What Does It Mean to be Drunk? Stages of Drunkenness & Knowing Your Limit (2022)

Understanding the seven stages of alcohol intoxication based on your blood alcohol content (BAC) can help you know your limits and stop when you need to.

According to2019 data, 70% of Americans reported they drank alcohol in the past year. However, this drinking is not always in moderation. The same data noted that over 25% of people reportedbinge drinkingin the past month. While alcohol consumed in moderation can be part of a healthy life, sometimes it goes too far. It is important to recognize how alcohol affects your body to stay safe and healthy in the short and long term.

Article at a Glance:

Drunk is a general term to describe the effects of alcohol on the body.

Signs of being drunk include loss of coordination or balance, poor judgment, slurred speech or vision changes.

There are seven stages of being drunk, ranging from being sober to dying.

Everyone reacts differently to alcohol, so an individual’s stages of being drunk may be different.

Know your limit with alcohol, and never get behind the wheel if your BAC is over 0.08.

What Does It Mean To Be Drunk?

When you drink alcohol, it enters the bloodstream and begins affecting your body and mind quickly. Drinking alcohol can cause someone to become drunk. Being drunk is a general term describing theeffects of alcohol, such as:

  • Loss of coordination or balance
  • Impaired reflexes
  • Slurred speech
  • Vision changes
  • Sleepiness

Drinking more alcohol makes these effects worse. In extreme cases,too much alcoholcan lead to coma or death, so it is important to recognize thesignsand stages of being drunk.

Stages of Being Drunk

There are somewhat predictablestagesthat a person will go through when they drink alcohol. Thestages of intoxication varyfrom person to person based on a variety of factors. Reactions to alcohol will vary by weight, age, sex, rate of consumption, overall health, amount of alcohol used, and amount of food in the stomach.


The first stage of being drunk, known as subclinical intoxication, or being sober, occurs when the individual has consumed a small amount of alcohol and does not appear intoxicated. This stage usually occurs at a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.01 to 0.05 and occurs with one drink or less per hour for most people.

(Video) How Alcohol Changes Your Body

During this stage the effects of alcohol are not apparent or obvious, impairment may be detectable by certain tests, and behavior is nearly normal.


The second stage of intoxication is known as euphoric and occurs at a BAC of 0.03 to 0.12. Typically, this stage occurs with two to three drinks per hour for men and one to two drinks per hour for women. People frequently refer to this stage as being tipsy.

People in the euphoric stage are more social and talkative, have increased confidence and lowered inhibitions, have some motor impairment, and have diminished attention and control.


A BAC of 0.09 to 0.25 is referred to as the excitement stage. In this stage, a person may lose emotional stability and begin slurring their speech. Other people will notice that the person is drunk. This stage usually occurs in men after three to five drinks per hour and in women after two to four drinks per hour.

Additionally, they may experience perception and memory impairment, vision changes, loss of balance, and nausea and vomiting.


The confusion stage of intoxication occurs when someone reaches a BAC of 0.18 to 0.30. For most men, this stage happens when they’ve consumed more than five drinks per hour, and for women, more than four drinks per hour. A feature of this stage is blacking out or losing memory while drinking. People in this stage will likely also have their balance and coordination impaired enough to result in staggering and an inability to stand.

The following symptoms may also occur including exaggerated emotions including fear, grief or rage, double vision, and increased pain threshold.


The stupor stage occurs when someone reaches a BAC of 0.25 to 0.40. At this stage, people are at increased risk of alcohol poisoning. The gag reflex may stop working properly, and it may be possible to choke on vomit. They are also at risk for respiratory depression, so medical attention should be sought.

During stupor, people may not respond to surroundings, be completely passed out, vomit, and lose the ability to control bodily functions like urination or defecation.

Alcohol poisoning can be fatal. If you suspect someone is experiencing alcohol poisoning, call 911 immediately.

Do NOT be afraid to seek help. If you do not have access to a phone, contact Web Poison Control Services for online assistance.

