Myths and Facts About Sobering Up Fast
Dr. Angel Rivera
There are many myths about how to sober up fast, and while some may leave you feeling sober you actually are not.
You may believe that you can drink coffee or take a cold shower to speed up the process while others think that you just have to wait it out.
The truth is, there is no one-size-fits-all answer for how to sober up quickly as a combination of factors are at play when it comes to being drunk.
In this article, we will explore the different methods of sobering up and dispel some of the myths about how to do it effectively.
How does alcohol make me drunk?
When you drink alcoholic beverages, the alcohol is absorbed through the lining of your stomach into your bloodstream and goes to your brain. It affects different parts of the brain differently, depending on how much you drink.
Drinking a small amount of alcohol makes the part of the brain that controls judgment and decision-making slow down which is why you may make bad decisions or do things they normally wouldn't when they have alcohol intoxication.
Other negative effects from drinking a lot of alcohol makes the part of the brain that controls movement slow down, which is why you may have trouble walking or standing up straight when you are drunk.
There are also other factors to take into account for how long it will take for you to get drunk such as tolerance, body type, and if you ate before you started drinking.
If you have a higher tolerance, you may still be legally drunk but not show the effects of it.
The more you weigh also can play a factor as people with a bigger body type can usually drink more than those with a smaller body composition. Eating before you drink alcohol also slows down the process of alcohol absorption by your stomach.
What is the alcohol content of different drinks?
You can always read the label or ask a bartender or server for information on how much alcohol is in each type of drink.
Different alcohol, and even different brands of the same alcohol, can vary greatly in their amounts of alcohol but there is a rule of thumb you can follow if you drink alcohol. The following is a general guide:
- A 12-ounce can of beer generally has anywhere from 5-7% alcohol although craft beers can be over 10% which makes reading the alcohol level on the label important
- A 5-ounce glass of wine has about the same amount of alcohol as a 12-ounce can of beer and usually has between 12-15% alcohol
- A shot or a serving of liquor, which is 1.5 ounces, is usually around 40% alcohol but again, this can vary greatly depending on which liquor you choose
Is there a way to sober up fast?
There is only one definitive answer to this question and it is that there is no way to speed up the process of becoming sober.
You may feel more sober if you drink coffee or take a cold shower, but these methods will not make you sober.
The only way to become fully sober is to allow the alcohol to wear off naturally.
What are the myths about sobering up fast?
There are many myths about how to sober up fast and you probably have heard most of them. The most common myths about sobering up include:
Drinking coffee may make you feel more alert, but it will not make you sober. Alcohol is naturally a depressant that can make you feel sleepy.
However, the caffeine from drinking coffee will not speed up your alcohol metabolism to make your body process alcohol even faster.
Despite feeling more alert, your BAC, or blood alcohol concentration, will stay the same until your body starts metabolizing the alcohol.
Please be aware that drinking coffee or energy drinks while drinking alcohol can be dangerous due to the fact that you may not feel some of the effects of alcohol when, in reality, you are drunk.
Taking a cold shower
Taking a cold shower may make you feel more alert, but it will not make you sober. The cold water may help to wake you up and get your heart rate going, but it will not speed up the process of metabolizing alcohol.
In fact, if you are already feeling sick from drinking too much alcohol, taking a cold shower may make you feel worse and can even make you lose consciousness.
Eating a lot of food
Food will not help you sober up any faster. In fact, eating a lot of food may actually make you feel worse because alcohol can cause nausea and vomiting.
It makes no difference whether it is healthy or fatty foods, as neither will help you sober up faster. If you have food in your system before you start drinking the alcohol will take longer to absorb into your bloodstream.
Due to absorption of alcohol in your stomach about 10 minutes after drinking, eating after the alcohol is in your system will not reverse the effects.
Drinking a lot of water
Drinking a lot of water will not help you sober up any faster; however, drinking water will help your body stay hydrated and flush out some of the alcohol in your body over time. If you are trying to sober up, drinking water may just make you feel sicker and may even make you vomit depending on how drunk you are.
