How Long Does Alcohol Stay In Your System?

Kimberly Langdon, M.D.

Medically Reviewed By: Kimberly Langdon, M.D.

on December 10, 2022

Every standard drink you consume can take an average of one hour to process, and alcohol testing can detect ethanol for about 3 days after the last drink

Alcohol can stay in a person’s system for about one hour per standard drink consumed. A standard drink is an alcoholic beverage that contains about 14 grams of pure alcohol. 

Factors such as body fat, biological sex, and drinking alcohol on an empty stomach can affect how long alcohol stays in your system.

Alcohol tests can detect alcohol in a person’s system for up to 72 hours after the last use.

In 2020, 17.7 percent of Ohio residents reported some form of excessive drinking in the past year. Testing positive on an alcohol test may be a sign of binge drinking, heavy drinking, or other forms of high-risk alcohol consumption.

How The Body Processes Alcohol

Ethanol, the main component in alcoholic drinks, travels through the small intestine into the liver, where it’s broken down or metabolized. A liver enzyme known as alcohol dehydrogenase converts alcohol into acetaldehyde and acetate.

The standard metabolic rate of ethanol in an average person is about 7 grams per hour. A standard 5 ounce glass of wine may contain about 7 grams of ethanol, which can take about one hour for your body to break down.

While alcohol remains in the bloodstream, you may feel side effects of alcohol such as impairment, sluggishness, and increased sociability. After the body successfully goes through alcohol metabolism, ethanol and its metabolites may remain in other parts of the body, such as urine and oral fluid.

Alcohol & Drug Testing Methods For Alcohol Use

Alcohol testing methods may detect ethyl glucuronide (EtG) and ethyl sulfate (EtS), two metabolites, or byproducts, of alcohol.

Alcohol testing methods determine your blood alcohol content, also known as blood alcohol concentration or BAC. BAC levels measure the amount of alcohol in your blood, and are thresholds of sobriety or intoxication.

A person with a 0.08 percent BAC is considered legally intoxicated and unfit to drive. At 0.40 percent or higher BAC levels, the risk of alcohol poisoning is high.

Breath Test

Breath tests can detect alcohol for about 12 to 24 hours after the last drink.

The Breathalyzer, a common breath testing product, can use electrical currents to measure the amount of ethanol in your breath. Law enforcement can use Breathalyzers at a traffic stop.

The Alcohol & Drug Testing Program, run by the Ohio Department of Health, oversees and enforces testing regulations for law enforcement and testing laboratories in Ohio. These entities comply with rules concerning breath, urine, and blood tests for alcohol and drug use.

Urine Test

Urine tests can detect alcohol for up to 72 hours after the last drink. The amount of time alcohol can be detected in urine likely depends on your drinking habits. A person struggling with alcohol addiction may experience slower alcohol metabolism rates.

Urine tests and breath tests are common forms of alcohol testing in Ohio. These tests may be performed by law enforcement under suspicion of drinking, or by a healthcare provider during an alcohol use disorder treatment program.

Blood Test

Blood alcohol tests can detect alcohol use for up to 12 hours after the last drink. Detection times may increase if higher amounts of alcohol were consumed. Blood tests may be performed on people showing signs of intoxication, including while driving.

Hair Test

Hair tests can detect alcohol for up to 90 days after the last drink. This type of test can be useful to monitor people who should abstain from alcohol, such as patients of a substance use treatment program.

If you or a loved one test positive on an alcohol test, you may benefit from professional treatment. 

Treatment centers in Ohio offer alcohol detox, mental health services, and medication-assisted treatment, which can help reduce the risk of long-term health conditions such as liver disease.

To find out if our inpatient alcohol addiction treatment program works for you or your loved one, please contact Ohio Recovery Center today.

  1. America’s Health Rankings — Explore Excessive Drinking in Ohio
  2. Clinical Liver Disease — ALCOHOL METABOLISM
  3. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism — Alcohol Metabolism: An Update
  4. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus — Blood Alcohol Level
  5. Ohio Department of Health — Alcohol & Drug Testing Program

Written by Ohio Recovery Center Editorial Team

© 2024 Ohio Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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