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Can Coffee Sober You Up?

A woman sleeps on a table while holding a coffee mug.

Whether it’s the morning after a few too many rounds or your mid-drink and realize you need to sober up quickly, many people recommend coffee. The caffeine is allegedly a quick fix when you are a bit fuzzy around the edges. But does it work?

We’ve got some bad news. Coffee does not help you sober up, even if it seems like it does.

Coffee is a stimulant, and alcohol is a depressant. Superficially, it makes sense that they’d work to counteract one another. But that’s not the case. When you’re drunk, drinking coffee still works the same way. It interferes with the sedative quality of adenosine. But that’s all it can do—make you feel awake.

Caffeine won’t speed up how your body metabolizes alcohol or mitigate the effects that have already started occurring. You’re just amping yourself, and while that might make you feel more alert, you’re no less intoxicated. That’s what is dangerous.

When you’re drinking, your judgment is likely impaired. If you reach for caffeine, drink it, and suddenly feel more awake, you could be tempted to drink even more, or worse, you might reach for your keys. But you’re not sober. Your body is still processing the alcohol, and if you’re on the road, you’re still a danger to yourself and others.

What’s the best way to sober up? Well, not drinking to excess is a good preemptive step, but hey, sometimes stuff happens, right? When it does, time is your best friend. Yep, the only thing that really helps you sober up is waiting it out, drinking water, and getting some rest.

As for that hangover, think twice before you reach for some hair of the dog, and if it feels worse, it might be your age. 

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