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How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System and When is it Too Much?

How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System and When is it Too Much?

Drinking alcohol could be the perfect way to start the weekend or to get over a stressful experience. However, what does it really do to our body and when is it too much? How long does alcohol stay in your system? Read on as we discuss what happens in your body when you drink.

Safe Amount of Alcohol Consumption?

To understand its effects better, let’s start off by defining how much is okay and how much alcohol could be bad for you.

The standard drink contains about 1.2 tablespoons of pure alcohol in the United States.

In measuring the amount of alcohol intake, the amount of drinks to be considered excessive differs between men and women.

For men, 5 or more drinks on a single occasion is considered binge-drinking. While 15 or more drinks per week is considered heavy drinking.

For women, 4 or more drinks per occasion is binge-drinking. While 8 or more drinks per week is considered heavy drinking.

Take note that excessive drinking does not necessarily mean the person is an alcoholic or dependent on alcohol.

Drinking alcohol has a lot of effects on your body. This depends on how much you drink in a short period of time and how frequent. Some factors also include your body weight, age, genetics, metabolism, and even social factors.

The recommended drinking amount for adults, as defined by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, is limited to 1 drink or less for women and 2 drinks or less for men in one day.

How long does alcohol stay in your system?

Your liver is the one that mainly helps you every time you drink. Although drinking a lot would mean your liver may need help to break down the alcohol in your system.

Your liver can handle 1 drink per hour.

Here’s how much your liver can process per hour depending on the drink:

  • For beer, it can handle 12 ounces for a 5% alcoholic level
  • 5 ounces from a 12% alcoholic level in wine
  • 1.5 ounces in a 40% alcoholic level in distilled spirits like gin, tonic, or vodka

If you drank too much alcohol, you’re probably familiar with experiencing a hangover. It’s not pleasant and you cannot always tell when a hangover would appear. Hangovers depend on how much you drink and how your body processes alcohol.

On top of the amount of time your liver can process alcohol, a hangover can last up to 24 hours usually. This is a sign that the alcohol in your blood is now closer to zero and they typically go away on their own.

There’s also a difference in how long alcohol stays in your body depending on your sex.

For women, they may process alcohol out of their system faster considering their smaller body size. Even though they have a higher alcohol metabolism, they also have a higher alcohol content or concentration in their blood.

Other factors like age or food intake can also affect your alcohol metabolism, the rate by which your liver or body eliminates alcohol.

Effects of drinking alcohol

Several factors influence how long alcohol stays in your system. By looking at this, you could also determine the short and long-term effects of drinking alcohol.

Short-term effects

Excessive drinking is usually known to cause short-term effects when you do it on a single occasion. Here are some effects to look out for.

  • Experiencing hangover
  • Lowered inhibition
  • Vulnerability to accidents
  • Alcohol poisoning
  • Risky behaviors, either violent or sexual in nature

Long-term effects

Too much alcohol in a long period causes significant damage to your body. Here are some possible effects to also look out for.

  • Cardiovascular or liver diseases
  • Mental health concerns or conditions
  • Weak immune system
  • Alcohol disorders or dependency
  • Social disorders or issues

Final Reminders

There’s a significant effect on our bodies depending on how much we consume and how long alcohol stays in our system. Knowing how long it stays in our system and all the possible effects would hopefully increase our awareness and willingness to be mindful of how much we drink. Even though drinking alcohol may seem like a good idea after a stressful week or a cause for celebration, it’s better to drink less or in moderation to take care of your health.

Learn more about Live Disease here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Drinking too much alcohol can harm your health. Learn the facts | CDC, https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/alcohol-use.htm Accessed March 24, 2021

Alcohol (for Teens) – Nemours KidsHealth,https://kidshealth.org/en/teens/alcohol.html Accessed March 24, 2021

Blood Alcohol Level: MedlinePlus Medical Test, https://medlineplus.gov/lab-tests/blood-alcohol-level/ Accessed March 24, 2021

How alcohol affects your body – Better Health Channel, https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/how-alcohol-affects-your-body Accessed March 25, 2021

ALCOHOL METABOLISM (nih.gov), https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3484320/ Accessed March 25, 2021

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Written by Red Ricafort Updated May 12
Fact Checked by Chris Icamen