Getting High on Booze

Do you like to drink? Do you drink to get drunk? Sometimes it’s easy to forget that alcohol is a drug, and drinking is a form of getting high. Most conversations about drug use encourage users to keep dosage in mind, and to think about the timeline of a specific drug. For example, if you take MDMA, you know you’ll be high for around 4-6 hours, and if you choose to do more during that time you will be high for a longer period of time.

It’s pretty easy to let that kind of thinking slide when you’re just having a couple beers, but if you shift your thinking about booze you might drink more safely and have a better night. All drugs have a specific onset time, in the case of alcohol it is around 15-30 minutes. Everyone has a

story about that time they took a drug, thought it didn’t hit them, took more, and then got way higher than they intended. It’s pretty much the same deal with alcohol, if you do a shot, and don’t feel drunk, it’s because the alcohol has just entered your system and it has not taken full effect yet. You may think of just doing another shot, but if you wait 15-30 minutes, you might be feeling pretty good already!

One of the cool things about alcohol is that humans have been using it for a really long time and have a pretty strong understanding about how it works with our bodies. The amount of alcohol in a drink can vary, but a standard drink is considered to be 1.5 fluid ounces of liquor (40% alcohol by volume vodka/tequila/etc), 12 ounces of beer (at around 5% ABV) or 5 ounces of wine (at around 12% ABV). If you think about any of those standard drinks as a ‘dose’ and you can keep track of how many drinks you’ve had, you can consider it the same as re-dosing alcohol that number of times during the time you are drinking. The tricky part comes when you’re drinking things that aren’t a ‘standard drink’. For example, a tall can of a strong beer, like Boneshaker, is actually 16.9 ounces of beer at 7.1% ABV, making it closer to two standard drinks.

As you drink, the alcohol enters your bloodstream and your Blood Alcohol Content (or BAC for short) increases. This is when you start ‘feeling it’. As you continue to drink, your BAC continues to rise, and you continue to feel ‘more drunk’. The rate at which alcohol is absorbed has a number of variables, like how much you ate before you start drinking, how quickly you consume alcohol, the size of your body, and any medication or drugs you’re on.

As your BAC rises from 0.01-0.2%, you may experience the desired effects of Alcohol, but once it gets higher than that, you may have trouble walking, talking properly, you may feel dizzy or vomit, you might start making different choices than you would when you are sober, and you might consider sobering up a bit at this point.

If drinking causes your BAC to increase, how does it go back down? An enzyme in our bodies called dehydrogenase metabolizes alcohol at constant rate of 0.016% per hour, meaning it takes roughly 90 minutes to metabolize the alcohol in a ‘standard drink’. Drinking water is always a good idea, but it doesn’t speed up the rate at which alcohol is metabolized. Neither does coffee, doing a bump of cocaine, or anything you might try to feel less drunk. Stimulants may make you feel more alert, but your BAC is not altered by taking drugs, and still requires the same amount of time to naturally decrease back down to 0%.

The only way to sober up is to wait for your body to naturally metabolize the alcohol. During this time it would be wise to drink water, and maybe eat something, but this won’t speed up your metabolism, it is more to reduce the dehydration caused by alcohol and reduce the level of hangover you will feel the next day.


  • a standard drink or ‘dose’ of alcohol is about a shot of liquor, a can of beer, or a glass of wine but pay attention to the percentage of alcohol because some drinks are stronger
  • the speed at which you drink dictates the speed at which your Blood Alcohol Content increases
  • the only way to ‘sober up’ is to wait for your body to to metabolize the alcohol
  • doing cocaine or drinking coffee won’t make you sober up faster, even if you feel less drunk
  • drining water doesn’t make you sober up either, but you should definitely do it anyways 🙂

Check out these links: – laws around bar service, not relevant to drinking at home, but good to know what servers/bartenders are required to know. – simplified  Blood Alcohol Content calculator, enter a few details and get an estimate on your BAC and an estimate on how long it will take for your body to metabolize all that Alcohol and return your BAC to 0.