Most people understand that getting behind the wheel after drinking is not a good idea and that once the blood alcohol content reaches a certain point, a driver can face arrest for driving under the influence. However, fewer individuals understand how many drinks it takes to reach an illegal BAC.
Many factors affect how alcohol absorbs in the body. This means that two people can drink the same amount and have drastically different BAC levels, and this makes it more difficult to know when someone reaches the BAC limit.
Factors that affect absorption
According to the Stanford University Office of Alcohol Policy and Education, weight and biological sex are two major factors that affect the metabolism of alcohol. In general, males can drink more than women before reaching a .08 BAC. Individuals who weigh more also tend to have lower alcohol content because there is more space for the alcohol to diffuse.
The amount of food in the stomach affects alcohol absorption. Drinking after and while eating is better than drinking on an empty stomach. The rate of drinking is another factor. Sipping a beverage will raise the BAC at a slower rate than chugging or taking shots. Other factors include medication use and health conditions.
Average time it takes for alcohol to leave the body
Even if someone makes the decision to wait to sober up before driving, there are misconceptions about how long sobering up takes. According to Bowling Green State University Department of Recreation and Wellness, the only ways that the body can eliminate alcohol is via breath, sweat, urine and an enzyme that breaks down alcohol.
Contrary to popular belief, coffee or a cold shower does nothing to speed the process. It takes time. On average, alcohol leaves the body at a rate of .015 per hour. For someone who has had multiple drinks, it could take hours until the BAC reaches zero.