How long does alcohol stay in your system?


How long will it take for alcohol to be processed by your body, so that you can drive and go to work safely?

The simple answer is it takes approximately 1 hour for the body to break down 1 standard drink. Cold showers, strong coffee, fresh air and other so-called cures will not speed up the process. Some may make you feel better, but they will not lower your blood alcohol concentration.

So this means:

  • If you’re going to work at 8am the day after a night out, and you consume 6 standard drinks between 8pm and midnight, you should be OK to drive and work the next day.
  • If you drink one standard drink per hour, you should be under the .05 blood alcohol limit.

However, this is not a hard and fast rule and there are many factors that can affect these rules. In addition, there are factors to make it difficult for the average person to truly know how much they’ve had to drink. For example:

  • It’s widely thought that women tend to reach .05 quicker than men and this is generally true. The reason is that alcohol is diluted by water content in the body. Females have less water in their bodies than men, which means there is less water available to dilute alcohol.
  • Are you really only having one standard drink? A glass of wine can vary between 1 standard drinks and 2. The alcohol content of beers can vary markedly. And some cocktails may contain as much as five or six standard drinks.
  • Can you keep track of the number of standard drinks you have on a night out? Most of us will struggle.
  • Whether or not you eat, health and individual factors such as body size and body fat can affect the time required for alcohol to leave the body.

Are the breathalysers you find in pubs or that you can buy for personal use the answer? Not really, as these breathalysers aren’t as accurate as the type used by Integrity Sampling and the Police and many would not be maintained correctly. So, at best, you should only use them as a guide.

It’s also important to realise that it’s not just your blood alcohol concentration to consider. While you might be under the limit, you could still be at risk if you work or drive due to a hangover after a session of drinking. Symptoms of a hangover include headaches, blurred vision, tiredness and difficulty concentrating, all of which can affect how well you can perform jobs such as driving and operating machinery.

Unfortunately for those of us who like a tipple, if you’re going to drive or work the best advice is to abstain or to only drink one or two standard drinks. Any more and you might be gambling with your driver’s license, your job or your safety.

By Michael

Michael is the founder of Integrity Sampling and is responsible for overseeing all national operations. He is based at Integrity Sampling's head office in Melbourne and is also responsible for the co-ordination of drug and alcohol testing within Victoria, assisting in the implementation of drug and alcohol (fit for work) policies and the presentation of drug and alcohol education and awareness programs. You can connect with Michael Wheeldon on LinkedIn

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