Alcohol & Health
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Updated on December 11, 2022
6 min read

How Drunk Am I?

How Many Alcoholic Drinks Does it Take to Get Drunk?

The average person can get drunk after 3 to 5 standard drinks containing alcohol. Alcohol is absorbed through the stomach lining and into the bloodstream. If you start drinking on an empty stomach, the alcohol will pass into the small intestine, absorbing alcohol faster.

Once your blood alcohol content (BAC) reaches a certain level, then you'll be drunk. However, different factors contribute to how much alcohol it takes for someone to get drunk. These include: 

  • The amount of alcohol consumed
  • Gender
  • Weight
  • Age
  • Medications
  • Food intake
  • Hydration level

What are the Different Stages of Being Drunk?

Your BAC is expressed as the weight of ethanol (measured in grams) in 100 milliliters of blood. In most U.S. states, a .08 percent BAC is the legal limit for drivers at least 21 years old, which is the legal drinking age. 

Here are nine different stages of being drunk:

1. BAC .02 to .03

If your BAC is .02 to .03, you may feel slightly more relaxed, euphoric, and outgoing. You may feel lightheaded, but you won’t have lost your coordination yet.

2. BAC .05 to .06

At a 0.05 to 0.06 BAC, you’ll feel warmer and even more relaxed and outgoing. You may experience some minor impairment of your reasoning, and you may exaggerate your behaviors (talking louder, acting bolder, etc.). 

Your emotions will also feel intensified. This means your mood can improve or worsen depending on your feelings.

3. BAC .08 to .09

At a .08 to .09 BAC, you’ll believe you’re functioning better than you are. For example, you may start to slur your speech and rock off balance. Your motor skills will become impaired, and your vision and hearing will also diminish. 

This BAC level affects your judgment, and you may feel like you’re wearing “beer goggles.”

4. BAC .10 to .12

Once your BAC hits .10 to .12, you’ll experience serious motor coordination impairment and significantly lose judgment skills. You may slur your speech, lose your balance, have trouble seeing and hearing, and react slower. You may also become louder and belligerent.

5. BAC .14 to .17

At a .14 to .17 BAC, you’ll have significant motor impairment, lack of physical control, major loss of balance, and difficulty seeing or hearing clearly. You may even blackout at this BAC.

6. BAC .20 to .25

At a .20 BAC to a .25 BAC, your mental, physical, and sensory functions are super impaired. You’ll start to feel significantly confused and may need help to walk or stand. If you injure yourself, it’s common that you won’t feel the pain or do anything about it. 

You may feel nauseous and vomit at this level, it's also possible to choke because your gag reflex is impaired. Blackouts are likely. 

7. BAC .30

At a .30 BAC, you’ll have very little comprehension of the symptoms of lesser BAC levels, but worse. At this point, you will likely pass out.

8. BAC .35

The .35 BAC level is the level of surgical anesthesia, which means that coma is possible and you may stop breathing. 

9. BAC .40

At a .40 BAC, you’ll probably be in a coma as the nerve centers that control your heartbeat and respiration slow down. Death due to respiratory arrest is also possible at this level and beyond.

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What Does it Feel Like to be Drunk?

Being drunk can feel different for different people. But many of the signs and symptoms are the same across the board. Here are a few signs and symptoms that you’re drunk:

  • Slurred speech
  • Difficulty seeing straight
  • Loss of balance
  • Exaggerated behaviors (speaking loudly, acting boldly, etc.)
  • Impaired judgment and inhibitions
  • Feeling warm
  • Lightheadedness
  • Feeling more outgoing and social
  • Nausea with or without vomiting.
  • Passing out
  • Experiencing memory lapses.

Typically, you’ll feel varying symptoms depending on how drunk you are. The drunker you get, the more and worse symptoms you’ll have. 

What Does it Feel Like to be Tipsy?

