Does Coffee Sober Up a Drunk Person?

What’s the first thing to come to mind when you think of sobering up? A cold shower? A cup of black coffee? If you’re like most people, you’ve probably tried the cup of joe trick on an occasion or two, especially since most friends don’t respond well to being thrown into a cold shower.

But, does a strong cup of coffee really do the job sobering up a drunk person? Well, a few rounds of drinks followed by several cups of black coffee and a series of hand-eye coordination tests have drawn the official conclusion that no, coffee does NOT sober up a drunk person, not even slightly.

If you’re drunk, no amount of coffee will help your body metabolize the alcohol faster, neither will a brisk walk in the frigid cold or a dip in an unheated pool in the middle of winter. We’re sorry to let anybody down!


Coffee does do something though. Coffee can affect a person’s drunken state by tricking their mind into “thinking” they’re sober. You see, alcohol is a depressant and coffee is the opposite of that, it’s a stimulant. But this can be a dangerous combination.

Since drinking coffee counteracts the sedative effects of alcohol, it can make one feel like they’re sober and able to handle dangerous activities, such as getting behind the wheel when they’re still drunk – you might have personally witnessed this phenomenon.

If you’ve been drinking – beware. Coffee doesn’t prepare you to get behind the wheel, it only tricks you into thinking that your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) isn’t as high as it really is. In reality though, coffee has zero effect on BAC.


If you’re drinking, should you have that cup of coffee anyway? Some studies suggest that having a cup of coffee can make matters worse. If the alcohol has made you tired, it’s easier to realize that you’re drunk and shouldn’t drive. But, if you drink coffee it can take away that fatigue, making you believe you’re sober when you’re not.

Coffee’s not the only culprit. You get the same confusing scenario when you drink vodka and Red Bull. Like with coffee, when energy drinks (caffeine) are mixed with alcohol, you can be tricked into believing you’re sober, when your BAC is well over the .08% legal limit. So, the next time you get hammered remember that only time will make a difference in your BAC.

Related: What is Functional Tolerance to Alcohol?

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