How Can I Sober Up Fast? What Works, What Doesn’t and What’s Dangerous

Many people want to know how to sober up quickly. A search of the internet yields many suggestions. Which of them are just myths?

Suggestions on the internet to how to sober up fast include drinking strong black coffee. Widely recommended is taking a cold shower. Many sites recommend drinking lots of water. Also favored is doing anything to sweat. This is to “sweat out the alcohol'” from the bloodstream.

Here are other recommendations on the web.

  • sober upEat
  • Take deep breaths of fresh air.
  • Vomit
  • Take a multi-vitamin.
  • Have your face slapped.
  • Smoke tobacco.
  • Massage your hands and feet.
  • Take a commercially produced pill designed to speed up metabolism.

But which work and which are just myths? Let’s look at some recommendations.

Drink coffee.

Coffee, 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 intoxicated and impaired. And feeling alert may fool us into thinking we are safe to drive. So drinking alcohol 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, have a heart attack, or have other serious medical problems. One site even suggests alternating cold with hot showers. Doing this 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 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. Save your money.

So they’re all myths. All the other suggestions on the internet for sobering up faster are also myths. Time is the only thing that sobers up a person. And we can’t speed up time.

 Be extremely cautious about advice on the internet. This is especially important in connection with health matters. Pages about how to sober up are full of false and misleading assertions. Some suggestions are actually dangerous. When in doubt, simply ask your doctor.  

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

Blood alcohol concentration (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 Level Metabolism Time in Hours
.10 6.66
.08 5.33
.05 3.33
.02 1.33

It’s important to know that BAC can continue to rise for a period of time after the last drink.

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