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How Long Does it Take to Sober Up?

How Long Does it Take For Alcohol’s Effects to Wear Off?

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

Most people feel the effects of alcohol in their bodies for approximately 12 hours. As their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) rises, they experience drunkenness. When it decreases, it fades into a hangover. 

Here are a few factors that affect how long alcohol stays in your system: 

  • Age
  • Weight
  • Stomach content when consuming alcoholic drinks
  • Medications
  • Liver health
  • The speed at which alcohol was consumed
  • How much alcohol was consumed

Calculating the Time That You Need to Sober Up

The time it takes to sober up depends on how much alcohol you consume. The body can metabolize ½ to 1 standard drink per hour.

If you drink 1 bottle of beer, you can expect the alcohol to leave your body in 1 to 2 hours. Essentially, alcohol leaves the body at a constant rate of .015% per hour.

For example, if you’ve been drinking eight beers in 3 hours, it would take about 13 hours to sober up.

Hangovers

Everyone experiences drunkenness differently. However, certain things occur when a person's alcohol consumption is too high. 

For example, as your BAC level drops after an alcohol binge, you may experience:

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

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

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 lower. This is why .08 is set as the legal limit by many states regarding drinking and driving. 

Once someone reaches this point, he or she is considered inebriated and unable to operate a vehicle safely. Many regular drinkers may not even feel any effects at this level but have the same impairment as ‘light drinkers.’

  • Between .10 and .12 BAC, motor coordination and judgment become significantly impaired. Most people are noticeably intoxicated at this level. 
  • Between .13 and .20 BAC, a person has complete impairment of motor control, blurred vision, major loss of balance, and might be described as “sloppy.”
  • Between .25 and .30 BAC, a person is usually severely intoxicated and experiences mental confusion, nausea, vomiting, and more. Higher levels could result in loss of consciousness, coma, and possibly death.

Heavy drinkers (more than 4 to 5 drinks daily for 5 to 6 days per week) may appear to function fairly normally even at a BAC of .20 to .25. But testing of their cognitive and motor skills shows impairment, even if they feel ‘normal.’

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How Long Does it Take 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 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
  • The severity of their AUD symptoms
  • The severity of their withdrawal symptoms during detox 

Can You Sober Up Quickly?

There is no cure for sobering up or getting rid of a hangover. 

Eating food and hydrating help your body return to normal and feel better after binge drinking. However, time is the only true way to sober up.

What Can Help

While there is no way to force the alcohol out of your system, sleep is the best way to sober up. 

Sleep allows your body to rest and recover. Any time you're asleep helps your body break down alcohol.

Drinking plenty of water and going to sleep will help your body metabolize alcohol. You should wake up and feel more alert than you did before.

Myths

Can a cold shower sober you up? Can drinking coffee while drunk sober you up? Most people have heard these myths associated with ‘sobering up quickly.’

Sometimes, 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. It’s just masking the symptoms, not speeding up the process.

Tips to Avoid Becoming Too Drunk

If you can't avoid drinking alcohol, learn to drink smart. Changing the way you drink can help you avoid heavy intoxication.

If you’re careful with your drinking habits, you wouldn’t need to sober up quickly in the first place. Aside from not drinking in the first place, there are many ways to avoid these situations. 

Here are a few things you can try to avoid getting too drunk:

  • Drink slowly
  • Count your drinks
  • Measure the amount you’re drinking
  • Drink water
  • Eat snacks
  • Avoid mixing drinks
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How to Sober Up FAQs

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.

If you only had one drink, your maximum BAC would be about .02% and your alcohol level would be about zero within 1 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.

If your BAC is .20% or higher, it can take 13 hours or more to sober up. You shouldn’t 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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Updated on September 29, 2022
8 sources cited
  1. Corinne O’Keefe Osborn. “How to Sober Up.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 31 July 2018, 
  2. It Takes Time to Sober Up | University Health Service.” Uhs.Umich.Edu. 
  3. Sweeny, K., & Krizan, Z. . “Sobering up: A quantitative review of temporal declines in expectations.” Psychological Bulletin, 139, 702–724. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0029951.
  4. Hopkins, Matt, and Paul Sparrow. “Sobering up: Arrest Referral and Brief Intervention for Alcohol Users in the Custody Suite.” Criminology & Criminal Justice, vol. 6, no. 4, Nov. 2006, pp. 389–410, doi:10.1177/1748895806068576. 
  5. Horder, Jeremy. “Sobering up? The Law Commission on Criminal Intoxication.” JSTOR, The Modern Law Review, July 1995.
  6. Jennings-Ingle, Sandra. “The Sobering Facts Alcohol Withdrawal - ResearchGate.” Research Gate, Nursing Made Incredibly Easy, Jan. 2007.
  7. Keller, Kimberly S. “Sobering up Daubert: Recent Issues Arising in Alcohol-Related Expert Testimony.” HeinOnline, St. Mary's University School of Law, 2004.
  8. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism “Alcohol facts and statistics”, (NIH), February 2020.

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