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Alcohol & Health
Helping Alcoholics
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Updated on August 7, 2023
7 min read

How Long Does it Take to Sober Up?

While everyone processes alcohol differently, your body typically metabolizes one standard drink (typically around 0.6 ounces of pure alcohol) per hour. If you drink one beer, you can expect the alcohol to leave your body in one to two hours.

Essentially, alcohol leaves the body at an average rate of .015% BAC per hour. However, the time it takes to sober up can depend on several factors, such as:

  • Age
  • Weight
  • Drinking on a full or empty stomach
  • Medications
  • Liver health
  • Speed of drinking the alcohol
  • Amount of alcohol consumed

How Does the Body Metabolize Alcohol?

The body primarily metabolizes alcohol in the liver, as the stomach and gastrointestinal tract also play a role. Two enzymes are responsible for alcohol metabolism:

  • Alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH): The main enzyme responsible for breaking down alcohol in the body, converting it into acetaldehyde
  • Acetaldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH): The enzyme that further metabolizes into acetic acid, eventually converting into carbon dioxide and water

The body then eliminates these substances via urine, breath, and sweat. However, how long it’ll take to sober up can vary.

How Long Does Alcohol Affect a Person With AUD?

People with alcohol use disorder (AUD) experience “sobering up” differently. It could be weeks or more before they feel like themselves again. Even if you do a detox, it will take some time for your body to adjust to the lack of alcohol.

The amount of time it takes someone with AUD to sober up is affected by:

  • How long they’ve been drinking excessively
  • The severity of their AUD symptoms
  • The presence of severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms during detox 

Timeline of Withdrawal Symptoms

If a person with AUD abruptly stops drinking alcohol, they can experience withdrawal symptoms, making it more challenging to return to sobriety. 

This is a timeline of withdrawal symptoms a person with AUD can experience:

  • 1 week: Withdrawal symptoms are severe, causing tremors, anxiety, insomnia, nightmares, hallucinations, and worsening mental disorders.
  • 1 month: Withdrawal symptoms are subdued but may cause lingering effects like anxiety, irritability, inability to focus, low libido, sleeping problems, and cravings.
  • 6 months: The adjustment begins, improving social relationships, mental and physical health, and academic performance.
  • 1 year: You’ll feel more confident in maintaining sobriety. The chances of relapse are low.

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Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC)

BAC measures the amount of alcohol present in a person’s bloodstream. Healthcare professionals use it to assess a person’s level of alcohol intoxication and impairments.

The table below shows the blood alcohol concentration at different hours after alcohol consumption has started.

2:00 AM00.27
3:00 AM10.255
4:00 AM20.24
5:00 AM30.225
6:00 AM40.21
7:00 AM50.195
8:00 AM60.18
9:00 AM70.165
10:00 AM80.15
11:00 AM90.135
12:00 PM100.12
1:00 PM110.105
2:00 PM120.09
3:00 PM130.075
4:00 PM140.06
5:00 PM150.045
6:00 PM160.03
7:00 PM170.015
8:00 PM180

Measuring Blood Alcohol Concentration 

Below are several ways to measure blood alcohol concentration:

  • Breathalyzer test
  • Blood test
  • Urine test
  • Saliva test

A blood test is one of the more accurate methods of measuring a person’s BAC. The blood test relies on the concentration of alcohol in the bloodstream to assess intoxication levels.

If using a breathalyzer, note that the legal ratio is roughly 2100:1, indicating that 1 ml of blood has 2,100 times more ethanol than 1 ml of air from the lungs. However, the legal limit may vary according to jurisdiction. 

Factors that Affect Blood Alcohol Concentration 

Several factors determine a person’s blood alcohol concentration and how long it takes to sober up. Two people that consume the same amount of alcohol may still experience different effects. 

Factors that determine a person’s BAC include:

  • Amount of drinks consumed 
  • Alcohol content of drinks consumed
  • Amount of time it takes to consume multiple drinks
  • Weight
  • Gender
  • Medications
  • Food consumption before drinking alcohol

What is a Safe Level of BAC?

Most adults have a mild impairment or less when their BAC is .08 or lower. This stage of alcohol intoxication is why .08 is the legal limit in many states regarding drinking and driving. 

Once you go beyond this point, you’re considered inebriated and unable to operate a vehicle safely.

Effects of a High BAC

  • 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: Complete motor control impairment, blurred vision, and a major loss of balance described as “sloppy.”
  • Between .25 and .30 BAC: Severe intoxication can lead to mental confusion, nausea, vomiting, and more.

BAC levels higher than .30 could be dangerous, resulting in:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Physically dangerous situations leading to injury
  • Coma
  • Potential death

Heavy drinkers (those who consume more than 4 to 5 drinks daily for 5 to 6 days per week) may appear to function normally even at a BAC of .20 to .25. But when testing their cognitive and motor skills, they begin to show impairment, even if they feel “normal.”

Driving Under the Influence (DUI)

Different BAC levels correspond to varying degrees of impairment, and it is crucial to understand the legal limits. In the U.S., you can be charged with driving under the influence (DUI) with a BAC of 0.08%.

