How many times have you gotten drunk and drank coffee as a quick sober-me-up potion? You’re probably not the only one. Many swear by the curative effects of a late-night coffee. They believe that caffeine’s enough to defy the law against driving while drunk. Many have also lived on to perpetuate the myth to others.
However, scientists are not so agreeable to the magical effects of coffee in sobering up a drunk person. And research after research have proven that caffeine does nothing to reduce with your drunkenness.
Why then, are we so bent on believing that coffee will sober us up after a night of drinking?
How alcohol works
When you drink alcohol, most of it is completely absorbed into your body’s water-bearing cells within 30 mins.
That’s why it’s tempting to consume more alcohol when you first begin drinking. Your first few gulps would feel refreshing and the sudden influx of refined carbohydrates into your body may even make you feel more alert.
But alcohol (or more correctly, ethenol), is a depressant, and will make you tired the more you drink.
And that’s where caffeine comes into the picture
To counter the sluggishness caused by alcohol, many drinkers like mixing caffeine with alcohol (usually in the form of energy drinks like Red Bull). This keeps the mind alert and encourages entertaining conversations to flow.
Combined with the relaxant effect of alcohol – which lowers your inhibitions – the stimulating effect of caffeine makes the evening seem far more enjoyable than it might actually be. It also creates a false overconfidence in one’s capabilities.
Caffeine + alcohol = poor decision making
Studies conducted by scientists in the Behavioral Neuroscience journal found that caffeine does not counter the intoxicating effects of alcohol. It just masks the drunkenness, which could lead to poor decision making.
When mice were given alcohol and caffeine together, they were more relaxed and had less anxiety, but at the same time less able to learn and avoid threats.
This means caffeine consumption does not reduce your level of intoxication, but it makes you feel sober even when you’re still drunk. In other words, although caffeine makes you FEEL sober enough to drive, you’re far from it.
Need more evidence? Caffeine actually makes you drunker
A recent University of Florida field study of more than 800 young drinkers concluded that those who had drunk alcohol mixed with energy drinks were at a three-fold increased risk of leaving a bar highly intoxicated.
They also had a four-fold increased risk of intending to drive, compared to other drinking patrons who did not consume alcohol-caffeine mixes.
Clinical studies back up this research, showing that consuming a stimulant (caffeine) alongside an intoxicant (alcohol) can reduce the perception of being drunk but not the impairment. This means that regardless of your caffeine intake and how sober you think you are, you’re still unfit to drive after alcohol.
Caffeine + Alcohol = Heart Attack
Cardiologists further warned that mixing caffeine and alcohol, then drinking too much of this mixture, may cause the heart to race, elevate blood pressure, and possible even lead to a heart attack.