How Long Does Being Drunk Last? Understanding Alcohol’s Effects on the Body

A toast at a wedding, a round of drinks with friends, or a casual glass of wine at dinner – alcohol is a common part of many cultures and celebrations. While it might be enjoyable to indulge occasionally, it’s essential to understand how long the effects of being drunk last and what’s happening in our bodies during this time. In this article, we delve into the lifespan of intoxication and how various factors can influence it.

Understanding Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC)

The key to comprehending the duration and intensity of intoxication lies in understanding Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC). BAC is a measure of the amount of alcohol present in your bloodstream. The higher the BAC, the more impaired you become. Common effects as BAC increases include:

  • 0.02-0.04%: Feeling of relaxation and warmth.
  • 0.05-0.07%: Mild euphoria, more pronounced relaxation, and lowered inhibitions.
  • 0.08% and above: Impaired balance, speech, vision, and judgment. This level is legally considered intoxicated in many places.

How Long Does It Take to Sober Up?

On average, the liver can metabolize about one standard drink per hour. This means if you consume five drinks, it would, in theory, take five hours for your body to metabolize the alcohol. However, while the alcohol might be metabolized, the effects on your cognitive functions and motor skills might last longer.

Factors Influencing Intoxication Duration

Several factors can affect how long you feel drunk:

  1. Rate of Consumption: Drinking large amounts of alcohol in a short span can spike BAC levels and prolong the feeling of intoxication.
  2. Body Weight and Composition: Generally, individuals who weigh more can consume more alcohol than lighter individuals before feeling its effects. However, body fat percentage also plays a role. Alcohol is water-soluble, so those with more muscle (which contains more water than fat) might feel the effects less intensely.
  3. Gender: Women often feel the effects of alcohol more quickly and intensely than men. This difference is due to variations in body composition and hormones.
  4. Food Intake: Consuming alcohol on an empty stomach can lead to rapid absorption and increased intoxication. Eating before or while drinking can slow alcohol absorption, reducing its immediate impact.
  5. Medications and Drugs: Some medications and drugs can enhance the effects of alcohol, making you feel more intoxicated than usual.
  6. Tolerance: Regular and heavy drinkers might not feel the effects of alcohol as intensely as occasional drinkers due to increased tolerance. However, this doesn’t mean their BAC is lower or that their cognitive functions are unimpaired.

The Morning After: Hangovers and Beyond

While the feeling of intoxication might wear off after several hours, hangovers can linger. Symptoms like headaches, nausea, fatigue, and sensitivity to light can last well into the next day. Moreover, even if you feel ‘sober,’ your BAC might still be above the legal limit, making activities like driving hazardous.


While enjoying a drink socially can be pleasurable, it’s crucial to know your limits and understand how long alcohol’s effects can last in your system. Every individual is different, and factors like weight, gender, and food intake can influence the duration of intoxication. To ensure safety, always plan ahead: designate a driver, know your limits, and be aware of the potential lingering effects the next day. After all, responsible drinking ensures that celebrations remain joyful and free from regrets.

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