Alcohol Withdrawal: How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System?


In addition to emotional and behavioral changes, alcohol addiction causes physical changes to your body. Once alcohol is consumed, there is no way to speed up how quickly it leaves our bodies. Alcohol is processed through our livers, and for most people, that happens at relatively the same rate, at about 1 ounce digested per hour. The average drink consists of roughly one fluid ounce of alcohol. Therefore, it takes about an hour per drink for alcohol to be eliminated out of your system. A standard drink is equivalent to about one 12-ounce can of beer, a 5-ounce glass of wine, or a 1.5-ounce shot of hard liquor.

For a person who has only the occasional drink, this digestion process is relatively quick. However, the more you drink, the longer it takes your body to process alcohol. If you consume large amounts of alcohol, whether binge drinking or drinking frequently and heavily, excess alcohol is held on to by your body until the liver is able to process it. This is why the more you’ve had to drink, the longer it takes for alcohol to exit your system.

How long does alcohol stay in your blood? The level of alcohol in your bloodstream is referred to as blood-alcohol concentration, or BAC, and it is expressed as a percentage of how much ethanol (the main type of alcohol) makes up the current content of the bloodstream. Our bodies process alcohol at 0.016 percent BAC/hour, or one standard drink. Therefore, you can expect alcohol to be in your blood for about one hour for every drink you’ve had.

How long does alcohol stay in your urine? Alcohol is present in urine starting between 40 minutes and two hours after its consumed. Since it takes longer to reach urine than the bloodstream, there is a delay: One standard drink of alcohol will be detectable by urinalysis for about 1.5 hours. You can expect alcohol to stay in urine longer the more drinks you have. For example, if you’ve had four drinks or more, alcohol may stay in the urine for 12-36 hours or more once you stop drinking. A newer type of urinalysis called ethyl glucuronide (EtG) testing detects whether your body has processed alcohol, whether or not it is still present in the urine, and can therefore detect alcohol consumption even longer after it has occurred; in some cases, this test can detect alcohol use up to 80 hours later.

Alcohol Withdrawal and Detox

If you have been abusing alcohol and have consistently been drinking heavily, you may experience withdrawal symptoms once you stop drinking. Alcohol will begin leaving your system between six and 12 hours after your last drink, at which point you may experience symptoms like sweating, tremors, anxiety, and headaches. Symptoms are usually at their worst in the first few days but can last longer. Even though the alcohol is out of your system sooner than when the symptoms end, your body has become dependent on it, and its absence is what causes your body to react this way and go through the withdrawal process. The process of weaning off of alcohol, or detox, can be made more comfortable with certain medications when monitored by a professional medical team during rehabilitation therapy.

Get Help Today: Call for Your Personalized Treatment Program

Deciding to get sober and to make a change can be difficult, but you don’t have to combat addiction alone. At White Sands Treatment Center, an accredited private facility, we can offer you a personalized rehabilitation¬†plan appropriate for your needs. Our cost-effective, high-quality drug and alcohol rehab programs will help you first with detox and then get to the root of your addiction through counseling. Call or fill out the form today to find the top safe, successful solution to your alcohol addiction.