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Updated on September 26, 2022

How Long Alcohol Stays in Your Urine

Alcohol is a depressant with a short life span. Urine tests can detect alcohol, ethanol, and certain alcohol byproducts. The type of urine testing can make a difference in whether alcohol is still detectable in the body more than a day later.

Urine tests are a popular, inexpensive, and non-invasive way to detect alcohol in someone’s system. Alcohol typically remains detectable in the urine for up to 2 days after it’s consumed. Therefore, urine tests accurately indicate a person’s alcohol consumption.

However, the amount of alcohol present in the urine is typically greater than the levels of alcohol in the bloodstream. This can sometimes lead to tests that conclude a person drank more alcohol than they actually consumed.

For the most accurate results, collect at least two urine samples around 30 minutes to 1 hour apart.

How Long Alcohol Can Be Detected in Your Urine

Urine tests look for traces of alcohol metabolites. The average urine test can pick up alcohol between 12 and 24 hours after drinking.3 More advanced urine testing can measure alcohol in the urine up to 80 hours after consumption.1

Alcohol in urine has a relatively short detection window of less than a day. But alcohol byproducts, like ethyl glucuronide (EtG), can be detected in urine for up to 3 days after a person’s last drink.

Other lab tests might also test urine for ethyl sulfate (EtS). EtS is another type of metabolic substance that detects alcohol in a person’s system. 

These tests are typically more reliable than traditional urine testing. They also allow for a longer detection window. EtG/EtS urine tests are often the testing method of choice by courts and rehab programs.

However, these tests have some drawbacks, including:

  • More expensive
  • Cannot determine the exact amount of alcohol someone consumed 
  • Cannot differentiate between ethanol from alcoholic drinks and alcohol from other products like over-the-counter cough and cold medicines, some mouthwashes, body sprays, and hand sanitizers

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How Long Alcohol Stays in Your System

Alcohol detection times vary depending on the person and the test used:

  • Urine: 12 to 80 hours
  • Blood: 6 hours
  • Breath: 12 to 14 hours
  • Saliva: 12 to 24 hours
  • Hair: 90 days

How Your Body Metabolizes Alcohol

When you drink alcohol, it enters the digestive system. However, alcohol doesn’t digest like food and other drinks. Around 20 percent of the alcohol from a drink is absorbed in the stomach and moves directly to the blood vessels. From there, it travels to the brain.2 

The remaining 80 percent goes to the small intestine, then to the bloodstream.2 Approximately 90% of alcohol is broken down in the body through the liver. Any liver problems can slow this process.

Factors That Affect How Your Body Metabolizes Alcohol

Alcohol is metabolized at a constant rate, approximately 1 standard drink per hour. However, some people feel the effects of alcohol for longer periods than others. This is because blood alcohol concentration (BAC) differs from person to person. 

BAC is the ratio of alcohol to blood. A BAC of 0.10% means a concentration of one part alcohol for 1,000 parts of blood volume.

Various factors affect someone’s BAC and how they react to alcohol. These include:

  • Age
  • Weight
  • Drinking alcohol on an empty stomach
  • Medications
  • Liver disease
  • Drinking many drinks in a short period (binge drinking)

It’s also essential to know how much alcohol is in a drink. Generally, the more alcohol a drink has, the longer it takes for your body to metabolize it. For example, some beers have a higher alcohol content than others. This affects how much alcohol you’re consuming from one drink.

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How Can I Flush Alcohol From My System Faster? 

There’s no way to completely flush alcohol from your system faster. Some methods can ease hangover symptoms and help the detox process run more smoothly. This includes eating healthy foods and drinking plenty of water.

If you take care of yourself and avoid drinking too much alcohol, symptoms will eventually decrease. 

Summary

A traditional urine test can detect alcohol between 12 and 48 hours after drinking stops. However, more advanced urine testing can measure alcohol in the urine 80 hours after ingestion.

How long alcohol remains in your system depends on several factors, including age, the type of alcohol you consume (e.g., beer vs. vodka), and how many drinks you have. Try to keep your consumption to a few drinks a week and avoid binge drinking.

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Resources

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  1. Grodin, Erica N et al. “Sensitivity and specificity of a commercial urinary ethyl glucuronide (ETG) test in heavy drinkers.” Addictive behaviors reports vol. 11 100249. 17 Jan. 2020
  2. Alcohol and Your Body, UC Santa Cruz, December 2019
  3. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. Substance Abuse: Clinical Issues in Intensive Outpatient Treatment. Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US); 2006. (Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 47.) Appendix B. Urine Collection and Testing Procedures and Alternative Methods for Monitoring Drug Use
  4. Helander, Anders et al. “Detection times for urinary ethyl glucuronide and ethyl sulfate in heavy drinkers during alcohol detoxification.” Alcohol and alcoholism (Oxford, Oxfordshire) vol. 44,1
  5. McNeil SE, Cogburn M. Drug Testing. [Updated 2021 Aug 9]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan
  6. Raouf, Mena et al. “A Practical Guide to Urine Drug Monitoring.” Federal practitioner : for the health care professionals of the VA, DoD, and PHS vol. 35,4 : 38-44.

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