How Long Does It Take Alcohol To Leave Your System

Alcohol is not just a drink; but, it should be treated the same way of drugs. Alcohol administration causes dependence (addiction), and results in 5 main effects similar to those of highly addictive drugs, including sedation, feeling pleasure, improving mood, self-confidence and decreasing anxiety.

The main ingredient in alcohol is ethanol, which is responsible for all the previously-mentioned effects. Ethanol is used as a disinfectant and a solvent in laboratories. Examples of common names referring to alcohol include Whisky, Vodka, Cognac, Rum and Tequila.

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How does alcohol work?

Alcohol targets specific receptors and substances in the brain, resulting in different effects. For example, alcohol binds to 4 types of receptors that should bind to vital substances in the system, including acetylcholine, serotonin, GABA, and glutamate. Along with GABA receptors, alcohol also binds to the receptors of glycine, resulting in the sedative effect.

How long does alcohol stay in your system?

Up to 7 hours or more post-drinking, alcohol can stay in your system. The reason is that your system generally gets rid of alcohol within a 0.015 hourly-percentage rate. That rate is known as Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC), which refers to the concentration of alcohol in your blood at a certain moment.

People usually drink as much alcohol as it reaches a 0.1 concentration in blood. In this case, how long alcohol stays in your system can be estimated as follows:

  • Within 1 hour post-drinking, alcohol concentration will drop to 0.085
  • Within 2 hours post-drinking, alcohol concentration will drop to 0.07
  • Within 3 hours post-drinking, alcohol concentration will drop to 0.055
  • Within 4 hours post-drinking, alcohol concentration will drop to 0.04
  • Within 5 hours post-drinking, alcohol concentration will drop to 0.025
  • Within 6 hours post-drinking, alcohol concentration will drop to 0.01
  • Within 7 hours post-drinking, alcohol concentration will drop to 0.00

Other factors

Undoubtedly, that duration differs from a person to another and even from time to another, depending on:

  • How much alcohol do you drink?
  • Whether you are a light or a chronic alcoholic
  • Your age
  • Your weight
  • The concentration of ethanol in the alcohol type you drink
  • Your metabolic rate of drugs, which determines how quickly your system can get rid of ethanol.

Will alcohol show on a drug test?

No and Yes. Alcohol will not show on drug tests, such as the standard 5-panel drug tests or the standard 12-panel drug tests. However, if you’re wondering about the tests your employers can order, a lot of employers sometimes order specific tests of alcohol. In this case, alcohol will show up. Importantly, only a 0.08 concentration of alcohol in your blood (BAC) or lower is legally allowed.

The results of alcohol’s tests also depend on the factors shown below, which can cause negative results.

  1. The type of the test you are required to undergo
  2. the time the test is performed. If a certain test can detect alcohol in your system at a certain moment; another test may not at the same moment, as the validity of each test is restricted to a certain time frame.
  3. Individual factors that differ from a person to another, as shown above, such as the functioning ability of your system to eliminate ethanol.

How long is alcohol detectable in urine, hair, blood, saliva, and fingernails?

Breath and Saliva

Breath and saliva tests are the commonest and most specific methods to test for alcohol. Through an instrument known as a breathalyzer, your breath will be tested for alcohol. Up to 24 hours post-drinking, alcohol is likely detectable in your breath; while in case of saliva, starting from 2-5 minutes post-drinking and up to 2 days, alcohol is likely detectable.


Up to 12 hours post-drinking, alcohol is likely detectable in your blood. Blood tests are commonly used for those suspected to be highly drunk and those drinking alcohol chronically.


Up to 10-12 hours post-drinking, alcohol is much likely detectable in your urine. Furthermore, there is another substance known as ethyl gluconoride, which results from alcohol metabolism (transformation) in the system. That substance can stay detectable in your urine for up to 3-5 days post-drinking.

Hair and fingernails

Up to 90 days post-drinking, the metabolites resulting from alcohol are likely detectable in your hair; while fingernails are rarely considered for alcohol testing.

What drug tests will show the presence of alcohol in the system?

  • Breath-based test through a breathalyzer
  • Saliva-based tests, such as high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC)
  • Blood analysis
  • Urinalysis
  • Hair-based tests, including Gas chromatography/mass spectrometry,¬†ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays)

How is alcohol stored in different parts of the body

After drinking, around 80% of the amount of alcohol you drank is aborted form the gastrointestinal tract, definitely the small intestine; while around 20% is absorbed from the stomach. Within bloodstream, alcohol rises and is diffused to different body parts.

Afterward, within the previously-mentioned elimination rate, around 5% of the amount you drank is eliminated through urine, saliva, breath, feces, and sweat; while the remaining 95% is eliminated through the liver, forming another metabolite (substance) known as acetaldehyde. Alcohol and its metabolites tend to be stored in hair much more than they do in saliva and fingernails.


How Long Does It Take Alcohol To Leave Your System
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Daniel Miller
Daniel Miller

Hey there! I'm Daniel, a 35 years old Ph.D. in pharmacology and a member of THC Detox. My research into cannabis shows how cannabis affects health, including how cannabinoids can be used in the treatment of various diseases. I've got a long list of scientific and medical publications that show the positive effects of cannabis clearly.

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