(Video) Alcoholism, Causes, Signs and Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment.


When a person’s BAC reaches 0.35 to 0.50, there is a high chance of a coma. The person may be completely unconscious with no reaction to their surroundings.

Additionally, a person will likely experience body temperature drops, poor circulation, possible respiratory depression, and possible death.


The risk of death significantly increases when a person’s BAC surpasses 0.45. At this point, the body may not be able to maintain vital functions like breathing. Respiratory depression is a likely cause of death. However, remember that death is still possible at earlier stages and with other BAC figures.

How to Know Your Limit

When consumed in moderation, alcohol can be part of a healthy lifestyle. Moderate consumptionis defined asone drink daily for women or two drinks daily for men. However, there may be certain times when you drink more than what’s considered moderate.

In these cases, be conscious ofhow alcohol is affecting youand remember the BAC limit for driving in the U.S. is0.08. If you are unsure of your BAC,don’t get behind the wheel.

If you don’t drink often, be aware that alcohol will likely affect you more than someone who does drink regularly. For some people, it is helpful to stop drinking when they start feeling tipsy or are in the euphoric stage. While there isn’t a guarantee you will be below 0.08 BAC at this stage, it is a good marker to prevent some of the harmful effects of alcohol if you continue drinking.

(Video) The 7 Levels of Drunk

If you are struggling withalcohol abuse, you are not alone. Representatives at The Recovery Village are available to discusstreatment optionstailored to your situation. The call is free and confidential, and you don’t have to commit to a program to learn more aboutalcohol rehab. Don’t wait;call todayto begin your path to recovery.

What Does It Mean to be Drunk? Stages of Drunkenness & Knowing Your Limit (1)

Editor – Melissa Carmona

As the content manager at Advanced Recovery Systems, Melissa Carmona puts years of writing and editing experience to work helping people understand substance abuse, addiction and mental health disorders. Read more

What Does It Mean to be Drunk? Stages of Drunkenness & Knowing Your Limit (2)

Medically Reviewed By – Benjamin Caleb Williams, RN

Benjamin Caleb Williams is a board-certified Emergency Nurse with several years of clinical experience, including supervisory roles within the ICU and ER settings. Read more

Alcohol abuse related topics:


(Video) How Drinking Alcohol Actually Affects Your Body (Minute by Minute)

Motivational Interviewing: What is Change Talk?Relapse Prevention: “Doing” Recovery in this Changing WorldHow Alcoholism StartsFacts and Statistics about Alcohol Abuse in the United StatesRecognizing the Common Stages of a Functioning AlcoholicAddiction Stories: Laura Silverman

All Related Topics


National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Alcohol Facts & Statistics.” June 2021. Accessed August 5, 2021.

Dubowski, Kurt. “Stages of acute alcoholic influence/into[…]nical signs/symptoms.” The University of Oklahoma Department of Medicine, May 15, 2015. Accessed August 5, 2021.

The National Health Service. “Alcohol Poisoning.” April 1, 2019. Accessed August 5, 2021.

National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Drinking Patterns and Their Definitions.” Alcohol Research Current Reviews, January 1, 2018. Accessed August 5, 2021.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. “Final Report: Legislative History of .08[…]ws – Introduction.” U.S. Department of Transportation, July 2001. Accessed August 5, 2021.

Medical Disclaimer

(Video) Alcohol Dependence & Withdrawal

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.


How do you know your limits when drinking? ›

Reduce your risk of injury and harm by drinking no more than 3 drinks (for women) or 4 drinks (for men) on any single occasion. Plan to drink in a safe environment.

What does it mean to limit your alcohol? ›

To reduce the risk of alcohol-related harms, the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that adults of legal drinking age can choose not to drink, or to drink in moderation by limiting intake to 2 drinks or less in a day for men or 1 drink or less in a day for women, on days when alcohol is consumed.