After consuming three standard drinks, you should wait at least three hours before driving. Even after you stop drinking, alcohol levels can continue to rise.


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After-Effects of Alcohol Use: Hangovers

A hangover is a set of unpleasant symptoms after excessive alcohol consumption. Hangovers vary in intensity and duration, though they generally involve physical and psychological symptoms.

Hangover Symptoms

As your BAC level drops after binge drinking, you may experience the following hangover symptoms:

  • 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 engage in heavy drinking for an extended period might experience withdrawal symptoms even after the initial hangover passes.


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Can You Sober Up Quickly?

There is no immediate cure for a hangover or intoxication, as the body metabolizes alcohol slowly, but there are ways to manage symptoms better.

These methods include:

  • Sleeping or resting
  • Drinking water
  • Eating healthy foods
  • Taking over-the-counter pain relievers for headaches

Food may make you feel better by providing nutrients to your body, but it does not affect BAC levels. 

However, eating before alcohol consumption can help slow down the absorption of alcohol. While you won’t be fully sober in 12 hours, your body may begin to metabolize alcohol faster.

Myths About Sobering Up

Unfortunately, the only way to become completely sober is to let time pass. No concrete way to “speed up” drunkenness or a hangover exists.

Here are some other myths about sobering up:

  • Taking cold showers: While a cold shower will make you feel more alert, it won’t decrease blood alcohol levels.
  • Drinking coffee: Like taking a cold shower, drinking coffee will only make you feel more awake and alert.
  • Exercising: You can’t sweat BAC out, though exercising may provide some relief.
  • Consuming activated charcoal: Contrary to popular belief, activated charcoal won’t decrease nausea or “absorb” alcohol. It can even increase the chances of vomiting.

Staying hydrated, at the most, will help manage hangover symptoms and make you feel refreshed. But anything else you do that counteracts the symptoms of drunkenness or a hangover only appears like it’s 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 alcohol intoxication.

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

Here are a few things to avoid getting too drunk:

  • Choose an alcoholic drink that takes time to finish (beer or wine)
  • Take note of the amount you’re drinking
  • Count your drinks or stop after one
  • Drink water
  • Avoid mixing drinks

Can You Slow Down Alcohol Absorption by Eating Food?

Some foods may slow absorption but won’t stop alcohol from entering the bloodstream. The best way to dull alcohol’s effects on the body is to drink in moderation.

These are the types of food you should eat before drinking to slow alcohol absorption:


The body prioritizes carbs when metabolizing food and drinks, indirectly slowing down alcohol absorption. These include:

  • Rice
  • Pasta
  • Bread
  • Potatoes

Healthy fats

Eating foods high in fats before drinking can delay alcohol absorption. These include:

  • Avocados
  • Nuts
  • Seeds

These slow the rate at which alcohol is released into the small intestine, leading to a slower and more controlled absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream.


Everyone processes alcohol differently. However, you generally metabolize one standard alcoholic drink per hour.

Different factors affect how long alcohol stays in your body, such as how much alcohol you consume, how often you drink, and other lifestyle factors.

Unfortunately, there is no direct cure to force alcohol out of your system or a legitimate method of sobering up quickly. The only way of getting rid of alcohol from your body and sobering up completely is to wait it out.

Updated on August 7, 2023
13 sources cited
Updated on August 7, 2023
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. The Regents of the University of Michigan. “It Takes Time to Sober Up.” University Health Service University of Michigan. 
  2. Sweeny et al . “Sobering up: A quantitative review of temporal declines in expectations.” Psychological Bulletin, 2013.
  3. Understanding Blood Alcohol Content (BAC).” College of Saint Benedict & Saint John’s University.
  4. Howat, P. “Alcohol and driving: is the 0.05% blood alcohol concentration limit justified?” Drug and Alcohol Review, 1991.
  5. Gunn et al. “The Effects of Alcohol Hangover on Executive Functions.” Journal of Clinical Medicine, 2020.
  6. Newman et al. “Alcohol Withdrawal.” StatPearls [Internet], 2022
  7. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. “Alcohol and Caffeine.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2022.
  8. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. “Alcohol Facts and Statistics.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 2023.
  9. Leasure et al. “Exercise and alcohol consumption: what we know, what we need to know, and why it is important.” Frontiers in Psychiatry, 2015.
  10. Hulten et al. “Does Alcohol Absorb to Activated Charcoal?” Human Toxicology, 1986.
  11. Pettigrew et al. “Consumers’ expectations of food and alcohol pairing.” British Food Journal, 2013.
  12. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. “Alcohol Metabolism.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 2022.
  13. Ozoemena et al. “Fuel cell-based breath-alcohol sensors: Innovation-hungry old electrochemistry.” 2018.
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All content created by Alcohol Rehab Help is sourced from current scientific research and fact-checked by an addiction counseling expert. However, the information provided by Alcohol Rehab Help is not a substitute for professional treatment advice.
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