How Can I Sober Up Fast? What Works, What’s Dangerous??

Need to sober up fast? Search the internet and you’ll find many suggestions. You’ve probably heard a few of them. But which of them are just myths? Or worse, dangerous?

              OVERVIEW
  1. Google’s Advice to Sober Up Fast
  2. Reduce the Need to Sober Up Fast
  3. Resources

I. Google’s Advice to Sober Up Fast

Suggestions on the internet to how to sober up fast include drinking strong black coffee. Widely recommended is taking a cold shower. Many sites suggest drinking lots of water.  Also some favor doing anything to sweat. That is to sweat the alcohol out from the bloodstream.

Here are some other ideas on the web.

    • Take deep breaths of fresh air.
    • Vomit
    • Eat
    • Have your face slapped.
    • Take a multi-vitamin.
    • Take a commercially produced pill designed to speed up metabolism.

Which work and which are just myths?  Let’s examine these recommendations more closely.

Drink coffee.

sober up fastCoffee, tea and many other beverages contain caffeine. But caffeine doesn’t help our bodies metabolize or break down alcohol. It does make us feel alert.

But we’re just as drunk and impaired. And feeling alert may fool us into thinking we are safe to drive. So drinking coffee is not simply ineffective. It can have dangerous consequences.

Take a cold shower.

This does nothing to lower our blood alcohol concentration (BAC). It can briefly make us more alert but we’re just as impaired. However, it might cause some people to go into shock or have a heart attack. Or they could have other serious medical problems.

One site even suggests alternating cold with hot showers. Doing so would greatly increase the medical risks.

Drink lots of water.

Alcohol dehydrates us. Drinking water should reduce the effects of hangover. Unfortunately, it’s useless for sobering up.

Get lots of fresh air.

Fresh air can make us feel better. But it has no impact on our BAC.

Vomit.

Vomiting has no impact on the level of alcohol that is already in our bloodstream.

Sweat.

Sweating, either from exercise or a sauna, has no impact on our rate of sobering.

Eat.

Eating while drinking can reduce the absorption of alcohol into the blood. But once alcohol is in the bloodstream, eating has no effect on it.

Have your face slapped.

Being slapped is not only painful but ineffective. It can make us briefly more alert. Of course, we remain just as drunk.

Take a multi-vitamin.

Taking multivitamins has no impact on our BAC.

Take a metabolism pill.

Taking a commercially produced pill to speed up metabolism might seem reasonable. However, these products escape testing by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The sellers of these unregulated products make unsupported claims of their effectiveness. There is absolutely no evidence that they can help us sober up. So save your money.

Kudzu?

Traditional Chinese medicine has used Kudzu for at least 2,500 years. In China, some people still use a tea of Kudzu. They consider it to be as a “drunkenness dispeller.” They think it helps people sober up fast. Also that it relieves hangover.

Virtually no studies have looked at Kudzu to help people sober up fast. Also the evidence is mixed. Therefore, many more studies are needed.

In addition, Dr. Neil McGregor has a warning. That is, that the active components of Kudzu are linked to cancer. Specifically, that it leads to a 650% increase in cervical cancer. Therefore, it may also be linked to other cancers in both men women and men.

There’s also another problem with Kudzu. It’s that products containing it are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.

Other researchers bought a variety of Kudzu extracts. They did so both from stores and internet sites. Then they tested them. Analyses showed that all of the products contained less than one percent of active Kudzu. If Kudzu worked the products would probably need at least 30%.

So They’re All Myths!

And all the other suggestions on the internet for sobering up faster are also myths. For example, smoking, massaging your hands and feet, aren’t going to work.

Time is the only thing that will sober up a person.

And we can’t speed up time.

The amount of time needed to reduce our BAC is easy to calculate. Furthermore, it’s the same for virtually everyone. Height, weight, sex, race or other such factors don’t matter.

BAC drops at the rate of .015 of BAC every hour.  So a person with a very high BAC of .15 will have no measurable alcohol in the blood after ten hours.  That’s because .15 divided by .015 = 10. Here are some other examples.

BAC LevelMetabolism Time in Hours
.106.66
.085.33
.053.33
.021.33

Also, BAC can continue to rise for a period of time after the last drink.

Be very cautious about advice on the internet.

This is especially important with health matters. Pages about how to sober up fast are full of false and misleading assertions. Some suggestions are actually dangerous. When in doubt, simply ask your doctor.

II. Reduce the Need to Sober Up Fast

  1. Drink in moderation (See below for tips).
  2. Drink a lot of water to stay hydrated. Doing so dilutes alcohol in the blood.
  3. Avoid effervescent drinks. That is because they increase absorption of alcohol into the blood.
  4. Steer clear of diet beverages. Artificial sweeteners speed alcohol absorption.

Tips for Drinking in Moderation

sober up fast
Standard Drinks
  • Don’t be fooled. Standard drinks of beer, wine, and spirit. (liquor) have the same amount of pure alcohol. So switching forms of alcohol is useless.
  • Eat while drinking. 
  • Sip your drinks.
  • Don’t play drinking games. 
  • Have a non-alcoholic drink between alcoholic ones.
  • Pace your drinks. A common rule of thumb is one alcoholic drink per hour.
  • Accept an alcoholic drink only when it fits your drinking schedule.
  • Stick with standard drink sizes. Otherwise, it’s hard to keep track of your intake of pure alcohol.
  • Follow medical advice about drinking with any meds you’re taking.

III. Resources

Discover More

References

OH Dept Pub Safe. BAC. Columbus: The Dept.

NHTSA. BAC Measurements. College Students. Wash: NHTSA, 2012.