Alcohol can stay in various parts of the body for different amounts of time. The table below shows how long current tests on the market can detect alcohol from different parts of the body.
How long does alcohol stay in your system?
Type of test
How long can it detect alcohol?
12 hours to 48 hours
Want to learn more about alcohol in the body? Keep reading!
So how long does alcohol stay in your body?
Overall, it typically takes the body one hour to break down one unit of alcohol. However, this can change depending on various factors, such as:
- Your weight
- How quickly you’re drinking
- How much food you’ve eaten
- Whether you’re taking any medications (and what kind)
- The type of alcohol you’re drinking (and the alcohol content)
So if the body usually takes about one hour to break down one unit of alcohol, how much is that exactly?
How much is 1 unit of alcohol?
This roughly translates to:
- 2.1 units in a standard glass (175 ml) of average-strength wine (12%)
- 2 units in a pint of lager, beer or cider (3.6%)
- 3 units in a pint of higher-strength lager, beer or cider (5.2%)
- 1 unit in a single measure of spirits (25 ml)
So if you have a pint of a higher-strength beer at 5.2%, it will usually take your body 2 hours to break it down. That’s assuming you don’t drink any more alcohol within those 3 hours, too.
That’s why binge drinking can lead to alcohol poisoning. You’re putting more alcohol in your body than it can process, until it becomes overwhelmed with alcohol.
What is binge drinking?
Binge drinking itself comes with a whole host of short term and long term side effects. Short term, people who binge drink can expect to experience nausea, severe hangovers, memory loss and vomiting. If they’re not careful, they could also experience alcohol poisoning which can be life-threatening.
In the long term, binge drinking can influence hypertension, long-term memory damage, depression, mental health issues, heart problems, brain damage, liver damage and cancer. Binge drinking can also impact various other factors, such as increased risk of car accidents, unemployment and damage to relationships.
A fairly good indicator of binge drinking is blacking out. You might have a partial blackout or a total one. This happens when you drink too much and your brain struggles to keep short-term information in your memory.
I experience some of these symptoms with small amounts of alcohol - how is that possible?
Many people have alcohol intolerance (commonly referred to as Asian Flush or Asian Glow). This genetic condition means that the body is unable to break down alcohol normally. So while you may only have one beer, or even a few sips of alcohol, they can still experience really negative symptoms similar to binge drinking.
Asian Glow and binge drinking are still two different situations, even if some of the symptoms might be similar. Binge drinking is when someone drinks way too much alcohol in a short amount of time. Asian Glow happens when the individual has an ALDH2 deficiency in their liver. Both situations cause negative symptoms from alcohol in the body, but it’s important to remember that they’re different.
Binge drinking can simply be avoided. Make sure to drink alcohol slowly, stay hydrated with non-alcoholic drinks and stay within your limit. Unfortunately, there’s no way to cure Asian Glow other than to stop drinking alcohol completely. However, if you’re interested in reducing your Asian Glow symptoms, check out: How can I reduce Asian Glow?
How long does alcohol stay on your breath?
Alcohol remains detected in the breath the shortest amount of time. On average, breath-tests can detect alcohol for about 24 hours. This is typically done with a breathalyzer to measure your Blood Alcohol Content (BAC).
Some people believe that having a coffee or energy drinks will speed up the time it takes to get the alcohol out of your breath and body. This is a myth! Alcohol consumption cannot be changed with coffee or energy drinks.
Alcohol can be detected on your saliva, usually up to 8 hours after drinking.
How long does alcohol stay in your urine?
Urine tests can alert to alcohol quite a long time after you’ve had your last alcoholic drink. The average urine test can detect alcohol between 12 and 48 hours after drinking. More advanced tests can detect alcohol in urine about 80 hours after your last drink.
How long does alcohol stay in your hair?
Alcohol can be found in hair tests for a very long time after your drink. Alcohol can stay in your hair for up to 90 days.
How long does alcohol stay in your blood?
How long the alcohol stays in your blood will depend on how much you drink. The body can metabolize alcohol at a rate of 20 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) per hour. So if your alcohol level is 60 mg/dL, it would take about three hours to eliminate the alcohol from your blood.
However, this process can be interrupted by a genetic condition called Asian Flush or alcohol flush reaction. Those with this condition struggle to metabolize alcohol properly, so it takes the body much longer to break down the alcohol.
Want to learn more? Check out: Your Top Questions About Asian Flush ANSWERED