Don't Use Coffee To Sober You Up After Holiday Party

Advertisement

We’ve all seen it in the TV movies, people gulping down coffee to sober you up if you have had too much to drink, however a new study shows that not only does coffee not sober you up, it might even make you very awake and still drunk, which could be dangerous.

Thomas Gould, PhD, of Temple University and researchers has drawn this conclusion from working with laboratory mice. It appeared that caffeine made drunken rodents more alert but didn’t reverse learning problems caused by alcohol. Their study is now published in the journal Behavioral Neuroscience.

“The myth about coffee’s sobering powers is particularly important to debunk because the co-use of caffeine and alcohol could actually lead to poor decisions with disastrous outcomes,” say Gould, “People who have consumed only alcohol, who feel tired and intoxicated, may be more likely to acknowledge that they are drunk.”

Gould further states that, "coffee may reduce the sedative effects of alcohol, which could give the false impression that people are not as intoxicated as they really are."

It appears that Caffeine’s effect may create the illusion in intoxicated people that they are alert and competent enough “to handle potentially harmful situations, such as driving while intoxicated or placing themselves in dangerous social situations,” Gould says.

Advertisement

Gould and colleague Danielle Gulick, PhD had groups of young adult mice go through a learning maze shortly after they were injected with various doses of alcohol and caffeine. They then did a comparison with a group of mice were simply given a saline solution.

They discovered that alcohol increased movement and reduced anxiety and learning in the mice in proportion to doses given. The drunk mice seemed to became more relaxed and moved around more, but learned significantly less than animals given only saline.

The researches then tested three characteristic of behavior. First they tested their ability to learn which part of a maze to negotiate in order to avoid exposure to a bright light or sound. They also tested for anxiety, which was reflected by time spent exploring the maze’s open areas, and general locomotion.

The mice that were drunk mice learned significantly less well than the sober ones in trying to avoid the frightening bright light or loud noise. The doses of caffeine given to the mice were the equivalent of one to six or eight cups of coffee for humans. When caffeine and alcohol were given together, the alcohol blocked caffeine’s ability to make the mice more anxious, but caffeine failed to reverse the negative effects that alcohol has on learning, according to Gould and Gulick.

Gould said, “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.”

So think before you drink during this holiday season. As you head home from your holiday parties it might just be best to call a cab rather than stop at your nearest coffee shop.

Advertisement