Kitchen Myths

Facts and fiction about food and cooking, by Peter Aitken

Drinking coffee helps sober you up

This myth is so embedded in our culture that it may be impossible to get rid of. How many hundreds of films, TV shows, and books show us a drunk person being fed “strong black coffee” to get them sober. But it just ain’t so.

Being “drunk” with the attendant loss of mental and physical abilities and loss of judgement is directly related to the amount of alcohol in your system. Once you have had a drink (or two, or three, or eight), the amount of alcohol in your system slowly decreases due to metabolism of the alcohol by several enzymes including aldehyde dehydrogenase and alcohol dehydrogenase. Coffee does nothing to speed these processes. Drink all the coffee you want, you’ll be just as drunk in an hour as if you had not. But … and here’s the rub … the caffeine in coffee tends to make people feel more alert and more in control even though they are just as drunk and just as impaired. So, they think they can do things that they really cannot, driving being the prime example, and they go out and cause an accident.

So, if you have a drunk person on your hands, don’t give them coffee. Give them some ibuprofin and a big glass of water (hangover prevention) and put them to bed.

2 responses to “Drinking coffee helps sober you up

  1. Colin Callanish July 4, 2016 at 6:20 am

    The ibuprofen before going to bed will do diddly, I’m afraid. It has a half-life of about 4 hours and will have worn off by the time they wake up. Best they take something the next morning (aspirin is more effective)

    • kitchenmyths July 4, 2016 at 8:11 am

      You’re right about the ibuprofin. It would work however for my situation – when I used to “overindulge” my problem was not a hangover the next morning, it was waking up a couple of hours after I went to sleep with a full-blown hangover, and it did help that.

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