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Flushing Alcohol Out of Your System: Tips and Strategies

Flushing Alcohol Out of Your System: Tips and Strategies

You cannot flush alcohol out of your system or lower your BAC faster, but you can practice self-care to support recovery after drinking.

After a night of drinking, you may be feeling worse for the wear. If you're dealing with a hangover, you've probably even tried some of the various home remedies to alleviate the usual headache, nausea, and lethargy. Unfortunately, most of these remedies are ineffective, and some can even be more harmful, such as “hair of the dog” or having another drink in the morning. So, is there a way to flush alcohol out of your system faster? The liver has to do its work of processing the alcohol in your body, and there is no way to speed things up, but there are several things you can do to help yourself recover more efficiently.

The occasional hangover may just be the reminder you need to be more mindful of drinking moderately next time. But if hangovers become more frequent, it might be time to get some help to cut back on your consumption. Chronic binge or heavy drinking can lead to alcohol use disorder (AUD) over time, but you can get back in control of how much you drink with Confidant Health’s medication-assisted treatment for alcohol use. Our online alcohol rehab allows you to set goals for reducing drinking or eliminating alcohol altogether. Download our app today to get the support you need. 

What Is Considered to Be One Drink?

The first thing to know before learning how to help your body heal from the effects of alcohol is how to prevent hangovers in the first place. Other than abstinence, drinking in moderation is the best way to reduce the chances of any alcohol-related problems. According to the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, moderate drinking is considered to be two drinks or less in a day for men and one drink or less in a day for women.

How much is one drink? Several variables affect how much alcohol qualifies as one serving. The primary factors are the type and strength of the alcohol. The following are considered to represent one drink:

  • 12 ounces of regular beer (approximately 5% alcohol)
  • 8-10 ounces of malt liquor or hard seltzer (approximately 7% alcohol)
  • A 5-ounce glass of table wine (approximately 12% alcohol)
  • A 3-4 ounce glass of fortified wine, like sherry or port wine (approximately 17% alcohol)
  • A 2-3 ounce glass of cordial or liqueur ( approximately 24% alcohol)
  • 1.5 jiggers of brandy or cognac (approximately 40% alcohol)
  • 1.5-ounce shot of distilled spirits, like vodka or rum (approximately 40% alcohol)

Each of the above drinks contains 0.6 ounces of pure ethanol, which counts as a single serving of alcohol. However, those are based on the average strength of each type of alcohol. To ensure you are drinking in moderation, check the strength or percentage of pure alcohol in your drink. This can be trickier to do if you are drinking at a bar or restaurant, but you can use the above as a guideline.

Effects of Alcohol on the Body

In low to moderate amounts, alcohol can have a euphoric and relaxing effect. But when consumed in larger doses, such as binge or heavy drinking, alcohol will begin to have various negative effects on the body. The higher your blood alcohol concentration (BAC), the more impaired you will become. 

Mild Impairment (0.0–0.05% BAC)

When you first start drinking, you will begin to experience mild signs of impairment. You'll feel the relaxation and positive mood that makes alcohol consumption enjoyable but also some of the adverse side effects. Your memory won't be as sharp, and it'll be more difficult to focus. You may also become less coordinated, and your speech may begin to slow down. 

Moderate Impairment (0.06–0.15% BAC)

As you continue drinking, you'll still feel euphoric and relaxed, but the harmful effects of alcohol will intensify. You'll experience further loss of memory, balance, and coordination. Moderate impairment can also make you more likely to engage in risky behaviors such as driving under the influence or becoming aggressive with others. 

Severe Impairment (0.16–0.30% BAC)

Binge or heavy drinking can lead to severe impairment that significantly impacts memory, balance, coordination, decision-making, and impulse control. During this stage, you can also experience blackouts that leave you with no memory of the evening. Severe impairment also increases your risk of alcohol overdose and loss of consciousness.

Life-Threatening Impairment (0.31–0.45% BAC)

This is the most dangerous level of impairment from drinking. When your BAC reaches this point, you are at the highest risk of losing consciousness, alcohol overdose, and death.

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How Long Does Alcohol Stay in the Body?

Alcohol stays in the body for approximately 25 hours. The half-life of alcohol is four to five hours, which represents how long it takes your body to get rid of half of the alcohol you have consumed. It takes five half-lives for your body to metabolize all of the alcohol you've had, anywhere between 20 to 25 hours on average.

Alcohol Detection Timeline

Alcohol can be detected in your system even after your body has fully metabolized it. How long alcohol shows up on a test after your last drink depends on the type of test and how heavily you have been drinking.

Blood Test

A blood alcohol test can show evidence of alcohol in your system up to 12 hours later.

Saliva and Breathalyzer Test

Alcohol will show up on a saliva alcohol test up to 24 hours after you have stopped drinking. This is also the case for breathalyzer tests or breath alcohol tests.

Urine Test

A urine ethylglucuronide (EtG) test can detect alcohol for up to 48 hours after your last drink. If you have been drinking heavily, alcohol can continue to show up in your urine for up to 72 hours or more.

Hair Test

Alcohol is detectable in hair follicles much longer than blood, saliva, breath, or urine. A hair follicle ethylglucuronide (EtG) test will reveal alcohol use for up to 90 days after consumption.

Factors That Might Affect How Long Alcohol Stays in the Body

Although alcohol is typically metabolized within 25 hours, there are several factors that can make that process longer or shorter than average.


