Everyone who’s ever been to a college party or had a friend with an affinity for over-imbibing has been in the futile situation of trying to help someone sober up. Whether they’re too drunk to drive or are making a scene in a public place, a way to sober up quickly is desperately needed.
However, in these circumstances, even the most aggressive efforts won’t make much of a difference. Why? There’s simply no fast, easy way to sober someone up. All of the quick fixes in the world won’t make a real difference, because they’re by and large ineffectual.
Despite public perceptions, there’s no true way to accelerate the metabolization of alcohol within the body. Even the classics, like giving a drunk coffee or urging them to vomit, won’t move the needle in any legitimate manner. When it comes to sobering up, the only true solution is time.
Four Myths About Quick Fixes to Sober Up
Pop culture is full of theories about ways to cheat the system and sober up quickly. However, none of these quick fixes can actually sober someone up from alcohol. These four popular myths won’t effectively sober someone up— no matter how many people swear by them.
Caffeine Makes a Difference
Giving caffeine to someone who is drunk is a popular but ineffective strategy. Caffeine may make someone more awake and alert, but it has no effect on the body’s ability to metabolize alcohol.
The propagation of this advice can be quite harmful, because many people believe it. As such, drunk people who drink a lot of coffee or other caffeinated beverages may believe they’re sufficiently sober to do things like drive— and that can be a huge mistake.
Caffeine can also have negative reactions with alcohol when mixed in high doses; since caffeine can repress the depressive effects of alcohol, it’s easy for drinkers to feel less intoxicated than they actually are, leading them to drink more in search of that familiar buzz. This elevates the risk of alcohol poisoning to a potentially dangerous level.
If someone is drunk, waiting it out is a better alternative than filling them with coffee.
Cold Showers Help
A cold shower is an unpleasant experience, and one that, unfortunately, will make no difference in supporting sobriety. This myth is rooted in the basis of a shock to the system: the surge of cold water will wake a person up and help them regain their faculties.
A cold shower may feel a little refreshing at best, or jarring at worst, in a way that takes the emphasis off of intoxication, but it does absolutely nothing in regards to accelerating the metabolization of alcohol. In addition, trying to get a severely intoxicated person into a shower can be exceedingly difficult, making this quick fix far more effort than it’s worth. To lower the risk of a hangover next morning, encourage the consumption of cold water— not bathing in it.
Vomiting Purges Alcohol
There’s a little logic in the benefits of vomiting—although it can certainly be beneficial in alcohol poisoning scenarios—but it’s not terribly effective in restoring sobriety.
While vomiting will purge stomach contents, which can include recently consumed alcohol, it has no effect on the alcohol already in the bloodstream. As such, encouraging a drunk individual to induce vomiting can prevent further intoxication, but it won’t expedite the process of getting sober.
If an individual is so drunk that vomiting seems like the best path forward, medical attention is likely warranted. Vomiting is often correlated with alcohol poisoning, which can be fatal.
Eating a Big Meal Reduces the Impact of Alcohol
Drinking on a full stomach is good advice for those who want to avoid rapid intoxication, but when once alcohol is in the bloodstream, eating no longer makes a difference. Alcohol is absorbed into the body within around 10 minutes, so chowing down a few hours after the night begins is essentially meaningless.
As with vomiting, feeding someone drunk can reduce the effects of alcohol currently in the stomach, but once it’s been absorbed into the body, a meal won’t have any effect. A drunk person may feel better the next morning if they have a small meal or snack before going to bed, but it won’t accelerate the sobering up process.
The Truth About Sobering Up
As with many things in life, time heals all wounds when it comes to drunkeness. The only way to truly sober up, beat a breathalyzer, or behave in a manner unburdened by intoxication is to wait it out. Even if a cup of coffee, a cold shower, or a big meal carries the facade of lessened drunkenness, time is the only effective way to reduce BAC, or blood alcohol content, to a legal level.
On average, the liver can metabolize around one ounce of liquor—one standard drink—each hour. Drinking more than this can cause a buildup of alcohol within the body, and the effects will linger until metabolization is complete. As there is no way to expedite the metabolization of alcohol, there is no way to speed up the process of sobering up from alcohol. The liver can only do so much, and all of the quick fixes in the world won’t push it past its ordinary limits. Coffee or a big meal may help someone drunk to feel more alert, but these quick fixes don’t actually affect the body on biological level.
Instead of giving a drunk person caffeine or forcing them into the shower, cut them off, give them water, and watch them to ensure they don’t display signs of alcohol poisoning. If any signs of alcohol poisoning arise, like excessive vomiting, loss of consciousness, or significant slowing of respiration or heart rate, seek medical attention as soon as possible. On average, six people die each day of alcohol poisoning in the United States.
Anyone who drinks will likely find them in the position of trying to sober up a friend sooner or later. However, if friends and family members are regularly trying to sober you up after excessive drinking, an alcohol use disorder may be to blame. When drinking less becomes elusive, getting help can be the best possible path forward— and there’s no shame in that.
FHE Health is a comprehensive resource for drug and alcohol addiction, offering inpatient and outpatient solutions in a safe and effective environment. Contact us today to learn more about our step-down programming and what our treatment options have to offer.