How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your Urine?

30 Sep How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your Urine?

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The length of time alcohol remains in the urine easily exceeds the time when a person will feel intoxicated. In fact, alcohol can be detected in the urine up to three days from your last drink. Of course, the exact timeframe won’t be the same for everyone, since there are several factors to consider.

Alcohol doesn’t affect everyone the same way. The metabolism rate of individuals can vary and alcohol is not broken down at the same rate. For example, the amount a person weighs, their overall build, and even gender can make a difference in how quickly alcohol is eliminated from the system.

The type of drink ingested and the amount of alcohol also weighs heavily on how long alcohol will stay in the urine. A standard drink is considered a 12-oz. beer, 5-oz glass of wine, or 1.5 oz. of spirits, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. A drink that exceeds this definition, such as a beer or spirit that contains a higher percentage of alcohol, will have a greater impact on a person.

It’s suggested to alternate each alcoholic drink with a glass of water, in order to give the body enough time to properly metabolize it. Otherwise, the alcohol will be detectable in both the blood and urine for a longer period of time.

A urine sample test is probably one of the most common alcohol testing methods to detect alcohol in the system second to a breath test which uses a breathalyzer to measure the body’s alcohol content level, mainly due to the fact they are less invasive and inexpensive. Alcohol testing can detect alcohol in urine samples about two days after ingestion.

An alternative testing method becoming more common is an EtG, which is the abbreviation for ethyl glucuronide, a biomarker that shows whether alcohol has recently been metabolized in the body. The test is known informally as the “80 hour test,” since that’s approximately how long it can detect if alcohol has been consumed. The advanced technology associated with this test has made it increasingly more popular and routinely available.

The key thing to remember is even if you have not recently had a drink or are not currently intoxicated, alcohol may still be traced in your system through your urine output days after your last drink.

What Is BAC and How Is It Determined?

Generally speaking, the liver processes one ounce of alcohol per hour after consumption. If you ingest more than this amount, your blood will hold more alcohol than the liver is able to metabolize, which is what is referred to as your blood alcohol concentration or BAC.
While the majority of alcohol is metabolized by the liver, the remaining 10 percent is eliminated primarily through the urine or sweat. The metabolization process occurs at a rate of .015 of BAC per hour, which is one drink per hour. This means it would take approximately 5 ½ hours for alcohol to be out of your system at the legal limit of .08.

A simple breathalyzer often used by law enforcement is still regularly used and can detect a person’s BAC (blood alcohol concentration) within 24 hours of drinking. However, a blood test may also be used to check not only for alcohol, but also other substances such as marijuana, cocaine, & prescription medications. Even if your tolerance for alcohol is at a higher rate than others, your BAC may still be at a level that is beyond the legal limit.

Detecting an Alcohol Problem

Many people who consume alcohol consider themselves “social drinkers,” which means they are known to occasionally have a drink or two when in the company of others. Then, there are those who relax in the evening with a beer or glass of wine. Alternatively, binge drinkers are far more excessive and consume four or more drinks within the span of a few hours. This disorder is most prevalent on college campuses and is a habit likely to lead to a larger problem with alcohol down the road.

At the binge drinking stage, a person may not automatically be considered alcohol dependent. However, consuming a large amount of alcohol in a short amount of time makes a person susceptible to long-term health effects, such as liver disease, alcohol poisoning, and damage to the brain. In the short-term, binge drinking can cause a person to slur their words, become aggressive or sloppy, black out, or participate in activities they wouldn’t normally, if they were sober.

The cycle of heavy levels of drinking followed by intense hangovers causes both negative health and behavioral effects. It’s easy for this type of behavior to lead to alcohol abuse. If you notice a friend or family member needs more and more alcohol in order to reach an intoxicated level or is always ready to finish other people’s drinks when everyone else has stopped, this could be an indication of alcohol abuse.

Those suffering from alcohol abuse may begin their day drinking or drink to “care for” their hangover. When not drinking, they may be irritable, unfocused, and anxious. People who abuse alcohol also put themselves at higher risk for certain types of cancers, organ damage, especially to the liver, as well as the added risk of drinking and driving.

If you’ve noticed a change in behavior in someone who drinks frequently, ask yourself:

● How much alcohol do they consume a day?
● Do they constantly crave a drink?
● Has their drinking caused them to black out?
● Have they missed school, work, or other commitments because they are drunk or hungover?

Once you take notice of how much alcohol is affecting a person’s life, you can discuss with them your concerns. Of course, there is sensitivity surrounding this subject, which may prompt the person to become defensive or be in denial.

If you do decide to confront your friend or family member about their drinking problem, be prepared for their explanations or rationale as to why they drink at the capacity they do. They may feel like they have the situation under control.

Since drinking alcohol is usually such a social affair, it’s hard for a person with an addiction to see clearly when their drinking has gone too far. Binge drinking and alcohol addiction does irreversible damage to the liver and other organs, but they cause external problems as well. These are what people notice and take note of as a possible problem.

