When someone consumes too much alcohol, the most reliable way to sober up is to sleep while the body processes the alcohol. Other tips, such as drinking coffee and exercising, may help people appear sober for a while.

Alcohol intoxication, or getting drunk, is a temporary condition that can impair coordination, decision-making, impulse control, and other functions, which can increase the risk of harm. As such, people may want to sober up to lessen these effects and try to prevent a hangover.

However, there is no effective way to sober up quickly other than to stop drinking and allow time to pass.

While proponents may suggest tips such as drinking coffee, having a cold shower, or vomiting, these methods do not help a person sober up. They can temporarily help a person become more alert and aware, but they do not affect the blood alcohol concentration level in their body.

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 consumes, it can take several hours for alcohol to metabolize out of the body.

In this article, we will discuss safer approaches to drinking and tips to help people feel more alert after drinking.

There is nothing a person can do to quickly reduce the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level in their body. The liver needs time to filter blood and remove the alcohol from the system.

While certain techniques may help a person feel more awake, they will not eliminate alcohol from the blood more quickly and so will not lower the BAC level.

Although a person cannot sober up more quickly, there are some approaches that may help them to feel more alert and appear more sober:

1. Coffee

Caffeine may help a person feel alert, but it does not break down alcohol in the body. Also, just because a person feels aware and alert does not mean they are not impaired and intoxicated.

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.

People sometimes associate cold showers with shock and loss of consciousness 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 also assist with dehydration and flushing toxins from the body.

4. Sleep

Sleep is the best way to help a person sober up. Sleep allows time to pass while the body rests and recovers. It also helps to restore the body’s ability to get alcohol out of the system.

The more sleep a person gets, the more sober they will feel, as that gives their liver time to do its job and metabolize the alcohol.

5. Exercise

Exercise can help wake up the body and make a person more alert. However, there is currently no strong evidence to suggest that exercise can help metabolize alcohol quicker.

Nevertheless, while exercise will not help to sober a person up, they may become more aware after doing some exercise.

6. Carbon or charcoal capsules

Some proponents suggest that carbon or charcoal capsules, which people can buy in health food stores, may help with sobering up. However, there is no recent evidence to back this up.

The only way a person can effectively avoid intoxication is to not drink alcohol at all or to keep alcohol intake to a minimum. Some ways an individual can stop themselves from consuming too much alcohol and becoming intoxicated may include:

1. Counting 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 can not only help a person track how many drinks they have consumed, but they can also estimate BAC levels and send alerts if the individual is drinking too much or too quickly.

2. Slowing 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 chatting with friends, can help reduce the number of alcoholic beverages that are drunk.

Additionally, adults of legal drinking age can choose not to drink or drink in moderation. This refers to limiting intake to 2 drinks or fewer in a day for males or no more than 1 drink in a day for females.

Learn more about drinking in moderation here.

3. Hydrating

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. Even moderate levels of alcohol have a dehydrating effect, and 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.

4. Snacking

It is advisable to eat before drinking, especially foods that are high in protein. Having food in the stomach can help to slow the processing of alcohol. Additionally, a person may find it useful to snack while drinking, as not only will this line their stomach with food, but may help them to drink at a slower rate.

5. Not mixing 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. However, this is more likely due to how mixing drinks may cause a person to consume a larger amount of alcohol in a short period of time.

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 females and 2 per day for males. These are the recommendations listed in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020–2025.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, any female consuming more than 4 drinks or male consuming more than 5 in a 2-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 drinking 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.

For anyone with a family history of alcohol use disorder, there is a higher risk of developing an addiction to alcohol. For those people, it may be wise to avoid consuming alcohol altogether.

Additionally, it is advisable for individuals who are underage, pregnant, trying to become pregnant or have a serious health condition to avoid alcohol consumption.

Alcohol use is associated with many potential short- and long-term risks. This can include having toxic effects on the digestive and cardiovascular systems, as well as increasing the risk of certain cancers and communicable diseases.

When a person consumes alcoholic beverages, the alcohol builds up in their bloodstream. The liver is the primary organ for eliminating alcohol, and it needs time to filter the blood and break the alcohol down.

The liver contains an enzyme known as alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH), which metabolizes the alcohol and helps to remove it from the body. Alcohol leaves the body through breath, sweat, and urine.

Alcohol roughly leaves the body at an average rate of 0.015 grams per 100 milliliters per hour. This translates to reducing a person’s BAC level by 0.015 per hour.

However, many factors, such as gender, medications, and health, can affect intoxication and cause BAC to rise quicker and fall slower. If a person with a BAC level of 0.08 stops drinking, it will take roughly 6 hours for them to sober up.

In every state of the United States, it is illegal for anyone to drive any vehicle if they have a BAC of 0.08 or higher, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 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 has 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 2020, drunk driving accidents in the U.S. killed 11,654 people. These accidents were preventable if an intoxicated person had not driven.

Many myths about drinking exist and include:

1. I can sober up quickly

As this article discusses, it takes time to sober up as the body eliminates alcohol. Drinking coffee or having a cold shower does not help to speed up this process.

2. I can drive safely after a few drinks

The effects of alcohol can begin to impair a person’s judgment and coordination earlier than they realize. It is illegal to drive with a BAC of 0.08 or higher, and this limit may be lower for commercial vehicle drivers and those younger than 21. A person can still commit the offense of driving under the influence (DUI) if they are under the BAC limit. Therefore, it is advisable to make alternative plans to get home if driving.

3. Drinking is not dangerous

While people can drink safely and responsibly, many risks have an association with alcohol. This can include accidents, injuries, violence, unsafe sexual behavior, and even death.

4. Alcohol is a stimulant

Instead of a stimulant, alcohol is actually a depressant. It sedates certain areas of the brain that control judgment, self-control, and inhibitions. As such, this can lead to excitable behavior as a person loses their inhibitions.

5. You can cure a hangover

There are currently no cures for a hangover. However, there are methods to help reduce or relieve the symptoms. This can include maintaining hydration, eating nutritious food, and getting plenty of rest.

Alcohol is a major 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 we suggest above may 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.