While it can certainly be fun and entertaining, getting drunk also has its risks and pitfalls. Elevated mood and lowered inhibitions might be recipe for a good time, but drinking to excess can also cause serious problems, including physical injuries and medical and legal problems.
The problems are often exacerbated by a misjudgment of the level and duration of drunkenness.
To find out how long does being drunk last, you’ll have to grasp the various factors involved.
Before the First Round
First up, before diving into each individual factor and its role, you’ll have to know what being drunk means and how to deal with the different alcohol percentages of alcoholic drinks. Most US state laws define drunk as blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% and higher.
With the legal definition out of the way, let’s look at the alcohol percentages in some of the most common drinks. Beer usually has around 5% of alcohol by volume, wine around 12-15%, while spirits like whiskey and bourbon 40%.
Converted to weight, that means you’ll ingest around 14-15 grams of alcohol per 12oz can of beer. It would be roughly the same as one glass of a 12% alcohol wine (5oz glass) or a standard shot of whiskey.
As a basis, you can assume that a standard drink in the United States has 14 grams of pure alcohol, each serving of which adds 0.02 to 0.03% to your BAC. Your liver, on the other hand, breaks down alcohol and lowers BAC by 0.01 to 0.02% per hour. This means that if you drink two or three beers, you may be legally drunk within the first hour in most parts of the United States.
The First Round: Body Weight
When it comes to weight, the heavier you are, the more alcohol you would need to get drunk. This is due to the fact that you would have more blood and so more alcohol is needed to raise your BAC.
Also, the extra pounds would help you lower your BAC and sober up faster than the friend who weighs less than you. Finally, you would need more drinks than your smaller-framed friend to experience the same level of buzz. If you and your friend weigh the same but you’re five inches taller, you would be at a disadvantage for being thinner.
The Second Round: Sex
Men and women metabolize alcohol in different ways and require different amounts of it to experience the same buzz and duration. In general, men need more alcohol to get drunk and sober up faster than women. Additionally, due to the higher body weight/water ratio, BAC goes up at a slower rate in men than in women.
In men, alcohol is mainly absorbed in the stomach where the absorption rates are lower. This means that men need more alcohol to get drunk. Also, men metabolize alcohol faster than women so they sober up sooner.
On the other hand, alcohol is mainly processed in the upper intestines of women, meaning more alcohol reaches the bloodstream. Also, women metabolize alcohol slower than men, so it’ll take more time to lower the BAC.
The Third Round: Medication
Your medication can play an important role in determining how drunk you’ll get and how long it will last. If you’re taking anticoagulants (blood thinners), you would require less alcohol to get drunk. Likewise, you would stay drunk for longer.
There are also medications that have a side effect of lowering the breakdown rate of alcohol in your liver. This means you would stay drunk for longer than usual. Generally, it is not advised to mix any type of medication with alcohol.
The Fourth Round: Water
When you’re trying to figure out how long does being drunk last, it is very important to know how hydrated you are. Having sufficient amounts of water in your body can effectively keep your BAC at a lower level, as well as reduce it faster.
Water dilutes alcohol, effectively reducing its concentration in your bloodstream. On the other hand, alcohol acts as a diuretic and causes your body to release water through sweat and urine at a faster rate. Therefore, it is very important to stay hydrated when you’re out drinking.
Dehydration can also cause you to experience more severe hangover symptoms, which may also last longer.
The Fifth Round: Food
The food eaten before, during, and right after drinking alcoholic drinks can affect how fast you’ll get drunk and how long it will last. It also affects alcohol concentration in your bloodstream.
Eating before drinking lowers alcohol’s rate of absorption in your body. This way, less alcohol reaches your bloodstream so your BAC doesn’t go up as high.
Additionally, the food that you eat between or right after drinks boosts the liver activity and its ability to process alcohol. This means you’ll sober up faster if you eat a hearty meal after drinking all night.
Conversely, if you go drinking on an empty stomach, your liver will raise the white flag sooner. Likewise, skipping breakfast the following morning will prolong the time your body needs to recover.
The Last Call
Finally, how long does being drunk last? Let’s assume you had ten standard drinks between midnight and 4am and your liver processes alcohol at the standard 0.02% per hour.
First, multiply the number of standard drinks by 0.02%. In this case, the result is 0.20%. After that, deduce 0.02 for every hour you spent drinking. In this case, it would be 4 x 0.02%, which is 0.08%. Subtract that from 0.20% and your real score at 4am would be 0.12%. By 6am, your BAC should reach 0.08%. By 10am, your BAC should be zero.
This is all an approximation, of course. In real life, you should also factor in your weight, medications, sex, food eaten, and level of hydration. If your liver processes alcohol at a slower rate, you’ll stay drunk for longer. Likewise, if you’re drinking on an empty stomach or poorly hydrated, it might take you longer to sober up.