Can You Actually Sober Up?

So you’re at the end of a long night and you Googled “how to sober up” (or, more likely, “hwo ato sobeje up”) because you’re just done being drunk. You’ve seen enough movies to know the usual tropes—hot coffee and cold showers—but folk wisdom and scientific fact usually don’t match up. Some enduring myths just need to die, while some lesser known, scientific solutions deserve more attention. Here are all the ways to sober up, from the tried and true to the utterly ineffective.

Coffee = Myth

That stale pot of diner coffee at 2 a.m. may feel restorative as you ready to head home, but it has no impact on blood alcohol levels. Just as coffee won’t do you much good the morning after drinking too much, caffeine can’t help you nullify the booze from your system. Though it can make you feel more alert if you find the depressant aspect of your drink has cast a sleepy haze over your evening. However, just remember that you’ll be mixing high energy levels with impaired judgement—if anything, it may kick your raucous night into high gear.

Fructose = Maybe

Different kinds of sugar affect your body differently. Unlike glucose, which your body draws from carbs and puts to use in your muscles as you run from bar to bar on an epic crawl, fructose is primarily metabolized in the liver—along with its bedfellow, booze. While the reaction isn’t fully understood, a study at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel found that fructose from fresh fruit can help bats recover from the boozy effects of eating fermented fruits. It’s unclear as of yet whether the same effect would allow you to regulate your human blood alcohol levels using a fruit smoothie.

Water = Myth (but it’s still a good idea)

Whether you follow the 1-to-1 drink to water ratio or chug water straight from your Brita filter as soon as you get home from the bar, hydration is always a smart move. But the water itself has little effect on your drunkenness.

Cold Shower = Myth

Water on the body doesn’t do any more good than water in it. If anything, there’s a slight chance that the frigid shower could send your already addled body into shock. Don’t torture yourself for nothing.


A Big Meal = Myth

Sorry to rain on your fourth meal hopes, but a big greasy burger can only help you stay sober if you gorge yourself before hitting the bar, as alcohol absorption slows if the liquor lands on a full stomach. But grabbing a Big Mac after last call won’t reverse or slow a night of drinking. That said, you should still eat something to maintain your metabolism and keep your digestive system running smoothly as it processes the drinks.

Sweat It out at the Sauna or Gym = Myth

Alcohol’s in your blood, not your pores. Working up a good sweat at the sauna may help you relax and collect yourself when sober, but with blood vessels dilated by alcohol and your entire body dehydrated, the sweatbox could quickly become dangerous. Similarly, alcohol may give you the energy to whip and/or nae nae your way across the dance floor, but don’t take that as inspiration to run off the buzz with a few laps on the track. Dehydration can be a literal killer, especially with booze dampening your self-awareness.

Love = Maybe

Love isn’t just a warm fuzzy feeling you get about someone special. It’s also a chemical reaction. Your body releases oxytocin, aka the love hormone, to foster feelings of intimacy, but the enzyme may also be able to block alcohol from reaching the brain—at least, it does in lovesick rats. A study from the Universities of Sydney and Regensburg indicates that oxytocin injected into murine subjects helped the little critters retain motor and brain function. Since love in humans similarly runs brain-deep, perhaps snuggling up with your boo could sober you up too.

Vomiting = Myth

You could reasonably assume that your body knows how to heal itself. Alcohol is poison, your body throws up said poison if you get too drunk, therefore making yourself vomit will help you get sober faster. Not quite. “Pulling the trigger” to make yourself vomit may work immediately after you take a shot, while the booze is still in your belly, but emergency ejecting won’t get at the alcohol once it’s further along in your system. When you feel tipsy, it’s already too late.


IV Drip = Myth

Once the exclusive domain of emergency rooms (where there are, you know, actual doctors), IV drips have become a popular way to cure hangovers among the affluent club set, though they are occasionally marketed toward the still-inebriated. While chic services get away charging upwards of $250 for a plastic baggy of saline and B12, there’s really no evidence drips do much to sober drinkers up any faster.

A Slap in the Face = Myth

Nope, nope, nope. Getting popped in the mouth can’t possibly undo your drinking. Though the ensuing adrenaline spike may make you feel more alert temporarily, a dose of caffeine or a splash of water on your face will have the same immediate effect without the next day bruise.

Sleep It off = Fact

The only real way to sober up is by waiting it out, and what better way to pass that time than in dreamland? Sleeping off a night of heavy drinking lets you skip the unpleasant feelings of coming down from your boozy high, and rest will give you the energy you need to deal with the inevitable consequences of that fifth round of Margaritas.

Enzyme Tablet = Our Future

Wouldn’t it be great to pop a pill and sober up instantly? To the countless drinkers shouting “yes” at their screens right now, science has heard you. A team at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science have been developing a pill to do just that, one containing oxidase to break down alcohol and a second enzyme to clean up the toxic waste that oxidase causes. It’s only been tested on mice so far, though, so don’t hold your breath.