It takes a lot longer than most people think for alcohol to pass through the body.
On average, it takes your body around one and a half hours to process one standard drink from the moment you finished drinking. One size does not fit all. The actual time it takes for alcohol to leave your body can vary depending on:
- Your gender – Women are more sensitive to the effects of alcohol than men for several reasons, as outlined on our Sex Matters page.
- Your medications – Drinking even small amounts of alcohol can either reduce or neutralize the effect of many over-the-counter drugs or prescribed medications. Some drugs can also intensify the sedative effects of alcohol, increasing drowsiness and reducing motor coordination. People who are driving a motor vehicle or operating heavy machinery must take particular care when starting a new medicine that has a potential interaction with alcohol. If you are taking any medication, you should consult your health care provider or pharmacist about mixing with alcohol.
- Your age – Total body water also tends to decrease with age, so an older person will be more affected by the same amount of alcohol. For example, blood alcohol concentrations may be up to 10 per cent higher in a 60 year old individual compared to a 30 year old individual that has a similar body composition and has consumed the same amount of alcohol.
- Your body weight – In general, the less you weigh the more you will be affected by alcohol.
- Your food consumption – Food slows the absorption of alcohol in your bloodstream by keeping the alcohol you consume in your stomach and for a longer period of time. This means that if you consume alcohol on an empty stomach, your body alcohol content will be higher than a person who has eaten before drinking.
- Your rate of consumption – The faster you consume alcohol, the faster your body alcohol content will rise. This is why drinking games, while they sound like fun, are not a good idea!
Drinking coffee, sleeping, or having a shower doesn’t make you more sober. The secret to sobering up is TIME!
It can take an average of about three hours to remove alcohol from your body from just two standard drinks. Often times, not understanding how long it takes to sober up can lead to impaired driving the morning after drinking. Many people do not realize that you can still be charged with impaired driving the next day as alcohol can be still present in your body.
Three or four hours of sleep may not give your body all the time it needs to eliminate the alcohol from your system. Even though you may not feel as intoxicated as you did the night before, you can still be impaired.
Let's do the math...
- You drank six regular beer (341ml/5 per cent alcohol) and stopped drinking at 12 a.m.
- Six beers x 90 minutes = at least nine hours for the alcohol to be out of your system.
- Now don’t forget that your Blood Alcohol Level is at the highest one and a half hours after consuming your last alcoholic beverage, so you have to start counting from 1:30 a.m.
- That means you are likely considered impaired until 10:30 a.m. the next morning. It may take even longer depending on other factors.
- Each time you drink, you should do the math and take the proper amount of time to sober up before operating any motorized vehicle. Not only could you save yourself a criminal record – you could save a life!
Reduce the Risk
- Know your limits – educate yourself on the size of a standard drink and how alcohol impacts you personally based on your gender, health, age, etc.
- Plan ahead – arrange for rides if you are consuming alcohol at a function or friends house.
- Don’t drink and drive – this includes the morning after drinking. Give yourself adequate time for alcohol to be removed from your system and understand that you do not need to feel drunk to be impaired!