When someone consumes too much alcohol, they need time and rest to sober up. Even so, there are some ways to improve impairment, in the short term, at least.
At the same time, it is critical to recognize that even if a person can improve their alertness and awareness, they must still not drive or make important decisions until the alcohol is completely out of their system.
Depending on how much alcohol a person consumed, it can take several hours for alcohol to metabolize out of the body.
There is nothing a person can do to bring down the blood alcohol concentration or BAC level in their body.
However, there are some things they can do to feel more alert and appear soberer.
Caffeine may help a person feel alert, but it does not break down alcohol in the body. And just because a person feels aware and alert does not mean they are not impaired and intoxicated by the alcohol in their system.
2. Cold showers
Cold showers do nothing to lower BAC levels. A cold shower may make a person alert for a short period, but they are still impaired.
Cold showers are sometimes associated with shock and loss of unconsciousness for some intoxicated people. If someone is going to try this approach, it is wise to let another person know in case something goes wrong.
3. Eating and drinking
Eating before, during, and after drinking can help slow the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream.
Drinking plenty of water can assist with dehydration and flushing toxins from the body. And drinking fruit juices that contain fructose and vitamins B and C can help the liver flush out alcohol more successfully.
While drinking juice can help metabolize alcohol, it does not affect symptoms of intoxication or bring down BAC level.
Sleep is the best way for a person to sober up. Sleep allows the body to rest and recover. It also helps to restore the body’s ability to get alcohol out of someone’s system.
Even taking a quick nap can help. But the more sleep a person gets, the soberer they will feel, and that time gives the liver the chance to do its job and metabolize the alcohol.
Exercise can help wake up the body and make a person more alert. It may also help metabolize alcohol more quickly, although the scientific evidence of this is inconclusive.
Nevertheless, after doing some exercise, a person might be aware, but they are still impaired.
6. Carbon or charcoal capsules
Some people have reported carbon or charcoal capsules, which can be found in health food stores, help with sobering up. However, there is no evidence to back this up.
Evidence on charcoal capsules finds they do not bind alcohol well. In fact, one very old study in the journal, Human Toxicology, finds blood alcohol levels remain the same, with and without the capsules, in people who have consumed only a couple of drinks.
Carbon and charcoal capsules are available to buy in health stores and online.
There are some ways an individual can stop themselves consuming too much alcohol and becoming intoxicated:
7. Count drinks
When people are drinking, it is easy to lose track of the amount of alcohol they have consumed. An individual can stay aware of how many drinks they have had by keeping a notepad and a pen handy and jotting each drink down.
Another way to keep track is with a cellular phone app. Apps, such as AlcoDroid and IntelliDrink, can not only track how many drinks have been drunk, but they can also estimate BAC levels and send alerts if a person is drinking too much or too quickly.
These apps can be added to both Android and Apple devices.
8. Slow down
It takes the body at least 1 hour to process each drink consumed. By the time a person has had their second drink, if it is within the same hour, they are likely to be impaired, although they may not realize it.
It is best not to consume several drinks in a short period. Taking slow sips and keeping busy, such as by chatting with friends, can help reduce the number of alcoholic beverages that are drunk.
For every alcoholic drink an individual has, they should also have a full glass of water, which will help limit the amount of alcohol they consume.
Moreover, because even moderate levels of alcohol cause dehydration and quicker impairment, drinking water can slow this effect down.
When a person hydrates by drinking plenty of water, it can give their liver time to metabolize the alcohol in their body, as well as spacing out the alcoholic drinks they consume.
Getting some food in the stomach can reduce the amount of alcohol consumed. It is important, however, to stay away from heavy and greasy meals because these can make a person sick when combined with alcohol.
11. Do not mix drinks
Mixing different types of alcoholic drinks can rapidly bring up BAC levels and make a person feel and appear intoxicated much more quickly than if they stick to one kind only.
If a person wants to drink alcohol, it is best to do so in moderation. That means not drinking more than 1 drink per day for women, and 2 per day for men. These are the recommendations listed in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, any woman consuming more than 4 drinks or man consuming more than 5 in a two-hour period is not drinking safely, as these quantities constitute binge drinking.
The best ways to drink alcohol responsibly and safely include:
- Never driving any vehicle after consuming alcohol.
- Having a designated driver or an alternate plan to get home, such as a cab ride.
- Never drink alcoholic beverages on an empty stomach.
- Not taking medications, including over-the-counter drugs, while consuming alcohol. Alcohol may make medications stronger or interact with them, making them ineffective or dangerous.
Anyone who is underage, pregnant, trying to become pregnant, or has a serious health condition should also avoid alcohol consumption to keep themselves and others safe.
When a person consumes alcoholic beverages, the alcohol builds up in their bloodstream. The liver then needs time to process and break the alcohol down.
Blood alcohol levels are measured by blood alcohol concentration (BAC). In every state of the United States, it is illegal for anyone to drive any vehicle with a BAC of 0.08 or higher, this is according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
The idea of someone being able to sober up fast so they can drive is not realistic. BAC levels will remain high until the liver had had time to metabolize alcohol.
These facts mean a person is still intoxicated when they have a BAC of 0.08 or more. And, if driving, they are a threat to themselves and others.
In fact, according to NHTSA, one-third of drunk driving accidents where people have died, involved drivers with a BAC of 0.08 or higher.
In 2016, 10,497 were killed because of drunk driving accidents in the U.S. Every single one of these accidents could have been prevented if a person intoxicated by alcohol had not driven.
Alcohol is a main cause of motor vehicle accidents and poor decision-making. If a person chooses to consume alcohol, they should do so safely and take whatever steps are necessary to avoid putting themselves and others in harm’s way.
The best way to sober up from excess alcohol drinking is to allow plenty of time, rest, and sleep.
The methods suggested above might help a person feel and appear more alert, but they will not decrease blood alcohol levels in their body. That means if someone gets behind the wheel of a vehicle, there could be serious consequences.