Occasionally, everyone has a little too much to drink. Parties, weddings, and family get-togethers; sometimes the fun gets going and we get going with it.
Whatever the reason, you might be wondering how you can sober up. In this article, we’ll cover:
- How the body processes drugs and alcohol
- The only true way to sober up
- Common myths surrounding sobering up
- Preventative measures for the future
And plenty more tips to help you sober up when you need to. Let’s get into it!
Understanding The Science Behind Intoxication
Intoxication affects everyone differently.
You might have heard the term “lightweight” for someone who gets intoxicated relatively easily, or describing someone as being able to “hold their liquor”.
While these things are true and we’ve all experienced how intoxication affects different people, the scientific processes by which alcohol interacts with our bodies are well understood and function identically from person to person.
The intoxicating part of alcohol is the chemical ethanol, and it enters your bloodstream when you drink.
Ethanol is such a small molecule that when your blood reaches your brain, it can actually fit between the cells of your brain and impair the receptors.
This is what causes you to slur your words or have trouble keeping your balance as you become progressively more intoxicated.
How Long Does It Take To Sober Up?
Sobering up happens when your liver produces enzymes to filter out ethanol. This can vary from person to person, depending on factors such as diet, weight, metabolic rate, and other factors.
If you have a quick metabolism, you’ll produce more of the enzymes that filter ethanol.
Eating a decently-sized meal before drinking will also mean that you’ll have food in your stomach to absorb alcohol and slow the uptake of ethanol into the bloodstream.
The important thing to remember is that the only factor that sobers you up is your liver, and your liver takes time to filter alcohol.
Your liver is the only method of sobering up, and it can only process about one standard drink per hour. That means that the more you drink, the more time it will take for you to fully sober up.
Common Myths Debunked
You might know of a few myths people swear by to sober themselves up (such as wearing wet socks to bed). Below are two of the most common:
Myth: Cold showers can sober you up
Cold showers don’t sober you up because they do nothing to improve liver function.
What a cold shower can do is give you a jolt and knock you out of a slump. Taking a cold shower is refreshing and can get your heart racing, but it won’t sober you up more quickly.
Myth: Drinking coffee will make you more alert
Alcohol is a sedative and caffeine is a stimulant.
Introducing coffee can therefore give you a punch of energy and that has given rise to the belief that coffee can help sober you up.
Coffee (and any other source of caffeine) does not reduce your blood alcohol level, so even though you might feel more energized, you won’t actually be any less intoxicated than before you drank the cup of joe.
Things That Help With Sobering Up
No quick methods exist to lower your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) rapidly.
The liver simply needs time to process and remove alcohol from your body. While you can’t speed up sobriety, certain strategies can make you feel more alert and appear sober:
Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it’ll make you go to the bathroom a lot. This can cause you to pass all the water in your system – and with it, vital electrolytes.
That’s why you wake up with a headache and a dry mouth after a night of drinking (otherwise known as a hangover).
To keep yourself hydrated, drink one glass of water for every standard drink you have.
The usual rules of nutrition also apply when you’re out drinking. Try to eat a balanced meal including a lot of vegetables to help keep you hydrated.
Sleep And Rest
Because time is the only thing that can really sober you up, sleep and rest are your best friends.
You’re going to be tired anyway, so when you feel like it’s bedtime, take a big drink of water and get to bed.
Take A Walk Or Engage In Light Exercise
Taking a walk or doing some light exercise can help in more ways than one.
Getting your heart pumping and the blood flowing will give you more energy and help give you a second wind.
It’ll also get you away from the beers for a while to give your liver some time to process your drinks.
Avoid Caffeine And Sugary Beverages
While caffeine and sugar might give you a kick and make you feel more lively, the downside is that they can make you feel less impaired without actually doing anything to reduce your impairment.
This means you won’t feel as drunk as you actually are, which can lead you into trouble.
Seek Medical Attention If Necessary
It’s never the wrong move to seek medical attention for yourself or a friend when you feel the drinking may have gone too far.
Alcohol poisoning can be deadly, so be sure to take the signs seriously.
When to Seek Medical Attention
Sometimes, it can be hard to tell whether you’re just a bit too drunk or if something is wrong.
Alcohol poisoning can be deadly, so seeking medical attention when you suspect things may have gone too far is never a bad choice.
Signs of alcohol poisoning or overdose
Alcohol poisoning or overdose will exhibit many symptoms for you to keep an eye on.
Vomiting, dizziness, confusion, slow or irregular breathing, or blue skin can all signal that there’s too much alcohol in someone’s system and they could be in danger.
How and when to call for emergency help
If you suspect someone is suffering from alcohol poisoning, contact emergency services.
It’s better to be safe than sorry. If there is a sober driver in your group, you can also take the person directly to an emergency clinic.
Preventative Measures for the Future
To keep your night on the town fun and safe, we’ve put together a few suggestions on how you can avoid getting too intoxicated:
Set a limit on alcohol consumption
Give yourself a hard limit on how many drinks you will have for the evening.
If you know you only want to drink three beers, then only take three beers to the party.
It can take a little extra willpower to not get swept away by the fun, but you’ll be much better off pacing yourself this way.
Pace your drinking with water or other non-alcoholic drinks
Follow the 1:1 rule to keep you hydrated. For every standard drink of alcohol you have, drink a full glass of water.
Eat a substantial meal before drinking
Never drink on an empty stomach. Have a substantial meal beforehand to slow the uptake of alcohol into your bloodstream and to give you the energy you need to support proper liver metabolism.
Try to avoid foods that are too salty or carb-heavy, as they will increase dehydration.
Avoid drinking games or peer pressure
Drinking games can be fun, but they are also very likely to get you dangerously drunk as you get carried away by the atmosphere of competition. Set yourself some boundaries and stick to them.
Similarly, you might feel the effects of peer pressure. As difficult as it can be, try not to let anyone pressure you into drinking more than you are comfortable with.
Arrange for a designated driver
No matter how sober you feel, you should never drive while intoxicated.
Arrange a designated driver to get to home safely and avoid a DUI infringement (or something far worse).
A good strategy is to nominate a friend to go out with you as the sober driver and to rotate to a different friend the next time you go out.
Eventually, it will be your turn to sober drive and you’ll know you’re keeping your friends safe like they did for you.
Remembering the key steps to preventing yourself from becoming overly intoxicated and understanding how sobering up really works will help you have a good time without punishing your body.
With that in mind, here are some key takeaways:
- The only thing that sobers you up is time. There are no shortcuts, and there is no secret myth that will have you sober in a minute
- Stay hydrated. Alcohol will dehydrate you, so remember the 1:1 rule when you go out drinking
- Have a good, healthy meal beforehand
- Seek medical attention for potential alcohol poisoning and remember the symptoms: dizziness, vomiting, slurred speech, blue skin, and irregular or slow breathing.
Alcohol poisoning can be deadly, so be sure to seek help immediately if you suspect that it is taking place.