One of the most common beliefs about drinking and driving is that a stiff cup of coffee can sober a person up enough to get behind the wheel of a car – this is a misconception! While coffee can certainly make a person more alert, it does not reduce their blood alcohol concentration (BAC). The only indications of BAC include: 1) the amount of alcohol they consumed, and 2) how much time has passed.
Alcohol Metabolizes the Same, With or Without Coffee
Due to its sedative effects, alcohol tends to make a person may feel sleepy and tired. Before hitting the road, they may turn to a cup of Joe to “wake them up.” When people consume coffee after drinking, the caffeine can make them feel more alert and stimulated than before, so this can “fool” the person into thinking they are “less drunk.”
Feeling more alert does not mean the alcohol has somehow left their system. They are still just as intoxicated as they were before the coffee – they’re just a wide awake drunk! When a person has been drinking, alcohol is absorbed into their bloodstream and carried through the body. Alcohol will travel through the drinker's brain, heart, and liver. The liver will break down as much alcohol as it can, but alcohol that is not broken down can go to the brain.
This is how movement, judgment, and memory are affected when someone has been drinking. This process may be affected by how much water someone is drinking or how much food they have eaten, or how much body fat the person has, but the alcohol will break down at the same rate no matter what. Once the alcohol enters the bloodstream, it needs is time to metabolize and leave the system for good.
If you have been drinking, the only remedy to sober up is to wait for your body to metabolize the alcohol and for it to leave your system. Tips and tricks such as drinking coffee or jumping into an ice-cold shower or pool may only cause someone to make decisions they may not have otherwise made, such as getting behind the wheel of a car and driving home.