How Long Does It Take For Alcohol To Wear Off?

Everyone processes alcohol differently based on various factors. The rate at which your body metabolizes alcohol determines how long it takes for you to get drunk and sober up.

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Most people feel the effects of alcohol in their bodies for approximately 12 hours. As their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) rises and decreases, they experience drunkenness that fades into a hangover. Many factors affect how long alcohol stays in your system, including:

  • Age
  • Weight
  • Stomach content when consuming alcoholic drinks
  • Medications
  • Liver health
  • Speed at which alcohol was consumed
  • How much alcohol was consumed
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Alcohol Effects & Hangovers

Everyone experiences drunkenness differently, but in general, certain things occur when a person's alcohol consumption is too high. For example, as your BAC level drops after an alcohol binge, you’ll likely experience:

  • Impaired cognitive functioning
  • Drowsiness and fatigue
  • Feelings of general malaise
  • Headache
  • Nausea or stomach ache
  • Dizziness
  • Extreme thirst
  • Racing heart, jitteriness, and sweating

People who have been drinking heavily for an extended period might experience withdrawal symptoms even after the initial hangover passes.

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Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) and Sobering Up

Several factors determine a person’s BAC and how long it takes to sober up. This means two people can consume the same amount of alcohol but experience different effects. Factors that determine a person’s BAC include:

  • Number of drinks consumed and alcohol content of those drinks
  • Amount of time it takes to consume drinks
  • Weight
  • Gender
  • Medications
  • Whether or not drinks were consumed on an empty stomach

Most adults have only a mild impairment or less when their BAC is .08 or less. This is why .08 is set as the legal limit by many states when it comes to drinking and driving. Once someone reaches this point, he or she is considered inebriated and unable to operate a vehicle safely.

Between .10 and .12 BAC, motor coordination and judgment become significantly impaired. Most people are noticeably intoxicated at this level. Between .13 and .20, a person has complete impairment of motor control, blurred vision, major loss of balance, and might be described as “sloppy.”

At .25 to .30 BAC, a person is usually severely intoxicated and will experience mental confusion, nausea, vomiting, and more. Higher BAC levels than this could result in loss of consciousness, coma, and possibly death.

Factors That Determine How Long It Takes to Sober Up

The length of time it takes to sober up depends on how long it takes your body to metabolize alcohol. Most people feel normal within several hours, depending on how much they drank.

People who have an alcohol use disorder experience “sobering up” differently. It could be weeks or more before they begin to feel like themselves again. Even if they detox and there is no more alcohol in their system, it will take time to adjust. The amount of time it takes someone with an AUD to sober up is affected by:

  • How long they’ve been drinking excessively
  • Severity of their AUD symptoms
  • Severity of their withdrawal symptoms during detox 

What Is The Quickest Way To Get Sober?

Can a cold shower sober you up? Can drinking coffee while drunk sober you up?

Most people have heard these and other myths associated with drinking alcohol.

The truth is there is no sobering up or hangover cure. Eating food and hydrating help your body return to normal and feel better after a drinking binge, but time is the only true way to sober up.

In some cases, you might feel better by employing a mythical “cure” such as drinking coffee. It’s true, you might feel better because caffeine is a stimulant. However, it’s not helping your body process alcohol any faster. You are just counteracting alcohol’s tendency to make you feel tired.

Anything you do that counteracts the symptoms of drunkenness or a hangover gives the appearance of helping, but it’s just masking a symptom, not speeding up the process.

Sobering Up: Common Questions and Answers

How much does your BAC drop per hour?

Your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) drops .015-.017% per hour.

How long does it take for BAC to go to 0?

After a night of heavy drinking, it can take your body more than 18 hours to completely sober up. For example, if you had an alcohol level of .20%, it would take your body over 13 hours to reach a BAC of 0.

However, if you only had one drink, your maximum BAC would be about .02% and your alcohol level would be about zero within one hour.

Does eating sober you up?

Eating after drinking alcohol will not help sober you up or cure hangovers. Food may make you feel better by providing nutrients to your body but it does not affect BAC levels. However, eating before or while drinking can help slow the absorption of alcohol.

How do I know if I'm sober enough to drive?

When you can drive after drinking alcohol depends on how much you consume. If you had one standard drink, your BAC should return to 0 within one to two hours.

However, if your BAC is .20% or higher, it can take 13 hours or more to sober up. Therefore, you should not drive until it wears off completely to prevent drunk driving consequences.

Can you sober up instantly?

No. There is no way to speed up how quickly your liver breaks down the alcohol in your blood. You have to let the alcohol run its course.

Does water sober you up faster?

For every standard alcoholic drink consumed, you should drink one 8 ounce glass of water. Drinking water prevents dehydration and limits how much alcohol you drink, leading to slower impairment. Water does not cure "drunkenness" but it does help with hangovers.

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Resources

Corinne O’Keefe Osborn. “How to Sober Up.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 31 July 2018, www.healthline.com/health/how-to-sober-up#myths.

“It Takes Time to Sober Up | University Health Service.” Uhs.Umich.Edu, uhs.umich.edu/time-to-sober-up

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Updated on: January 21, 2021
Author
Jordan Flagel
About
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Medically Reviewed
Annamarie
Annamarie Coy,
BA, CADACII/ICADC, ICPR, MATS
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