Being tipsy is the first sign that the alcohol you consume affects your body. Usually, a man will start to feel tipsy after drinking two to three alcoholic drinks an hour. A woman will feel tipsy after drinking one to two alcoholic drinks an hour.

This tipsiness starts when alcohol enters the bloodstream and affects the brain and body's functions. Blood alcohol content (BAC) is the unit used to assess the amount of alcohol in a person’s bloodstream.

When an individual becomes tipsy:

  • They are more likely to take risks
  • Their motor responses are slower
  • They have a shorter attention span and poor short-term memory
  • They are at greater risk of injury
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The Difference Between Being Tipsy and Drunk

Being tipsy and drunk are similar, but they’re not the same. While you may feel a sense of euphoria while tipsy, you will still have control over your mental and physical responses. 

However, you lose your senses more when you're drunk, and your inhibitions diminish. How you behave depends on how drunk you are.

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Why Does Alcohol Make You Drunk?

You get drunk when you consume alcohol faster than your body can break it down. Even though alcohol affects everyone differently, the way the liver breaks it down is the same for everyone. 

As you drink alcohol, the liver starts breaking it down. An enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase breaks alcohol down to acetaldehyde. This chemical is further broken down into acetic acid. 

However, if you drink too much alcohol, your liver will be unable to break it down quickly. This causes you to feel drunk. 

If you or someone you know is too drunk, it’s wise to stop drinking sooner rather than later, though it’s not easy to make that decision while under the influence. You can use a breathalyzer or a field sobriety test to see how drunk you are. 

Dangers of Alcohol Intoxication

Alcohol intoxication is a danger for many reasons. Not only is an intoxicated person a danger to themselves, but they’re also a danger to those around them. For example, about 55 percent of domestic abuse perpetrators were drinking alcohol before the assault.

Drinking too much alcohol can lead to alcohol poisoning and even death. An estimated 95,000 people (about 68,000 men and 27,000 women) lose their lives from alcohol-related causes yearly. In 2020, alcohol-impaired driving deaths accounted for 11,654 fatalities (30 percent of all traffic fatalities).

If you or someone you know is in danger, reach out for help immediately.

Other Side Effects of Alcohol Use

While drinking alcohol can feel like a lot of fun in the moment, there are some serious side effects of which to be aware. Other longer-term side effects of alcohol use include the following:

  • Hangover
  • Anxiety and/or depression
  • Liver disease/damage
  • Cardiovascular concerns
  • High blood pressure
  • Digestive problems
  • Weakened immune system
  • Alcohol addiction (alcoholism)

How to Sober Up From Alcohol

There is no way to “sober up fast,” and the journey to sobriety can be dangerous. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be severe, so it’s important to seek addiction treatment as soon as possible.

Fortunately, alcohol addiction treatment is readily available.

Alcohol Addiction Treatment Options

Treatment options for alcohol addiction include:

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Updated on December 11, 2022
7 sources cited
Updated on December 11, 2022
All Alcoholrehabhelp content is medically reviewed or fact checked to ensure as much factual accuracy as possible.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only link to reputable media sites, academic research institutions and, whenever possible, medically peer reviewed studies.
  1. “Alcohol Facts and Statistics.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,
  2. “Blood Alcohol Level: MedlinePlus Medical Test.” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 3 Dec. 2020
  3. “Drinking Too Much Alcohol Can Harm Your Health. Learn the Facts.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 14 Jan. 2021
  4. “Intimate Partner Violence and Alcohol.” World Health Organization
  5. “The Science of the Sauce: What Happens to Your Brain When You Drink Alcohol? - Brain Health, Health Topics, Neuroscience.” Hackensack Meridian Health, 26 Mar. 2019
  6. Dilley, J. et al. “Alcohol Drinking and Blood Alcohol Concentration Revisited.” Alcoholism, clinical and experimental research, 2018.
  7. NHTSA "Alcohol Impaired Driving." 2020.

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