They are key questions you may have asked yourself, if you’ve ever taken drugs or drunk a little too much alcohol and driven or gone to work. How long will drugs stay in my system and how long will alcohol stay in my system? So, let’s take a look at these questions and try to provide answers, before you’re asking the questions while waiting in line to undertake drug testing or alcohol testing at work or on the roadside!
How long will alcohol remain in my system?
There’s a simple and a more complex answer to this question. First, let’s take a look at the simple answer.
In theory, it will take approximately one hour for the body to break down one standard drink of alcohol. So, if you have a standard drink now (typically 285ml of full strength beer, 100ml of wine and 30ml of spirits) in one hour it will gone. And, if you’re trying to stay under 0.05, the general rule of thumb is that men can have two standard drinks in the first hour and one standard drink each hour following, and women one standard drink in the first hour and one standard drink each hour following.
We did mention the key words ‘in theory’ and ‘general rule of thumb’, however. In practice, it might take you a little longer. Individual factors such as sex (as we’ve mentioned above), body size, body fat, whether you’ve eaten and your general health all contribute to your ability to process alcohol.
In addition, it’s wise to remember that it’s difficult for the average person to truly know how much they’ve had to drink. For example:
- A glass of wine can be between 1 standard drink and 2 (or more) depending on the generosity of the pourer.
- The alcohol content of beers can vary markedly, even between full-strength beers.
- Some cocktails may contain as much as five or six standard drinks.
The key advice to stay safe and to avoid falling foul of alcohol testing on our roadsides or at work is to always play it safe. Lower the number of standard drinks you consume or wait longer before getting behind the wheel or going to work.
How long will illegal drugs remain in my system?
If you we’re looking for a simple answer to the ‘how long will alcohol remain in my system?’ you’re going to be even more disappointed with our answer to this question. Because, while it would be great to have a definitive answer, unfortunately it’s not that simple.
There are two main reasons for this.
Firstly, like alcohol there are a lot of individual factors at play and illegal drugs can affect each individual differently. For example, while someone could potentially drive and work 8 to 10 hours after smoking cannabis, another person would be putting themselves and others (and their licence and job) at risk.
Individual factors that contribute to how quickly drugs are processed by your body include:
- Tolerance to drugs
- General health
The other major factor is the quantity of drugs you use and the purity of the illegal drug. When you take a licit drug (prescribed or over the counter) the purity and quantity is a known factor, but with illegal drugs this is not the case. In some instances you might be using something entirely different to what you think. For example, in the case of MDMA or ecstasy, you might also be consuming amphetamines and/or ketamine.
However, if you are after at least a guideline on how long illegal drugs can stay in the system, here it is:
- Even a small amount of cannabis can take several hours for the body to process and will be detectable in drug testing before then.
- ICE, speed and other methamphetamines can be detected for up to 24 hours and even longer after they were taken.
- Similarly, MDMA can be detected for 24 hours after use and even longer in some circumstances.
Like alcohol, always play it safe and give your body plenty of time to process drugs before driving or going to work.
How long will drugs and alcohol stay in your system?