If you find yourself hiding how much you’ve drank or can’t go more than a few hours without a drink, then it might be time to assess how much alcohol you are consuming and how it is negatively affecting your life.

How Is Alcoholism Defined?

Alcoholism is more than just the act of drinking, it’s the need to drink. Often, it’s a hereditary disease, but it can be developed over time. Alcohol take its toll on a person both physically and mentally. It can make a person experience extreme highs and lows, just as those who suffer from illicit drug abuse do. Alcoholism can lead to liver failure and ultimately, death, if not treated properly.

Many adults drink alcohol moderately without suffering any long-term effects. For people who are suffering from alcoholism, it’s a different story. People who are drunk may be disoriented, dizzy, sway when they walk, vomit, or become excessively loud or confrontational. When sober, they may forget how they acted when drunk. When drunk, they may be convinced they aren’t intoxicated.

Alcoholism can make a person lose their job, abandon relationships, or get into trouble with the law. When a person cannot control the amount of alcohol they consume, it becomes more difficult for them to control other areas of their life as well.

High-Functioning Alcoholics

When it comes to alcoholism or alcohol abuse behavior, keep in mind, there is a category of alcoholics who may still be able function in their day-to-day lives, although this behavior can still cause damage.

A high-functioning alcoholic is just as it sounds: a person capable of functioning in their everyday life, who maintains his or her professional and personal relationships, while abusing alcohol. The symptoms don’t follow the typical signs of alcoholism, so it may be harder to detect. However, the damage it can do to a person’s health and eventually other aspects of their life remains the same.

Outwardly, a high-functioning alcoholic may seem more composed, but still puts themselves and others at risk with regards to their constant drinking. The higher tolerance a person has to alcohol makes the line blur between sobriety and an intoxicated state. A high-functioning alcoholic may think they are well enough to drive, go to work, or be in social situations, when in reality, their mindset and reaction times aren’t where they should be.

Not only does this level of drinking continue to put the person’s health in danger, but it also may be symptomatic of a larger issue. If you’ve witnessed changes in behavior or have seen a friend or family member always with a drink in hand or trying to hide their drinking, it’s better to say something rather than brush it off.

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Getting Treatment

Whether you suffer from alcoholism or know someone who does, the sooner you can get help, the better. When aiding a friend or family member, they might be in denial of their problem and act out when confronted head on. Often loved ones will band together to stage an intervention for the person suffering from alcohol abuse. The goal of this is to help the person find medical treatment for their alcoholism and start the path toward sobriety.

Alcohol Recovery & Detox

A detox facility and recovery program is a consistent regimen designed for people suffering from alcoholism. When a person is diagnosed with the disease, there are different routes of care they can take. Typically, a person will enter an alcohol detox program followed by recovery, which includes a long-term treatment plan. Sobriety is an ongoing battle they must face with the help of counselors, support groups, friends, and family.

Many people choose an inpatient program where they can be removed from the temptation of alcohol while they’re starting their sobriety. This set period of time in a safe, secure place ensures a person has the tools and assistance they need to successfully reach their goal.

Once the body becomes dependent on alcohol, it’s not as easy as deciding not to drink. The body has adjusted to functioning with alcohol in the system, so when there is no more, there is a time frame, which it must readjust. Cravings and withdrawal symptoms during this detoxification period can be difficult and painful.

Medical staff in an inpatient setting provides monitoring for patients going through this process and understand the side effects that may arise. It helps with withdrawal symptoms a person may face when their alcohol cravings are no longer satisfied, as well as counseling for addressing temptations and deeper rooted problems. After detox, the recovery period is a chance for the person to learn where their dependency stems from and work toward incorporating healthy alternatives to drinking.

Recovering alcoholics must be introduced to positive outlets for stress, anger, and other negative emotions rather than turning to alcohol to numb their pain. Once a person has completed rehab, they will need to know how to function without it. For many, the act of drinking may be so common, they may not know what to do with themselves sober.

Outpatient care is another route a person can take, especially if they’ve already been through rehab before or if they want to continue from their inpatient program. Outpatient care also requires a dedicated schedule of focusing on long-term recovery, sobriety and taking the necessary steps to quit drinking.

The important thing in either situation is to find a place where the person seeking treatment feels the most comfortable. What is the staff like? How is the setting? Does it offer one-on-one counseling or recommendations for outside therapy once the program is complete? Detox and recovery is a difficult road on its own. If a person does not like the place they are at, it may deter them from finding success.

Know there is help available for the substance abuse treatment you need to achieve sobriety. We’re here to help answer questions and offer support around the clock. Alcoholism is not something you should have to face alone. Let us know what we can do.


Leg, Timothy. “How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your Body?” Health Line. 23 March 2017. 28 Feb. 2019.

Wagener, Dan. “How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System?” 28 Feb. 2019.

T, Buddy. “How Long Alcohol Stays in Your System” Verywell Mind. 12 June 2018. 28 Feb. 2019.


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