How Long Do Drugs or Alcohol Stay in Your System?

Drugs and AlcoholDrug addiction impacts millions of families across the world. In the United States, drug addiction is one of the leading causes of early mortality. While all drugs can have a very negative impact on an individual’s life, it’s important to understand that different drugs have a unique pharmacological impact on human physiology. The following guide explores how long several common drugs stay inside a person before they are metabolized and excreted.


While many people don’t consider alcohol to be a drug, this substance has the same impact on the body as some narcotics. When an individual drinks alcohol, the ethanol molecules in that drink interact with GABA receptors in the brain. These same receptors are activated with an individual uses legal and illegal sedatives.

In most cases, alcohol remains in the body for at least 10 hours. After 10 hours, most of the alcohol that an individual consumed has been broken down into its basic building blocks. However, a number of factors can impact the speed at which alcohol is metabolized.

The human alcohol metabolism is controlled by an enzyme complex in the body called alcohol dehydrogenase. This enzyme complex breaks ethanol molecules down into acetaldehyde and other metabolites. These molecules can be further broken down and are eventually excreted from the body through the kidneys.

If an individual drinks an excessive amount, it may take up to 20 hours for all alcohol to leave the body. While alcohol may leave the body in this time, the toxic metabolites of alcohol can often take significantly longer to leave.


Marijuana can remain in the body for up to 120 days. However, the amount of time that marijuana remains in the body varies based on a wide variety of factors.

In most cases, the euphoric high of smoked marijuana only lasts for approximately two to three hours. If marijuana is consumed in baked goods, an individual may remain high for upwards of 30 hours.

The inactive metabolites of marijuana are fat soluble. Because of this, they remain in the body for a very long time. In most cases, an individual who has smoked marijuana will have a positive urine test for the drug for up to one month. However, blood tests and hair tests can often yield a positive result for up to 90 days.

With the legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington, more people are being arrested for drugged driving. If an individual has more than five nanograms of THC per millimeter of blood in their body, they may be arrested for DUI in Colorado and Washington. However, chronic marijuana users often develop a tolerance to the drug. Because of this, many chronic users will remain fully functional despite higher levels of THC in their blood. If an individual is accused of a marijuana DUI, this is considered an affirmative defense.


Opiates are metabolized in the body in several different ways. While some opiates like methadone may remain in the body for days, short-acting opiates like fentanyl may only remain in the body for 20 minutes or less.

The most commonly-prescribed opiate in the United States is hydrocodone. Hydrocodone is usually sold under its brand name: Vicodin. Hydrocodone has a half-life of approximately six hours. If an individual takes 20 mg of hydrocodone, approximately 10 mg will remain in the body after six hours. After another six hours, approximately five mg will remain in the body. After 48 hours, a negligible amount will remain in the body.


Sedatives include brands like Xanax, Klonopin, Ambien and more. Many of these substances will remain in the body for up to 10 hours. In many cases, prescription sedatives are designed so they will provide an individual with a restful night of sleep. To reduce sleep inertia in the morning, sedatives are often chosen with shorter half-lives. While these drugs can help people go to sleep quickly and easily, it’s important to make sure that people are awake and alert when the morning comes.

That said, some sedatives have very long half lives. For example, clonazepam and phenazepam can remain in the body for 72 hours or more. If an individual overdoses on one of these drugs, he or she may be delirious for several days. There have been incidents where phenazepam overdoses led to a coma. However, this is rare.


Psychedelics include LSD, magic mushrooms, bath salts, bromo-dragonfly, MDMA and more. These substances usually don’t remain in the body for a very long time. In most cases, an individual who has used psychedelics will only be high for eight hours or less. Since psychedelics usually don’t lend themselves to repeat dosing, they are rarely abused.

If you or a loved one are facing any issues with drug or alcohol addiction, contact an inpatient rehab center in your area for further information and assistance.