Medically Reviewed

How Long Does it Take to Sober Up?

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Medically Reviewed: September 25, 2019

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

When you drink alcohol, you experience a range of side effects. The amount you drink affects how long alcohol stays in your bloodstream and the intensity of its impact. You may want to know how long it takes to sober up if you’re planning to drive after drinking or for other reasons.

So, how long does it take to sober up from alcohol? Several factors determine how long alcohol stays in your body. This article will explore how alcohol affects your body and what can help you prevent a high blood alcohol content. For more information on how alcohol affects your body or to explore alcohol rehab programs in the Memphis area, contact the PAX Memphis team today.

How Does Alcohol Affect Your Body?

Alcohol use is common and widely accepted in the culture of the United States. Alcohol is available at many celebrations and social events, such as weddings, parties, and happy hours. While alcohol use is a regular part of life for many Americans, drinking too much can have a severe impact on your mental and physical health.

Drinking has short and long-term effects.[1] Temporary effects of drinking alcohol include:

  • Euphoria or feeling “giddy”
  • Drowsiness or relaxation
  • Reduced inhibitions
  • Poor impulse control
  • Slurred or slow speech
  • Problems with focus and memory
  • Loss of coordination
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache

Some side effects, like relaxation and elevated mood, can happen quickly. Some may experience these effects after just one drink. Loss of coordination, nausea, and other symptoms may occur if someone drinks too much.

Drinking alcohol in moderation is not known to cause significant long-term health problems. But it is easy to exceed the amount of drinking considered “safe”–and many people who drink alcohol regularly drink too much. Drinking too much puts people at risk of serious harm to their health and damage caused by risky behavior, such as unsafe sex or driving under the influence.

How Much Alcohol Is Too Much?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advise people to drink moderately. But what does this mean, exactly?

According to the CDC, moderate drinking means:[2]

  • Drinking one or fewer alcoholic drinks per day for women
  • Drinking two or fewer alcoholic drinks per day for men

A “drink” is defined as:

  • 12 ounces of beer
  • 5 ounces of wine
  • 8 ounces of malt liquor
  • 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits

Many drinks served in bars and restaurants may contain the equivalent of more than one “drink,” as defined by the CDC. For example, a pint (16 ounces) of beer would be 1 ⅓ of a “drink” under the CDC’s guidelines.

Heavy drinking–a pattern of excessive drinking–is associated with harm to your health. Heavy drinking is considered:

  • 8 or more drinks in a week for women
  • 15 or more drinks per week for men

Heavy drinking puts you at risk for injuries and accidents, chronic health conditions, and more.

How Long Does It Take To Sober Up?

Generally, your body can process and eliminate alcohol at the rate of about one drink per hour. For example, if you drink a 12-ounce bottle of beer, you could expect that the alcohol would be out of your body in about an hour.

But how long does it take to sober up from alcohol? Many factors can affect the amount of alcohol in your bloodstream. These include:

  • The amount of alcohol you’re drinking
  • How fast you’re drinking
  • If you’ve eaten before starting to drink
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Weight and body composition
  • Medications or drugs you take

If you want to keep your blood alcohol content lower, follow these rules when drinking alcohol.

1. Choose drinks with a low alcohol content

If you drink alcohol, choose drinks that have a lower rate of alcohol concentration, such as light beer. Drinks with distilled spirits like vodka, whiskey, or tequila have a higher alcohol concentration and may raise your BAC faster.

2. Drink slowly

Limit yourself to one drink per hour and sip it. Chugging a drink or having several drinks in a short period can quickly increase your BAC.

3. Alternate with water

Get into the habit of having a glass of water–or another non-alcoholic drink–after every alcoholic beverage. This can help you prevent a high BAC.[3]

4. Eat

Eat a meal before starting to drink and continue to eat while drinking. Drinking on an empty stomach can cause your BAC to rise quickly. Food can slow your body’s absorption of alcohol and reduce your BAC.

If you regularly drink more than planned, have an accident because of your drinking, or experience other kinds of problems because of your alcohol use, you may need alcohol abuse treatment to stop drinking. Don’t wait for the problem to get worse. Seek treatment as soon as you recognize a problem.

Calculating How Long it Takes to Sober Up from Alcohol After Drinking

In order to estimate the time it will take for you to become sober after drinking, you need to multiply the number of drinks you consumed by .03%. This will give you an approximation of your blood alcohol concentration (BAC). Your body can only metabolize about .015% BAC per hour, so you need to subtract that from the total BAC. For instance, if you had 10 beers over a 2-hour period, your BAC would be .27% at the end of your drinking session, and it would take approximately 18 hours for your BAC to return to zero.

Assuming you finished drinking at 2 AM and you plan to drive to work at 8 AM, your BAC could still be .18%, which is still above the legal limit. However, if you don’t consume any more alcohol, your BAC will return to zero by 8 PM. It’s important to remember that some of the side effects of alcohol may disappear before your BAC is back to zero, but it’s still best to wait until your BAC is completely back to zero before driving.

Remember, these are just estimations, and an accurate timeline of how long it takes to sober up may vary.

Find Help Now

If you find yourself wondering how long it takes to sober up from alcohol or if you need help to stop drinking, reach out to the team at PAX Memphis today. Our alcohol abuse treatment programs are designed to help people overcome alcohol abuse and take back control of their lives and health. Don’t wait for the treatment you need. Call us today to get started.