What does know your limits mean? ›

idiom. : to know how much one is able to do. It's important to exercise, but you need to know your limits.

How much alcohol do you need to be over the limit? ›

50 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood (the 'blood limit') 22 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath (the 'breath limit') 67 milligrammes per 100 millilitres of urine (the 'urine limit')

Why should you limit your intake of alcohol? ›

Risks of heavy alcohol use

Excessive drinking can increase your risk of serious health problems, including: Certain cancers, including breast cancer and cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus and liver. Pancreatitis. Sudden death if you already have cardiovascular disease.

How do you limit yourself to a few drinks? ›

Top four tips
  1. Set yourself a drink limit and count your drinks.
  2. Swap to low or no alcohol alternatives.
  3. Limit how much alcohol you keep in the house.
  4. Change your “after work routine”.
  5. Delay that first drink.
  6. Drink only with dinner.
31 Aug 2022

What are the 4 types of drunks? ›

There are 4 Types of Drunks
  • Hemingways. These are people whose personalities don't change much when they drink. ...
  • Mary Poppins. These are people who become especially cheerful and helpful when they drink. ...
  • Nutty Professors. These are people who become most uninhibited when they drink. ...
  • Mr. Hydes.
10 Dec 2021

How long does a drunk phase last? ›

Generally speaking, it takes about 6 hours for the effects of being drunk to wear off. If you count the hangover/detoxification period that happens after drinking alcohol, the effects may last longer.

What are the three stages of drinking? ›

Alcohol Addiction Treatment Program. What Are the 3 Stages…
What Are the 3 Stages of Alcoholism?
  • Early Stage of Alcoholism. The first of the 3 stages of alcoholism occurs when a problem drinker has slipped into the early stages of dependence. ...
  • Middle Stage of Alcoholism. ...
  • End Stage of Alcoholism.
19 Mar 2021

What are the 10 stages of drunkenness? ›

Dan Jenkins' 10 Stages of Drunkenness
  • Witty & Charming.
  • Rich and Powerful.
  • Benevolent.
  • Clairvoyant.
  • Fuck Dinner.
  • Patriotic.
  • Crank up the Enola Gay.
  • Witty & Charming, Part II.
9 Feb 2011

What are the seven 7 stages of intoxication? ›

But generally, the seven stages of alcohol intoxication and their symptoms include the following:
  • Sobriety or low-level intoxication. If a person has consumed one or less drinks per hour, they're considered to be sober, or low-level intoxicated. ...
  • Euphoria. ...
  • Excitement. ...
  • Confusion. ...
  • Stupor. ...
  • Coma. ...
  • Death.

Why is knowing your limits important? ›

If you don't know your own boundaries, taking care of yourself and treating your body and mind with respect will likely prove to be illusive goals. You have to define what exactly is too far or too much for you in order to know how much you can achieve without negatively impacting your mental health.

What does it mean to be in the limit? ›

idiom. : to the greatest possible point : as much as possible. Our resources have been stretched to the limit.

What does being at your limit mean? ›

: to reach the point where one can no longer continue doing something. I'm trying to be patient with him, but I've just about reached my limit.

How much alcohol puts you over the limit UK? ›

The legal alcohol limit in England, Wales and Northern Ireland for driving is 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood or 35 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath.

How many units is over the limit UK? ›

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the current driving limit is approximately three units for women and four units for men. If you're looking for the hard stats though – which is what you're legally tested on - then we've broken this down into measurements of three components: breath, blood and urine.

What is the alcohol unit limit UK? ›

men and women are advised not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis. spread your drinking over 3 or more days if you regularly drink as much as 14 units a week.

What alcohol makes you last longer in bed? ›

So if you're looking for the answer to 'what alcohol makes you last longer in bed', sadly, there's none. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), men should limit their alcohol intake by not having more than two alcoholic drinks per day. Any more than that can pose a risk to one's health and sex life.

