Alcohol Half Life: How Long Does it Take to Sober Up?
If you're looking for methods to help you “sober up,” you may already be in a situation where you've had too much to drink and want to regain control and focus quickly.
However, methods claiming to help you sober up do not help because they do not affect the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level in your bloodstream. To be clear, there is no effective way to sober up quickly other than to stop drinking and wait for time to pass.
The good news is that even though there are no ways to get rid of alcohol from your body quickly, there are steps you can take to avoid intoxication in the first place.
How long does it take to sober up?
Looking for the fastest way to sober up can be never-ending. There are various myths out there claiming to be “effective.” However, please don’t believe them, as none are backed by science. Ask any doctor how to get sober fast, and they’ll tell you it’s impossible.
The only thing that lowers the BAC in your bloodstream is time.
Sobering up after a night of drinking is different for everyone. However, the body always eliminates alcohol at a rate of .015% per hour. This equates to half to one drink per hour or between .25 and .30 ounces of ethanol (alcohol).
Regardless of a person's gender, size, or body type, this rate stays consistent. However, how much you drink impacts how long it takes you to sober up. The more you drink, the longer alcohol stays in your bloodstream.
Myths: Ways to Sober up
Unfortunately, nothing lowers your BAC or sobers you up. The only solution to sobering up is to wait for your body to metabolize the alcohol consumed.
However, there are many myths out there about sobering up fast. We’re here to dispel some of the most common myths that claim to sober you up.
If you’ve ever asked how to sober up from alcohol in 30 minutes or stop feeling drunk, you might have come across one of the following suggestions, but there is no way to sober up quickly, and the only cure for intoxication is time.
Does throwing up make you less drunk?
Since alcohol enters your bloodstream very quickly, throwing up will have no impact unless you instantly feel sick after taking a drink. However, drinking too much might make you nauseous, and vomiting may help alleviate those feelings. Moreover, when you are hungover, vomiting may make you feel better, but it doesn’t lower your BAC.
Does eating sober you up?
Eating food after drinking does not sober you up. Indeed, it would be best if you didn’t drink on an empty stomach as eating before alcohol consumption may limit how much alcohol is absorbed by your body, preventing intoxication. However, consuming food after the alcohol has already entered your bloodstream won't speed up the sobering up process.
Does drinking water sober you up?
Drinking water in combination with alcohol helps to prevent dehydration. For every alcoholic drink, you should also have a full glass of water, which will help keep your alcohol intake under control. Additionally, staying hydrated throughout a night of drinking will help you avoid a hangover the next day. However, drinking water does not help you sober up.
Does a cold shower sober you up?
Although cold showers might wake you up and help you feel more alert, they will not sober you up. To sober up, your body needs to relax. Soaking yourself in a cold shower achieves the exact opposite of relaxation. The body gets rid of alcohol on a fixed schedule. So, while a cold shower may make sobering up a cleaner experience, it has no impact on reducing your BAC.
How long does alcohol stay in your system?
It would be best to consider the different BAC test types, such as a breathalyzer or blood test, to get an idea of how long alcohol stays in your system. The amount of time it takes to detect alcohol varies depending on the body system and the test performed.
You can expect a positive result for approximately:
- Urine — up to 12 to 24 and up to 80 hours, depending on how recently and how much you drank
- Saliva — up to 2 to 48 hours
- Blood — up to 90 days
- Hair — up to 90 days
This doesn’t mean you aren’t sober for this duration. It simply indicates that traces of alcohol remain in your system for this amount of time.
How long does it take alcohol to get out of your system?
Alcohol reaches its peak blood levels 60 to 90 minutes after you start drinking. The body then starts to metabolize it.
The half-life of alcohol is four to five hours. This means that’s how long it takes for your system to eliminate half of it. However, it takes around five half-lives to get entirely rid of the alcohol in your body. Therefore, it takes your body approximately 25 hours to completely metabolize the alcohol.
On the bright side, you can take precautions to prevent intoxication and suffering from a painful hangover.
How to Avoid Alcohol Intoxication
The only way an individual can successfully prevent intoxication is by avoiding alcohol or consuming it in moderation. An individual can avoid drinking too much alcohol, which leads to intoxication, by drinking in moderation.
It takes the body at least one hour to process each drink consumed. If a person drinks their second drink within the same hour, they are likely to feel the effects of alcohol by the time they finish it, even if they might not be aware of it.
To avoid intoxication:
- Avoid consuming multiple drinks in a short amount of time
- Limit yourself to one drink every hour
- Stick to drinks that take time to finish, such as beer or wine
- Consume drinks with low alcohol content, such as light beer
- Take slow sips and stay active by talking with friends, for example
Additionally, staying hydrated and snacking can help create space between each drink. Try having a glass of water or a non-alcoholic beverage in between alcoholic drinks. Spacing out your drinks will give your liver time to break down the alcohol.
Don’t forget the importance of drinking responsibly, monitoring intoxication signs, and, most importantly, staying safe.