Updated on February 6, 2024
7 min read

How Long Does it Take to Sober Up from Alcohol?

Key Takeaways

How Long Does it Take to Sober Up From Alcohol? 

The time it takes to sober up from alcohol varies from person to person. However, the rate at which the body expels alcohol is always .015%. This is about .25 to .30 ounces of ethanol, or between half to one drink per hour.

At .015% an hour, it takes about 1 to 2 hours for your body to be free of alcohol after a beer or a glass of wine. If your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is .08, it'll take about 5-6 hours for alcohol to leave your system.

The rate at which alcohol leaves your body remains unchanged regardless of gender, size, or body type. However, the more you drink, the longer alcohol stays in your body.

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How Long Does it Take to Sober Up to Drive?

The legal limit for driving is a BAC of .08% in most states or 1-3 drinks for most people. It's illegal to drive with a BAC of .15%, you'll need to wait 5-6 hours before your BAC goes down to .08%.

If you want to know when you're sober enough to drive you need to multiply the number of drinks you've had by .03%. For example, if you drank 5 beers in 2 hours, you have .15% BAC. This means it will take you approximately 9 hours to be alcohol-free.

You'll need to wait a few hours to sober up before driving. Alcohol metabolism is the only factor that affects how quickly alcohol leaves your body.

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How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System?

To understand how long alcohol stays in your system, you need to consider the various types of BAC tests. Law enforcement usually administers a breathalyzer or blood test when they pull you over.

Here's how long alcohol stays in your system depending on the BAC test:

  • Urine test: 12 to 24 hours, 80 hours depending on how recently and how much you drank
  • Breath test: 12-24 Hours
  • Saliva test: 2 to 48 hours
  • Blood test: 90 days
  • Hair test: 90 days

Remember, this doesn’t mean you aren’t sober for this long. It just means traces of alcohol remain in your system for this amount of time.

Factors That Affect How Long It Takes to Sober Up

Determining how long it will take for someone to sober up can be difficult because everyone responds to alcohol differently. One person might look fine with a high BAC. Meanwhile, another person may seem drunk after drinking a small amount.

The factors that affect how long it takes for you to sober up include:

  • Binge drinking or excessive alcohol consumption
  • The number of drinks you had
  • How quickly you drank
  • Weight
  • If you drank with an empty stomach
  • How often you drink
  • Whether they have an alcohol use disorder (AUD) or not
  • Their overall health

Gender can also affect how long it takes for you got get sober. Women usually have higher body fat percentages, so their BAC stays higher longer. Keep in mind these factors only affect how quickly you can get drunk.

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Myths and Truths About Sobering Up Fast 

Time is the only thing that allows you to sober up. Your liver will metabolize alcohol at the same rate no matter what you do.

However, there are many myths about sobering up fast. Unfortunately, you can't speed up how your body metabolizes alcohol

Some of the most common myths associated with getting sober fast include:

  • Drinking coffee: Although you may feel more wake or alert, your BAC remains the same
  • Exercise: Sweating might help you feel better from your hangover, but it doesn’t speed up alcohol metabolism
  • Consuming activated charcoal: Activated charcoal doesn’t have any effect on your BAC; in fact, mixing it with alcohol can increase your chances of vomiting
  • Vomiting: You might feel better after vomiting when you are hungover, but it doesn’t reduce your BAC
  • Cold showers: Similar to coffee, a cold shower can help you feel more alert, but it doesn't affect BAC
  • Eating: Eating food can help you avoid drinking too much, but it doesn't help with sobering up
  • Drink water: Staying hydrated can help you manage hangover symptoms, but it won't sober you up 

Do I Have a Drinking Problem?

The DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) states that you may have an alcohol use disorder if you find yourself doing two or more of the following in the previous month:

  • Drinking more or for longer than was intended
  • Unsuccessful attempts to cut down or stop alcohol use
  • Spending a lot of time obtaining, using, or recovering from alcohol consumption
  • Craving alcohol
  • Failing to fulfill responsibilities at work, school, or home due to drinking alcohol
  • Continuing to drink despite having social problems caused by the effects of alcohol
  • Important social, work, or recreational activities are stopped or reduced because of alcohol use
  • Drinking in physically dangerous situations
  • Continuing to drink even though it is known to have negative effects on your health
  • Developing a tolerance to alcohol
  • Having withdrawal symptoms after stopping alcohol use

If you meet the criteria for having AUD, going to rehabilitation can help you stay sober.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Sober Person? 

Recovering from alcohol abuse can be difficult. In addition to treatment, you'll need to go through therapy and aftercare programs to maintain sobriety. Overall, it can take years to become sober.

Here is a timeline of what you can expect regarding sobriety:

One Week

The first week of sobriety is often the most difficult due to withdrawal symptoms, which last for a few days or weeks. These symptoms are uncomfortable and increase the risk of relapse.

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Tremors
  • Anxiety
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headache
  • Elevated heart rate and/or blood pressure
  • Sweating
  • Irritability and confusion
  • Insomnia and nightmares
  • Hallucinations that can be tactile, auditory, or visual
  • Delirium tremens (DT)

The intensity and severity of these symptoms will depend on how addicted or dependent you are to alcohol. You may even feel severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms such as delirium tremens which can be fatal.

One Month

After the first month, you may feel better after the withdrawal period ends. However, you may still feel lingering symptoms.

During this phase of sobriety, you might experience symptoms like:

  • Anxiety and irritability
  • Sadness and loss of interest in things
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Short-term memory issues
  • Poor focus and concentration
  • Sleeping problems
  • Low libido
  • Physical discomfort
  • Cravings

It’s important to know that these symptoms are temporary. They can last for several months, but they'll improve over time.

Six Months

After 6 months any lingering withdrawal symptoms will likely improve. You'll begin adjusting to sobriety and start noticing its benefits, including:

  • Improved social relationships
  • Improved mental and physical health
  • Better work or academic performance

However, you can still feel sad or overwhelmed at times. Having help from support groups and loved ones can help you cope with the challenges of sobriety.

One Year

You'll start to feel happier after the first year of sobriety. At this point, you'll have successfully coped with your cravings and stress without relapsing for a full year.

You can feel more confident in maintaining sobriety and have little to no desire for alcohol. However, it's important to continue attending therapy, self-help meetings, and support group meetings.

Although one year is a significant milestone, you must maintain it. Sobriety is an ongoing process that requires continuous work.

Treatment Options for Alcohol Addiction

There are many treatment options available for alcohol abuse. However, it's important to understand that people respond to treatment differently.

Talking to a doctor or an addiction specialist can help you find the right treatment plan for your needs. These include:

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Updated on February 6, 2024

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