Is it better to stop drinking or cut down? ›

Quitting is strongly advised if you: Have tried cutting down but cannot stay within the limits you set. Have had alcohol use disorder (AUD) or now have any symptoms. Have a physical or mental health condition that is caused or being worsened by drinking.

What is it called when you get drunk easily? ›

Alcohol intolerance is a genetic, metabolic disorder of the digestive system. Your body doesn't process alcohol the way it should.

Why do I get drunk so easily? ›

The amount of food and water you had before drinking: The less food and water you have in your system before drinking, the quicker you get drunk. That's because food and water slow down how quickly the body absorbs alcohol.

Why cant I stop drinking when I start? ›

excessive alcohol consumption over time.

The changes that happen in the brains of those people are temporary. However, when you begin to drink alcohol on a consistent basis, especially in larger quantities, your brain chemistry begins to change, making it more challenging to manage your pattern of drinking.

Why do I kiss people when im drunk? ›

Because we're feeling less self-conscious, we might act more impulsively when it comes to intimacy—sharing personal things, being more forward, and doing other things that aren't normally as easy to do. All around, we're less cautious.

Do people mean what they say when drunk? ›

Do people mean what they say when drunk? Yes, sometimes people mean what they say when they are drunk. But most of the time, people say whatever comes to mind when drinking, without any concern if it's genuinely how they feel. Alcohol lowers inhibition and makes people feel talkative, extroverted, and emboldened.

Do true emotions come out when drunk? ›

"There's usually some version of one's true feelings that come out when one is drunk," Vranich said. "People dredge up feelings and sentiments from somewhere deep in their brains, so what one says or does certainly reflects what's going on deep down.

Does drinking water make you less drunk? ›

When a person hydrates by drinking plenty of water, it can give their liver time to metabolize the alcohol in their body, as well as spacing out the alcoholic drinks they consume.

How many hours till sober? ›

An average liver can process approximately 1 unit of alcohol per hour. This means that if you drink 12 units, it'll take you roughly 12 hours to fully sober up. People who start drinking never do so with the express purpose of developing alcoholism.

How long should you watch a drunk person sleep? ›

Monitor them

It's a sacrifice but make sure you're monitoring them every 10 minutes. Check to see if their breathing is steading, if they've vomited or if they've rolled over. They could still be getting more drunk as they sleep so this is a really important step. We recommend having a schedule with friends you trust.

What are the 3 types of drinkers and how are they defined? ›

There are three main categories that users of alcohol fall into; social drinker, alcohol abuser or alcoholic. Most people who drink alcohol will not have any problems with their consumption; however, for those who do have a problem handling it, oftentimes, their problem will gradually worsen.

What is the first stage of intoxication? ›

Subliminal intoxication.

With a blood alcohol content (BAC) between 0.01 – 0.05, this is the first stage of intoxication. You may not look like you have been drinking, but your reaction time, behavior and judgment may be slightly altered. Depending on weight, most men and women enter this stage after one drink.

What are the four stages of addiction briefly describe each stage? ›

Some people take their time while others go from zero to 60 in a short period of time. No matter how long your journey is, most rehabilitation counselors agree that there are four main stages of drug addiction: experimentation, regular use, risky use/abuse, and drug addiction and dependency.

What are the 9 types of drinkers? ›

What Type of Drinker are You?
  • Social Drinker. The good news is you only drink when you're hanging out with friends. ...
  • Stress Drinker. Everyone gets stressed out sometimes. ...
  • Binge Drinker. ...
  • Self-Medication Drinker. ...
  • High-risk Drinker. ...
  • Drunkorexic. ...
  • Your Drinking Personality.
20 Jul 2021

What happens when you're drunk? ›

Alcohol dulls the parts of your brain that control how your body works. This affects your actions and your ability to make decisions and stay in control. Alcohol influences your mood and can also make you feel down or aggressive.

What are the 6 signs of intoxication? ›

Some common signs of intoxication are: Loud speech, boasting, crude behavior, drinking alone, drinking too fast, slurred speech, ordering doubles, buying rounds and stumbling.

