How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System for a Breathalyzer? | Banyan Mass

How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System for a Breathalyzer?

How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System for a Breathalyzer?

After a night out drinking, some people make the costly mistake of getting behind the wheel.

Not only are they putting their own lives in danger, but also, they are putting the lives of others at risk. In the United States, drunk driving leads to the death of over 10,000 people a year.1 This death toll includes those who were driving intoxicated and innocent people who were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

If you find that your drinking or your loved one’s drinking is getting out of control, other people’s lives could be at risk. Our Massachusetts substance abuse treatment center could help you or your loved one regain control of your drinking and avoid a similar fate.

Breathalyzers & Drunk Driving

In order to try and lower the number of drunk driving accidents, cops started using breathalyzers to detect alcohol in suspected drunk drivers.

When someone is drinking, the alcohol enters the bloodstream and passes through the lungs. A breathalyzer takes the alcohol vapors in the breath to determine the blood alcohol concentration.  Someone has to simply blow into the breathalyzer and the machine will output a number determining the person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) and whether or not they are fit to drive. In the United States, a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 makes someone too impaired to legally drive and could get them in serious trouble with the law, especially if this is not their first offense.

While breathalyzers are usually an effective means of determining someone’s level of intoxication, they are not always an exact science.

How Long Does a Breathalyzer Detect Alcohol?

So, after a couple of drinks, you may be feeling just fine, but how do you know whether or not you are okay to drive? How long does alcohol stay in your system for a breathalyzer to be able to detect it?

Because alcohol metabolism is different for everyone, there is no single answer as to how long a breathalyzer can detect alcohol in a person’s system, but in general, a breathalyzer can first detect alcohol in a person’s system about 15 minutes after it has been consumed and up to 24 hours later.2

If you want to stay under a BAC of 0.08, the general rule is that you should not drink more than one standard drink an hour, but this rule comes with a lot of catches. Generally, alcohol is metabolized at an average rate of 15 to 25 milligrams every hour,2 but because everyone is different, the same number of drinks can lead to drastic discrepancies from one person’s blood alcohol concentration to another. Along with the amount of alcohol consumed and the timeframe in which it was consumed, body weight, age, gender, medications, stomach contents, alcohol tolerance, and liver health can all affect a person’s BAC and breathalyzer test results. Along with the various factors that can impact a person’s BAC, like all machines, breathalyzers also come with a margin of error. Some lawyers argue that this margin of error is as high as .01 percentage point.3

If you have anything to drink, it is safer to skip the driving and call an Uber or walk instead. Not only could you save yourself the legal headache, but also you could save your life or the life of someone else. If you are trying to determine how to beat a breathalyzer or you have already gotten a DWI, it may be time to take a long look in the mirror. Our alcohol rehab center in Boston helps people reevaluate their relationship with alcohol and give up drinking so that they can move on with their lives alcohol-free.

Stop letting alcohol or drugs ruin your life. Our Boston PHP could be the answer you have been looking for. To learn more about our various programs at Banyan Massachusetts or to speak to an admissions counselor about getting started, call us today at 888-280-4763.


  1. NHTSA - Drunk Driving
  2. NCBI - Appendix B. Urine Collection and Testing Procedures and Alternative Methods for Monitoring Drug Use
  3. com - How Accurate Are “Breathalyzers”?
Alyssa who is the National Director of Digital Marketing, joined the Banyan team in 2016, bringing her five-plus years of experience. She has produced a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. Through strategic marketing campaign concepts, Alyssa has established Banyan as an industry leader and a national household name.