After drinking a large amount of alcohol, how long does it take to get sober? It may feel like alcohol remains in your system for a long time, but there are precautions you can take to drink safely and set smart limitations for yourself.
However, know that the effects of heavy alcohol consumption can range from being uncomfortable to putting someone in a dangerous situation. If you find yourself frequently intoxicated and struggling to limit your alcohol use, it may be time to reassess your drinking habits. You can identify red flags to look out for by reading further below.
How Does Alcohol Affect the Body?
Alcohol works as a central nervous system depressant. In other words, when someone drinks it, alcohol slows many of their cognitive and bodily functions. This slowing effect causes many of the symptoms associated with intoxication, including slurred speech, lowered inhibitions, and poor reaction time.
When someone asks, “How long does it take to get sober?” they most likely want to know how long it will take for those symptoms to dissipate. Other signs of alcohol intoxication that someone may wish to stop include:
- Poor motor coordination
- Difficulty concentrating
- Memory problems
- Nausea or vomiting
- Flushed skin
- Mood swings or irritability
- Elevated heart rate
Furthermore, if someone regularly drinks large amounts of alcohol, they may also develop certain long-term effects. Similarly, if someone drinks too much alcohol in one sitting, they risk experiencing alcohol poisoning. Many of these effects can have serious ramifications on someone’s physical and mental health, making it important to monitor your alcohol intake.
How Long Does It Take to Get Sober?
As someone drinks, their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) rises. BAC refers to the level of alcohol in someone’s bloodstream as a percentage. For example, a BAC of over 0.08% is classified as “legally impaired,” meaning that someone should no longer drive. On average, a person can drink anywhere between two and five drinks before their BAC reaches this level.
Generally, the body takes around one to two hours to process a single, standard alcoholic drink. In the United States, a “standard” drink refers to one that contains 14 grams of pure alcohol, which is less than an ounce of ethanol. This amount of alcohol is typically found in 12 ounces of regular beer, 5 ounces of wine, or one shot of liquor.
With all that in mind, how long does it take to get sober after drinking? Unfortunately, there is no exact science to it, as many other factors can contribute to how long someone feels affected by alcohol. For instance, weight, body type, age, and past drinking history can all influence someone’s overall drinking experience.
However, remember that the body can typically process about one drink every hour. Based on that, it’s possible to make estimates about how long alcohol will stay in your system. If, for example, someone drinks a six-pack of beer, their body should spend six to eight hours metabolizing the alcohol.
How Can I Get Sober Faster?
There are a few steps you can take to minimize the negative effects of alcohol. For example, avoid drinking on an empty stomach, and be careful about mixing different types of alcohol. They may contain different levels of ethanol, which makes it difficult to track how much you’ve been drinking and when you’ve reached your limit.
In addition, make sure you’re drinking plenty of water. Dehydration is linked to many unpleasant hangover symptoms, so staying hydrated can lessen the discomfort you feel during and after drinking. Afterward, it may also help to try things like cold showers or exercising to help you feel more alert. Although, know that these activities will not lower your actual BAC any faster.
So, how long does it take to get sober if you follow all of the above advice? The truth is, even if you stay hydrated or avoid mixing different types of alcohol, heavy drinking will still result in hours of inebriation. There is no easy ticket to “sober up fast,” as the rate at which someone’s liver processes alcohol cannot change so suddenly.
Because of this, the best way to decrease how long alcohol stays in your system is to limit your intake. Keeping your BAC low and putting your body through less strain means that you will recover from alcohol use more quickly. That said, if you have a hard time limiting your consumption, it may be time to reconsider your drinking habits.
Is It a Hangover or Withdrawal?
While the body dedicates itself to metabolizing alcohol, some of its other systems may struggle to fulfill their normal tasks. For example, alcohol can cause inflammation, irritation of the stomach lining, lowered blood sugar, and dehydration, all of which can contribute to uncomfortable hangover symptoms after drinking.
However, one thing to remember is that many hangover symptoms closely resemble alcohol withdrawal symptoms. So how can you differentiate between the two? And what does it mean if you experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop drinking?
Though the answer to, “How long does it take to get sober?” can vary greatly, hangover symptoms typically don’t last longer than a day. If your “hangover” regularly lasts longer than this, you may actually be experiencing withdrawal.
Furthermore, hangovers usually occur in those who drink too much in one sitting, especially if they don’t usually drink excessively. On the other hand, chronic heavy drinkers are more likely to encounter withdrawal. For them, how much they drank the previous day does not affect them as much as the cessation of drinking itself.
Someone who experiences alcohol withdrawal when they try to stop drinking may have a physical dependence on alcohol. This can indicate that they have an alcohol use disorder, in which case they may need to consider seeking professional assistance.
Identifying Alcohol Addiction
If you experience withdrawal, you may wonder, “How long does it take to get sober if you have an addiction?” But first, there are other signs of alcohol use disorder someone can look for beyond withdrawal. If any other red flags of addiction exist in your life, then it may be time to consider professional help.
On that note, you may have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol if you:
- Need to drink more to achieve the same effect as before
- Lie about the extent of your alcohol consumption
- Spend most of your time buying, drinking, or recovering from alcohol
- Struggle to complete tasks at work, school, or home due to alcohol use
- Feel like your alcohol use is causing relationship strain
- Continue to drink alcohol despite the problems it causes
It’s also important to assess the quantity of alcohol you drink. For instance, heavy drinking and binge drinking can indicate alcohol misuse, particularly if someone partakes in either on a regular basis.
For men, excessive drinking is having more than five drinks on one occasion or more than 15 drinks per week. As for women, excessive drinking is having more than four drinks on one occasion or more than eight per week.
Alcohol Addiction Treatment
If you suspect you may be living with alcohol use disorder, a new question may appear in your mind: How long does it take to get sober and stay that way? Ultimately, everyone’s sobriety journey looks different. However, the best way to pursue long-term sobriety involves professional addiction treatment programs.
To that end, The Willough at Naples is an addiction treatment center with over 30 years of experience helping people stop drinking. Between our medical detox services and dual diagnosis program, we can meet all of your treatment needs, especially if you live with additional mental health conditions, like anxiety or depression.
Our alcohol addiction treatment programs utilize an assortment of evidence-based treatment options, such as:
- Individual therapy
- Group therapy
- Medication evaluation and management
- Family counseling
- Recreational therapy
- Relapse prevention planning
- Links to community-led resources
All of the above treatment modalities work in tandem to teach patients vital coping skills. For example, individual and group therapies help patients develop the ability to communicate effectively, recognize their own emotions, and implement healthier coping mechanisms.
With these skills, patients become more comfortable navigating their mental health and can go on to achieve long-term sobriety.
Get Sober at The Willough at Naples
When it comes to alcohol addiction, the answer to the question, “How long does it take to get sober?” varies greatly between individuals. However, at The Willough at Naples, we’re ready to stand by your side every step of the way and find your answer together.
To get started on recovery today, call our admissions specialists at 800-722-0100. If you’d like more time to organize your thoughts first, you may also submit a confidential contact form online. Any of our team members will be happy to answer any questions and guide you through the enrollment process.