Consuming alcohol in moderation for many people can be a way to relax and unwind from a busy and stressful work week as well as being a way to socialize and spend time with friends.
However, as most of us can attest to when having a good time it can be a very difficult thing to restrain yourself from having a few too many and as a result, end up intoxicated to some degree. When this happens an important and valid question that many people have wondered is how long does being drunk last?
The answer is that it depends. How long you remain drunk and how quickly you become drunk depends on many factors. We are going to review them in this article, however before we do it is first important to define drunkenness.
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Because most of us like to think we are less intoxicated than we are we tend to define being drunk in different ways. As such the best way to define it is to use the legal definition which is based on what is referred to as your blood alcohol concentration or BAC.
Your blood alcohol concentration is a direct comparison to the amount of alcohol you have in your blood system as compared to water. In many places in the world when your BAC is 0.08% or higher, you are considered legally drunk.
The general rule is that your body and in particular your liver can metabolize one drink per hour. However, that is a general rule and can not be counted on to be 100% accurate as there are several factors that determine how quickly you become and how long you will remain intoxicated.
It is important that you understand that alcohol affects people differently. If you are a beer drinker you might find this post helpful: How many beers to get drunk?
The following are some of the factors that will go into determining how long you will remain intoxicated…
Type of Alcohol Being Consumed
Not all alcoholic beverages are created equal. Different beverages have varying ABV’s or alcohol by volume. Some have more and some have less. If you are consuming drinks that have a higher alcohol content you can expect that your BAC will become higher, you will become more intoxicated and it will last longer.
Another factor to consider is that if you mix your drink with water it can help dilute the alcohol content and allow your body to absorb it slower.
Whether you are male or female will play a large part in how long you stay drunk. If a Male or Female weighs the same and consumes the same amount of alcohol the Female will typically stay intoxicated longer because they metabolize alcohol at a slower rate due to three factors.
1) The first factor is the male body actually holds more water which allows it to dilute the alcohol to a greater degree.
2) Females on average have a larger percentage of body fat. Body fat does not hold as much water as muscle and as a result, it does not absorb alcohol and a higher percentage of the alcohol will remain in the bloodstream.
3) Our bodies produce an enzyme called dehydrogenase, which metabolizes the ethanol in alcohol into acetaldehyde which allows the liver to break it down further into acetate that becomes water and CO2. Which now allows the body to process it. Females have less of this enzyme which means they process the alcohol they consume at a slower rate.
Your Body Weight
Most people realize that the smaller the person the less alcohol they can consume before they become drunk. If a lighter person and a heavier person drink the same amount as long as all the other factors are the same the lighter person is going to feel the effects faster and longer.
This is a result of the alcohol having a smaller space within the body to spread out or disperse. The larger the space the more the alcohol becomes diluted.
Amount & Type of Food Consumed Before & While Drinking
We all know that drinking on an empty stomach results in you becoming intoxicated faster but it can also have an effect on the duration of intoxication. Having food in your system before you start drinking and eating while you are drinking results in your body absorbing alcohol slower. The slower alcohol is absorbed the lower your BAC and the less time it is going to take to become sober.
Some foods are better than others when it comes to this. For example, healthy foods are better than greasy fatty foods. Your body also digests proteins slower than fats and carbohydrates which in turn slows down how fast your body will also absorb alcohol. Although eating a high protein meal is advantageous, striving to also include healthy fats and carbohydrates will help as well.
A fact we are all aware of is that as we age two things happen, the first is that our metabolism slows down and as a result, we tend to lose muscle mass and replace it with body fat.
As we have already seen in this article a higher body fat percentage results in people staying drunk longer.
Any Medications You Are Taking
Most over-the-counter and prescription medications you purchase will advise if you can consume alcohol while taking them.
Many of them including anxiety medications, antibiotics, and even allergy, cold, and flu medications can interact negatively with alcohol, it is always best to check with your doctor first before combining them.
The general condition of your health will determine how alcohol affects you. Typically the healthier you are the better and faster your body will be able to metabolize alcohol. Medical conditions affecting your liver or kidney can increase the rate at which alcohol affects you as well as the duration.
How Fast You Drink
As discussed at the outset of this post, the general rule is your body can process one standard drink per hour. As such it only stands to reason if you drink more than that you can expect to stay drunk longer.
The faster the alcohol builds up in your bloodstream the higher your BAC and the higher your BAC the longer you will remain intoxicated.
Your Alcohol Tolerance
People who drink on a regular basis can actually build up a tolerance to alcohol which results in them requiring more of it in order to feel its effects.
Although it may appear that someone is functioning better than someone else who has consumed the same amount of alcohol it does not mean that person is not drunk.
In the end, remember the legal definition comes down to a person’s blood alcohol content. Keep this in mind when you are thinking about driving, just because you do not feel drunk does not mean you are not.
Having a high tolerance to the effects of alcohol can indicate a dependency problem. If you have concerns about alcoholism and need support, celebrate recovery is a great program you might be interested in.
How Long Do the Effects of Alcohol Last?
The two main effects of alcohol are being intoxicated and the hangover the next day.
In most cases you will sober up enough after 6-7 hours from your last drink to feel like you are no longer drunk, however, it is important to understand that does not mean that your BAC level is back under the legal limits. There are many examples of people going for a coffee the next day after a night of drinking and being charged with a DUI so before you drive make sure you are legally sober.
Alcohol is processed by the body at a rate of typically .015 per hour. Which is approximately the rate of one standard drink per hour. However it can happen that drinks can increase the blood alcohol level by .02, so it is very possible that even if you only consume one drink per hour you can become drunk over time.
Hangovers usually last for 24 hours, however in some cases depending on how much alcohol is consumed you can have what is referred to as a two-day hangover and they can last 48 hours and even up to 72 hours.
How to Sober Up Faster
Unfortunately, the only way to get sober is time. There is no way to lower your blood alcohol level besides letting time pass without having more to drink.
There are lots of myths out there on ways to get sober faster, but none of them change the rate at which your body will process alcohol. Your body releases the alcohol through urine, sweating, and breathing, however, this does not happen until it has been processed and that takes the time frames we have discussed.
As discussed you can slow the rate at which you absorb alcohol and become intoxicated by drinking water and eating food before and while you drink but those two things will not make you sober up faster.
The following are things you can try that may help you increase your alertness and not feel as intoxicated:
1) Taking a nap works wonders to help you bounce back from having too much to drink.
2) Have a cup of coffee if you are feeling tired, it will not reduce your BAC or sober you up, but it will help you feel more alert and not as tired.
3) Many people do believe that exercise does speed up the rate at which your body will metabolize alcohol, although this has not been proven yet, there is no question that it will help you feel more alert and maybe worth a try next time you are feeling too much of the effects of alcohol.
As you have seen there are many factors that come into play when it comes to determining how long a person remains drunk and when it comes to sobering up, time is the only real cure and the best policy is to wait it out.
Cheers, Big Robb it Out!
P.S. If you make your own beer or are interested in doing so, I recommend you take advantage of getting the recipes to my top 5 beers from my brewpub. Details are on the side of the blog or the bottom of you are on a smart device. Enjoy!