How Long Do Drugs and Alcohol Stay In Your System?

How Long Do Drugs And Alcohol Stay In My System

When people choose to use a substance, it isn’t usually for its benign properties. Substances are consumed for the mental and physical effects which are produced as a result. It isn’t often pondered how, or why, these good feelings are produced. The user just enjoys the change, while it lasts.

In fact, the changes in thinking, emotion, or bodily sensation which occur when under the effect of psychoactive substances are due to how the properties of the drug binds to our brain receptors. This binding tells the brain to release certain chemicals toward heightening some sensations, and dulling others. The messages to the brain are carried there by the tainted oxygen, water, and blood which is able to circulate past the blood-brain barrier.  As long as the substance is still circulating, you are considered under the influence.

When most people reference how long a drug stays in the system, they are referring to how long a substance might be likely to show up on a drug test. It is useful to keep in mind that the immediate effects of drugs and alcohol can dissipate after several hours or days, but the more devastating effects can remain for much longer. Your system is comprised of brain patterns; emotional responses; and organ functions, all of which can be impacted far beyond the amount of time that the drugs or alcohol are actually circulating.



Partaking of alcohol is a staple of our American culture. It is often depicted as the addition to every party; sports event; and backyard barbecue. It is also implemented as a factor in over 88 thousand deaths, annually.

Alcohol remains in the blood for up to 12 hours, and can be present for up to five days later in a urine test. A breath test can reveal alcohol use for up to 24 hours after drinking, and a hair follicle will store evidence of the alcohol for nearly three months. The length of time that alcohol can be detected by a test can depend on several factors, such as weight; sex; ethnicity; and time since the last bout of drinking.

The longer-term effects of alcohol on the system can include diminished brain matter; difficulty with learning, memory, and concentration; high blood pressure; irregular heartbeat; liver fibrosis; and stroke. Some of these negative system effects can be counteracted through time and abstinence, while others will remain for the rest of a life.



Benzodiazepines are a class of drug which produce a tranquilizing affect. Traditionally, they have been prescribed on an as-needed basis, and for treating anxiety or insomnia. More recently, there has been a surge in abuse of these drugs, resulting in both overdose and severe withdrawal symptoms. Popular benzodiazepines include Valium, Xanax, and Klonopin, along with their generic counterparts.

Due to their fast-acting nature, benzodiazepines enter the system relatively quickly.  The effects of the drug generally take up to an hour to be noticeable. Depending on the nature of the specific drug, getting them back out of the system can take much longer. For an occasional user, short-acting benzos can be observed in urine for two days after the last dose, and longer-acting benzos can be detected for up to 10 days. If there has been prolonged usage, these rates of detection are multiplied. The presence of benzodiazepines is also detectable in blood and hair follicle tests for several days following ingestion.



Opioids have been around for hundreds of years. They have played a role in the downfall of Chinese culture, and were a scourge on early American settlers. While initially considered to be a wonder drug, opioids such as morphine and heroin were eventually recognized as highly addictive and dangerous. The U.S. government stepped in during the early 20th century and put a stop to over-the-counter availability of the drug, but the damage had already been done.

Prescription opioids became a trend during the 1990’s, when pharmaceutical companies claimed to have mastered the devastating effects of the compound. Medications such as Oxycodone; Fentanyl; and Hydrocodone began to be prescribed, en masse, for those suffering from difficulties with chronic pain. Fast forward a couple of decades, and we are experiencing an opioid epidemic. More than two million Americans are reported as misusing opioids, annually.

Several factors play a role in how long opioids are detectable in the bodily system. Weight; sex; liver function; amount of body fat; level of hydration; age; and metabolism will all impact both the effects – and the elimination – of the drug. The type of opioid substance also affects the length of time that it is detectable. With heroin, urine tests will reveal the presence of opioids for up to seven days after use, but a blood test is only good for detecting usage within the past few hours.  Hydrocodone leaves the urine within only 2-4 days, and is detectable with a saliva test for only 12-36 hours after ingestion. Morphine detection is similar to that of Hydrocodone. With all opioids, the hair follicle test is the most consistent, revealing usage within the past 90 days.



Marijuana is becoming a tricky subject. In light of the recent efforts to relegalize it as a recreational substance, users are able to assert that its effects are as benign as daily coffee drinking or having  the occassional beer. Not having solid tests in place for determining the amount of effect that the substance is having on an individual – such as with the ability to measure blood alcohol content – has created a confusion for law enforcement.

The various, unregulated, strains of the substance also make it difficult to note the effects. In general, a casual user can expect that marijuana can be detected in the urine  for a few days, while a heavy user may find it in the urine for up to a month. Blood tests can reveal usage for anywhere from the past couple of days, to the past few weeks. And, once again, hair follicle tests produce results for up to 90 days after the last use.


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