Need to sober up? Coffee won’t help

  • Share
  • Read Later

Wallace and Wyant/Getty

Despite the widely held belief that coffee can help speed the sobering process, in a new study of mice, researchers confirm what many physicians have already known—drinking coffee when you’re inebriated doesn’t make you sober, it just makes you drunk and awake. And that is an extraordinarily dangerous combination, researchers say, because while that coffee at the end of dinner may make you feel alert and even ready to get behind the wheel, it doesn’t undo the effects of the four glasses of wine that preceded it. What’s more, drinking coffee while drunk can actually make it harder to determine that you are intoxicated as you confuse alertness for sobriety.

As the BBC reports, to better understand the effects of caffeine and alcohol in combination, researchers at Temple University placed mice in a large maze that had many distracting lights and loud noises. Researchers then placed mice, who had either been given alcohol, caffeine or a combination of both, into the maze, where they received small shocks if they didn’t avoid certain obstacles. They found that, compared with mice in a control group who had been given a saline solution, the drunken mice seemed relaxed but clumsy and unable to avoid the shocks. The caffeinated mice were alert and more capable of traveling through the maze without encountering the shocks. But the mice who had both alcohol and caffeine in their systems were a terrible combination of the two—seemingly very alert, but still clumsy and incapable of avoiding shocks.

As Dr. Thomas Gould, who led the study, told the BBC:

“The bottom line is that, despite the appeal of being able to stay up all night and drink, all evidence points to serious risks associated with caffeine-alcohol combinations.”

These findings, published in the journal Behavioral Neuroscience may contribute to Food and Drug Administration concerns about caffeinated alcoholic beverages. Early last month the FDA released a statement indicating that they’d put 30 beverage manufacturers on notice: if they couldn’t prove the safety of their alcohol-caffeine combinations, the government might take action to remove the products from the market.