There are two enzymes that play a significant role in alcohol metabolism: alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) and aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH). These enzymes break down alcohol molecules into acetaldehyde and then acetate so it can be eliminated from the body. In some people, these enzymes function faster or slower than average, which impacts how efficiently they metabolize alcohol.


Men may metabolize alcohol more quickly than women since they have higher levels of alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) in their stomach and liver. 


As you age, alcohol remains in your system longer because your body becomes less efficient at metabolizing it. Older adults also tend to have a lower volume of total body water, which can slow down alcohol metabolism. 

Liver Damage

Liver impairment, whether or not alcohol-related, can limit your ability to eliminate alcohol from your body. The liver plays a primary role in processing alcohol, so any type of liver damage will reduce its efficiency.


Prescription drugs can interfere with ADH levels, extending the time it takes for your body to process and eliminate alcohol. 


Alcohol can be metabolized faster when you have eaten prior to drinking. When you have food in your stomach, your ADH levels are higher, and your body can process alcohol more efficiently. Food also keeps alcohol in the stomach longer, so some of it is metabolized before traveling to the small intestine. 

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Tips On How to Flush Alcohol Out of Your System

Many people ask if there is a way to flush alcohol out of their system faster. They may be hoping to lower their BAC to below the legal limit before driving, or they might be trying to rid themselves of a hangover before heading to work the next morning. You have probably heard of different folk remedies for sobering up quickly, such as drinking a cup of coffee, taking a cold shower, or drinking lots of water.

Unfortunately, alcohol metabolism must run its course, and there is no way to speed up the process. Your liver health and ADH levels will determine how efficiently your body processes the alcohol you've consumed. Most of the work is done there—approximately 90% of alcohol is eliminated by the liver. You also excrete a small amount—2-5%—of alcohol through your breath, sweat, and urine.

On average, your body eliminates alcohol at a rate that would reduce your BAC by 0.015 per hour. That's the equivalent of processing about one alcoholic beverage each hour. At that rate, you can still be over the legal limit of 0.08 to drive the next morning if you've had several drinks or more. 

While you cannot flush alcohol out of your system faster, there are a few things you can do to help yourself feel better and support your body as it recovers. 

Drink lots of water.

Alcohol is a diuretic that leads to dehydration, especially if you do not consume enough water while drinking. Dehydration can cause the pounding headache associated with hangovers and affect cognitive function, making it that much harder to focus at work the next day. Swap out your morning coffee (caffeine is also a diuretic) with a big glass of water and continue sipping throughout the day to help your body rehydrate.

Replenish electrolytes.

Alcohol depletes electrolytes from the body, like magnesium, calcium, and phosphate. The resulting electrolyte imbalance can also contribute to headaches, digestive upset, fatigue, nausea, and vomiting. Replenishing electrolytes can help alleviate your discomfort. You can do this by drinking sports drinks, electrolyte drinks, coconut water, or oral rehydration solutions (ORS). 

Eat complex carbohydrates.

After a night of drinking, you may experience fatigue, queasiness, and low blood sugar. This is especially true if you did not consume adequate food before, during, and after drinking alcohol. Eating complex carbohydrates like toast, crackers, and bagels can help alleviate nausea and bring your blood sugar levels back up. Addressing nausea is important to prevent vomiting that can further dehydrate you.

Get plenty of rest.

The side effects of alcohol consumption, such as dehydration, cognitive impairment, and nausea, can leave you feeling tired and irritable the next day. Studies found that people who slept less after a night of drinking tended to experience worse hangovers than those who got more sleep. If possible, allow yourself adequate time to get a good night's sleep so your body can recover. 

Alcohol Detox Programs

Experiencing the occasional hangover may be harmless, but when regretful mornings after drinking become more frequent, you may want to consider if your symptoms are related to alcohol withdrawal rather than a run-of-the-mill hangover. Your symptoms may be similar, such as anxiety, headaches, nausea, and sleep disturbance. But hangover symptoms tend to last no more than one day, while alcohol withdrawal can last up to a week or more. 

If you believe your post-alcohol discomfort is related to withdrawal, you should seek professional help from an alcohol detox program. Experiencing withdrawal when you stop drinking indicates a dependence on alcohol, and it may be difficult to quit drinking on your own. It can also be dangerous to quit cold turkey once you have developed an alcohol use disorder (AUD). 

How can an alcohol detox program help? The primary benefits of enrolling in treatment are minimizing withdrawal symptoms and preventing complications. Medications like acamprosate, benzodiazepines, disulfiram, and naltrexone can help make withdrawal more manageable and sustain abstinence. And being under the care of a qualified provider can help keep you safe if you experience dangerous withdrawal symptoms like delirium tremens, which may occur in cases of severe AUD.

Confidant Health: The Support You Need to Reduce Drinking

Hangovers feel awful, but alcohol withdrawal is even worse. If you're tired of feeling terrible for days after you stop drinking, it might be time to try medication-assisted treatment for alcohol use disorder. Whether you are looking to cut alcohol out of your life completely or you just want to reduce binge or heavy drinking, Confidant Health’s online alcohol rehab can help you achieve your goals. Download our app today to get started.

This article has been medically reviewed by
Erin Hillers
Erin Hillers
Erin Hillers
Nurse Practitioner

Erin is a Nurse Practitioner with 8 years of experience in midwifery and women's health. She has spent the past 5 years specializing in the treatment of opioid and alcohol use disorders.

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