Ability to stay with loved ones instead of living at a treatment center

Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)

how long does alcohol stay in your system


Stopping the use of substances is a remarkable feat when it comes to substance abuse recovery. The next step is gaining the tools to fight relapse and developing skills to live a healthy lifestyle. In IOPs, people learn to cope with negative emotions, thought patterns, and behaviors. These tools are long-term coping mechanisms that help our clients sustain recovery.

During an IOP, our clients learn about relapse triggers, addiction, and behaviors associated with addiction. This includes seeing counselors, group therapy sessions, and more. IOPs generally consist of one to 15 hours a week of clinical services, weekly outings, life skills workshops, and attendance of five or more AA/NA meetings a week.

Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP)

Our partial hospitalization program is a level of care that lands between inpatient and outpatient style care. PHPs offer intensive care similar to that of an inpatient program while being flexible so our clients can return home at the end of the day.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

A dual diagnosis, or a co-occurring disorder, refers to an overlap of mental health disorders. Almost half of the people in addiction treatment suffer from co-occurring disorders. A dual diagnosis typically refers to a substance use disorder alongside another mental health disorder such as anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Unfortunately, many individuals suffering from a mental health disorder look to find solace in substances. Substances may offer temporary relief from mental health disorder symptoms but strictly numb them. Self-medicating with substances leads many people down the path of addiction.

At Rock Recovery, we offer a dual diagnosis treatment program designed to treat both disorders simultaneously. This method helps our clients understand how each disorder is feeding into the other.

Get Help Today With Rock Recovery

We understand each individual deals with addiction in their own way. At Rock Recovery, we want to help. Our levels of care cater to many circumstances people struggling with addiction often find themselves in. If you would like to learn more about our recovery programs, please contact us today.