How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System?

Understanding how long alcohol stays in your body requires having a basic understanding of how the human body responds to alcohol intake. While as a very general rule the body can metabolize one drink per hour, on an individual basis there are a wide variety of both predictable and unpredictable factors that inform how long it takes for alcohol to leave your system.

The Factors At Play

The primary variable in how long alcohol stays in your body is your digestive system. While it is common knowledge that drinking on an empty stomach will lead to faster and more intense intoxication, you may not realize that drinking on an empty stomach will also make alcohol leave your system faster, as your body’s energy is not used up metabolizing other substances. On the other hand, if you have eaten a large meal prior to drinking, the alcohol will not hit you as intensely, but will stay in your system longer, as your body works to digest a broader range of foods. Additionally, the amount of alcohol you have consumed will play a vital role in informing how long alcohol stays in your body. The higher your blood alcohol content, the harder your body has to work to metabolize the alcohol, resulting in longer processing times.

Body size, gender, and genetic factors also affect how quickly—or slowly—alcohol leaves your system.

Making Estimates

While learning how long alcohol takes to leave the body may be interesting from a purely theoretical standpoint, most people making such estimates are preparing for something important, whether it’s driving home after a night out or taking a drug test for work. Although it is possible to do careful calculations that may help you establish a general estimate of when alcohol leaves your body, even the most detailed math can still be inaccurate due to the complex and unpredictable nature of the human body. A good rule of thumb is that if you’re not entirely sure you’re sober, you shouldn’t be doing anything that requires you to be sober—and if staying sober is a struggle for you, it is time to seek treatment.

If you would like more information about alcohol abuse and addiction treatment, we encourage you to contact us at any time. We are always available to offer support and guidance as you start your journey toward lasting recovery.