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  • Writer's pictureChris Thompson

How Long Does It Take To Sober Up After Drinking?

Everyone reacts to alcohol differently, so sobering up may not look the same from one person to the next. Many factors come into play when you drink and how the alcohol will affect you.

The body's typical rate of expelling alcohol is around .015% per hour. This rate is the same for everyone, regardless of age, weight, gender, and size. This is equivalent to .25 to .30 ounces of ethanol — around half to one drink of alcohol per hour.

The time it takes to sober up mostly depends on how much alcohol they consume and how fast they consume it. Keep reading to learn how long it takes to sober up after drinking!

How Much Alcohol Do You Need To Raise Your BAC?

Many factors go into alcohol consumption and your reaction to it. Age, height, weight, size, and metabolism all impact how much alcohol it takes to become intoxicated. Some people will feel their first drink, while others may need three to feel tipsy.

Just because you may not feel completely inebriated does not mean your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) isn’t rising. Similarly, if you don’t drink often, you might feel it more intensely even though your BAC is not above the limit. The more alcohol you consume, the higher your BAC will be.

How Does Alcohol Raise Your BAC?

For every standard alcoholic beverage you consume in an hour, your BAC could rise between .02% and .05%. Weight and gender tend to have more of an impact on how quickly someone’s BAC levels rise.

For instance, a 115-pound woman might raise her BAC by .05% for every drink they have, while a 220-pound man will only raise his by .03%. The more you drink in an hour, the higher your BAC will rise.

If you know you’ll be driving and are planning to have alcohol while out, you should limit yourself to one to two drinks over a two-hour period. Most people will also make sure to eat while drinking or have a glass of water to sober up if they know they are driving.

However, all you need is a BAC level of .08% to be over the legal limit when driving to be arrested. That’s hardly a drink a half in one hour for a small woman and no more than two for a larger man.

How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System?

Depending on how you are testing for alcohol in the system, there can be a variety of lengths of time it could be detectable. If pulled over while driving, a cop might ask you to do a breathalyzer or blood test.

There are four main ways to test for alcohol in your system: urine, blood, saliva, and hair. Alcohol will show up on these tests for only a certain amount of time after drinking.

  • Urine: Usually between 12 and 24 hours, but sometimes only eight hours, depending on how much you drank.

  • Blood: Up to 90 days.

  • Saliva: Between two and 48 hours.

  • Hair: Up to 90 days.

Driving After Drinking

So you might wonder: when is it okay to drive after drinking? The short answer to this is: never. It’s not in your best interest to get behind the wheel even six hours after taking your last drink if you’ve surpassed the legal limit in one night.

This means that if you only had one drink in one hour, with food and water, you are likely good to go with a BAC that is below the legal limit. If you have had multiple drinks over a short period, your BAC is likely too high to drive yourself anywhere safely.

If you’ve been drinking and aren’t sure if you’re good to drive, the safest thing you can do is call up a car service or friend to take you home. Better safe than sorry!

Sobering Up: How Long It Takes

Sobering up and lowering your BAC go hand-in-hand, but many alcohol users don’t think of it that way. Most people begin to feel like they are sober before their blood alcohol levels are normal. You may feel fine to drive the next morning, but you could get pulled over and still test above the legal limit.

Some factors impact how long it takes a certain individual to actually sober up. Knowing what these are can help you make informed decisions when drinking.

Factors for Sobering Up

When you stop drinking, your body metabolizes the alcohol you’ve consumed. There’s no real way to speed up the process of sobering up; it simply takes as long as it takes!

The main factors that contribute to how long it takes for someone to sober up are:

  • How many drinks you had

  • How quickly you drank them

  • Whether you ate before drinking

  • How frequently you drink

  • Gender: women tend to have a higher BAC for longer than men will

  • Overall health and well-being

  • If a person has alcohol use disorder or not

Many people view sobering up as how they are feeling after a night of drinking. Some people claim that something traumatic happening can “sober them up” within minutes, but this is not possible.

What is happening is that cortisol or adrenaline can make you feel sober when you’re not. Your body will metabolize the alcohol at the same rate, no matter who you are.

Calculating the Time You Need

The first step in figuring out how long you’ll need to sober up is to multiply the number of drinks you’ve had in a night by .03%. If you had eight beers in two hours, your BAC would be .24% minus .030% for the two hours your body was able to metabolize the alcohol at the rate of .015% an hour. That means a person who has had eight drinks in two hours likely has a BAC of .21%.

To know when your BAC will be below the legal limit of .08%, you’ll subtract .015% every hour. The following is a chart that explains how a person with .21% BAC level will metabolize the alcohol in their body as time passes.

At 9 a.m., you will have reached below the legal limit, which means you shouldn’t be driving a car before then. The alcohol won’t exit your system completely until 2 p.m.

Myths of Sobering Up

Many people will give you their tips and tricks on how to sober up fast, but they might not be as reliable as you think. Many old wives' tales get passed around that don’t have the effect that you think they do.

  • Drinking water: Drinking water won’t lower your BAC, but it will help you to hydrate your body as you drink. This might affect your hangover the next day by reducing the symptoms.

  • Eating: Eating will not sober you up. If you eat before you start drinking, it might take a bit longer for you to feel the effects of the alcohol and reduce your likelihood of a hangover.

  • Drinking coffee: Your BAC will remain the same, but you may feel slightly more alert.

  • Cold showers: Similarly to drinking coffee, a cold shower can help make you feel more alert but doesn’t lower your BAC levels.

  • Exercise: Sweating can help you feel better during your hangover but won’t change your BAC levels.

  • Vomiting: You are likely to feel better after a night of drinking when you vomit, but it won’t change your BAC levels.

Find Support Through Sober Sidekick

Not everyone is aware that even if you feel sober, your BAC could still put you in dangerous positions. Dealing with alcohol addiction and maintaining a normal life can be difficult and somewhat impossible to do on your own.

That is not to say you can’t do it — we believe that addiction can’t stand in the face of community and connection.

Support in these times is essential, and Sober Sidekick is here to help. By downloading the app on Android or iPhone, you can join a community of individuals looking to be sober and stay sober. Send words of encouragement, update everyone on your journey, and learn tips on maintaining sobriety — all at the tip of your fingers.


What Is Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC)? | Vaden Health Services

Factors that Affect Intoxication | Bowling Green State University

The Truth About Holiday Spirits | NIAAA

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