It is good practice to stay hydrated while drinking but drinking water to sober up will not make you more sober as the alcohol is already in your bloodstream and only time will sober you up.
Throwing up will not help you sober up any faster. In fact, throwing up may make you feel sicker and can even lead to dehydration.
The alcohol that you drank and is making you feel drunk is already in your bloodstream and not in your stomach.
Throwing up will only help if you just took a sip and throw up the alcohol before it gets absorbed into your bloodstream.
If you are feeling sick from drinking too much alcohol, the best thing for you to do is drink plenty of fluids and rest.
How can I sober up before going to sleep?
After a night of drinking if you are feeling drunk and need to sober up before going to sleep, the best thing for you to do is drink plenty of fluids and rest.
Going to bed while you are still drunk will only make you feel worse in the morning so you may need to stay up to feel sober before going to bed.
It is important that you get a good night's sleep so that you can start fresh the next day. Tips to help you before you go to bed drunk include:
- Drink one or two big glasses of water before going to bed
- Put a trashcan next to the bed if you feel you might vomit
- Take Advil or another over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever in the morning when you wake up. Be mindful to avoid any OTC drugs with acetaminophen, such as Tylenol, while drinking as they can cause liver damage
Please note that drinking makes you sleepy and you may go to sleep while being very drunk.
Sleeping when you are very intoxicated may hide the fact that you have alcohol poisoning, which can be fatal.
Drinking can also make you want to vomit which can lead to deaths by choking on your own vomit while asleep.
Please take any precautions with yourself or any other intoxicated persons before falling asleep such as sleeping on your side and making sure the drunk person who may be asleep is not suffering from alcohol poisoning.
If you or someone you know has alcohol poisoning, seek medical attention immediately.
How do I sober up when I wake up?
If you are feeling drunk or hungover and need to sober up when you wake up, the best thing for you to do is drink plenty of fluids and rest.
Depending on how drunk you are, you may vomit from drinking too much water so be careful not to chug a large amount and to only take small sips.
Tips to help you sober up when you wake up drunk include:
- Drink a glass of water, maybe even two, before going back to bed if you are planning on it
- Take an OTC pain reliever such as Advil
- Drink plenty of water if you are staying awake
- Eat foods that won't upset your stomach like bread or crackers
- Stay or shield your eyes from bright lights
- Take medicine for your stomach if it is upset
- Place a cool towel or rag on your head
- Exercise can also help you metabolize alcohol faster but make sure to stay hydrated
How can I avoid getting drunk too fast?
There are a few things that you can do to avoid getting drunk too fast. These include:
- Eating before you start drinking
- Counting your drinks as you consume them
- Pace yourself so you do not drink too fast and try to avoid drinking games. One drink per hour is a normal pace and drinking water or fruit juice between drinks can help as can drinking drinks that have more liquid like beer or wine instead of shots or liquor drinks
- Drink alcohol with lower alcohol by volume (ABV)
- Measure your drinks to make sure your glass of wine is 5 ounces, your shot or pour of liquor is 1.5 ounces, and your beer is 12 ounces which are the standard drink amounts
If you drink too much alcohol and become drunk there is no secret cure to becoming sober.
Despite all the myths, the only way to sober up is to stop drinking and allow your liver time to metabolize all the alcohol in your system.
The best way to avoid getting drunk too fast is to pace yourself, eat before you drink, count your drinks, drink water or juice in between alcoholic drinks, and drink lower ABV drinks.
If you are feeling sick from drinking too much alcohol, the best thing for you to do is drink plenty of fluids and rest. If you are feeling hungover, the best cure is time.
Resting, drinking plenty of fluids, taking an over-the-counter pain reliever, and eating light will help your body recover from the night before. If you are feeling really sick, see your doctor.
If you have any questions about alcohol and the best way to sober up, please talk to your doctor or healthcare provider.