What is the difference between intoxication and drunkenness? ›


Alcohol intoxication ean be defined as follows: 'A state in which alcohol is present in an organism'. Drunk- enness can be defined as follows: 'A behaviour which occurs in people who have consumed, or believe that they have consumed, or want others to believe that they have consumed, alcohol'.

What are 5 signs and symptoms of someone who is intoxicated because of their drinking? ›

Alcohol poisoning signs and symptoms include:
  • Confusion.
  • Vomiting.
  • Seizures.
  • Slow breathing (less than eight breaths a minute)
  • Irregular breathing (a gap of more than 10 seconds between breaths)
  • Blue-tinged skin or pale skin.
  • Low body temperature (hypothermia)
  • Passing out (unconsciousness) and can't be awakened.
19 Jan 2018

When you are drunk do you tell the truth? ›

Alcohol stifles reasoning skills and contemplating repercussions. As a result, people are more likely to tell the truth while intoxicated, offering up brutally honest, unfiltered opinions. And without the fear of consequences, alcohol can give people the courage to do or say things they ordinarily wouldn't entertain.

What is the best kind of drunk? ›

1. Happy Drunk. The “best” kind of drunk is the Happy Drunk: they're happy, they're joyous, they're the life of the party. The only reason to hate getting stuck with them and to avoid these drunks like the plague is if you're sober, or at least not as inebriated as them, they will come across as annoying as hell.

How can you tell how drunk you are? ›

Perform the “walk and turn” test.

Stand up straight, then take 9 heel-to-toe steps in a straight line. Turn on 1 foot, then take another 9 heel-to-toe steps back to your starting point. You might be drunk if you had trouble lining up your steps, needed your arms to balance, felt wobbly, or fell over.

How do you know if you have a good alcohol tolerance? ›

How Do I Know If I Have Alcohol Tolerance? You can determine if you have alcohol tolerance by evaluating how much alcohol it takes for you to feel the same effects compared to when you first started drinking.

How do I know if IA heavy drinker? ›

What is heavy drinking? For women, it's having more than three drinks a day or seven a week. For men, it's four or more per day or 14 a week. If you drink more than the daily or weekly limit, you're at risk.

Do all drinkers develop tolerance? ›

Alcohol consumption interferes with many bodily functions and affects behavior. However, after chronic alcohol consumption, the drinker often develops tolerance to at least some of alcohol's effects.

How long does it take to build a drinking tolerance? ›

Of the sample, 9.9% (n = 97) reported deliberately 'training' to increase tolerance. On average, they reported increasing from approximately seven to 10 US standard drinks in a night prior to 'training' to 12–15 drinks at the end of 'training,' over approximately 2–3 weeks' duration.

What are the 4 types of drinker? ›

There are four types of drinker – which one are you?
  • Social drinking. To date, nearly all the research on drinking motives has been done on teens and young adults. ...
  • Drinking to conform. ...
  • Drinking for enhancement. ...
  • Drinking to cope.

Can a person be a heavy drinker and not an alcoholic? ›

Nine in 10 adults who drink too much alcohol are not alcoholics or alcohol dependent, according to a new study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in collaboration with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

What defines a heavy drinker? ›

For men, heavy drinking is typically defined as consuming 15 drinks or more per week. For women, heavy drinking is typically defined as consuming 8 drinks or more per week.


1. What Happens To Your Body When You Stop Drinking Alcohol
(The Infographics Show)
2. Binge Boy - 'Know your Limits' anti-binge drinking campaign
(Matt and Dave)
3. Inside NHS detox centre - Victoria Derbyshire
(BBC News)
4. The Try Guys Test The Legal Alcohol Limit
5. Levels of Drunkness | Gabriel Iglesias
(Gabriel Iglesias)
6. What happens if You are An Alcohol and Tobacco Addict? - Effects on Brain and Body

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