Jun 10, 2024

Can You Sober Up Fast? Understanding Alcohol Metabolism

Alcohol intoxication occurs when someone consumes alcohol at a faster rate than their body is capable of metabolizing it. Intoxication is temporary, but you may find yourself in a situation where you need to recover quickly. Is it possible to sober up fast, and if so, how can it be done?

How to Sober Up Fast – Is Quick Recovery from Intoxication Possible?

The only sure way to fully recover from intoxication is to give your body time. There are no magical rapid sobriety techniques that will erase a night of over-imbibing. 

The body, specifically the liver, metabolizes alcohol at a constant rate. This holds true regardless of gender, body size, or tolerance level. The rate at which alcoholic beverages are metabolized is approximately one standard drink per hour. 

“Standard drink” is the important word here. This is defined as 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits, 12 ounces of beer, or 5 ounces of wine. Most drinks are poured in quantities that exceed this. 

If you have two standard drinks, you can plan on it taking about two hours to metabolize the alcohol fully. There aren’t any fast sobering methods that will speed the process along.  

Depending on how much alcohol you’ve drunk and how much time has passed, it is possible to wake up in the morning, head to work or class, and fail a blood alcohol test should you be pulled over. It’s also possible that motor skills and mental alertness will still be impaired, and that those around you will be able to still smell alcohol on you as your body continues to metabolize it. 

While there are no quick ways to sober up, there may be a few things you can do to increase your mental alertness as you recover. Remember, these strategies will not speed up alcohol metabolism but, for some, may make the recovery process more bearable. 

Sobering Up Tips for Increasing Alertness

  • Hydrate: Alcohol, especially in high amounts, is a diuretic. This means the more alcohol that has been consumed, the higher the risk of dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. Hydrating throughout the day with water and electrolyte drinks can help minimize the effects of a hangover, making the mental sluggishness and headache less debilitating. 
  • Caffeine: A cup of coffee or tea offers a reasonable dose of caffeine – a well-known stimulant. Contrary to popular myths, caffeine is not one of the reliable remedies to sober up fast, but it can help to knock out some of the brain fog and make you more alert. There is a word of caution with caffeine, as it can also work as a diuretic. Don’t overconsume for the sake of trying to shake off intoxication. 
  • Nourishment: Eating can help you feel more human again after a bout of excessive alcohol use. Avoid processed junk foods, including greasy fast food, that will likely only further irritate the stomach. Instead, choose lean proteins, whole-grain carbohydrates, and starchy vegetables.  Foods like avocados and bananas are also high in potassium, which can improve electrolyte balance. 
  • Movement: Don’t feel like going to the gym? This is understandable and not the best idea when technically intoxicated. However, a walk around the block and some fresh air can do the body well and help clear away some of the cobwebs from a night (or day) of drinking. 
  • Rest: Finally, this is the only truly effective way of reducing alcohol effects. Give your body the time it needs to recover, even if this means calling into work, missing class, or changing your plans. 

An Ounce of Prevention

All of the tips for sobering up quickly that you’ve heard are myths. The only way to reduce the effects of alcohol is to take steps to avoid intoxication. 

Steps like pacing yourself and having one drink per hour will allow your body to efficiently metabolize the alcohol and minimize the effects you’ll feel. Having a full glass of water with each drink of alcohol will also slow down the rate of consumption and help prevent dehydration. Consuming food with alcohol can also help slow down the rate at which the body absorbs it. 

If you have an alcohol abuse problem, there is no safe amount of alcohol that you can consume. If you need help with alcohol addiction, the Massachusetts Center for Addiction is here to help. You can contact us any time of the day or night at  844-486-0671

We also recommend the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) as a valuable resource for those struggling with addiction. Additionally, it is a helpful resource for their family or loved ones who want to support them. You can find a directory of providers on their website or call their National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357). 

When Sobering Up Isn’t Enough

While there are no fast sobering methods that actually work, you will eventually recover from a bout of excessive drinking. However, if you’re finding that the need for quick alcohol detox is happening more frequently, it’s time to reconsider your approach. You may need more than just strategies to minimize a hangover. Instead, it might be time to move toward eliminating alcohol from your life. 

The signs of alcohol addiction can be subtle at first, and many individuals with alcohol use disorder don’t realize they have a problem. If you’re concerned about how alcohol is affecting your life or have a loved one that you’re concerned about, our compassionate staff is here to help. 

Contact the Massachusetts Center for Addiction today at 844-486-0671 for a complimentary and confidential consultation.

MCA Staff
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