Common DUI Myth: Caffeine Sobers You Up

As one of the leading DUI lawyers in Pennsylvania, it’s part of my job to keep up on, among other things, alcohol related science.  I found this article earlier this week that dispels a very common alcohol related myth:

Caffeine doesn’t reverse the negative cognitive impact of alcohol, study shows

ScienceDaily (2009-12-13) — People who drink may want to know that coffee won’t sober them up, according to new laboratory research. Instead, a cup of coffee may make it harder for people to realize they’re drunk.

Researchers at Temple University conducted a study to answer the question of whether or not chasing your drinks with a cup of coffee helps sober you up.  The scientists gave the mice doses of ethanol (pure alcohol) and caffeine and then studied the effects on their behavior, learning, and their decision making.

When the drugs were given together, ethanol blocked caffeine’s ability to make the mice more anxious. Conversely, caffeine did not reverse ethanol’s negative effect on learning. As a result, alcohol calmed the caffeine jitters, leaving an animal more relaxed but less able to avoid threats — a combination that the authors speculated could make people more likely to believe they are not drunk or not impaired enough to have problems functioning.

Meaning that instead of actually sobering you up, caffeine makes you think that you’re sober.  The scientists also mentioned that this may lead people to think they are sober enough to drive when in fact they are clearly impaired.  So what about those wildly popular alcohol-energy drinks:

The alcohol-energy drink combinations have skyrocketed in popularity," Gould noted. He cited other evidence that these drinks produce deficits in general cognitive ability and raise the odds of alcohol-related problems such as drunken-driving citations, sexual misconduct, and needing medical assistance.
"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," he concluded.

Caffeine Doesn't Reverse the Effects of AlcoholThis is a very important point that you should share with your family and friends.  There is no magic pill or method to eliminate alcohol out of your system any faster.  ETOH (drinking alcohol) follows what is pharmacologically referred to as zero order kinetics.  The elimination or removal of ETOH by the oxidation due to the reaction of alcohol dehydrogenase primarily in the liver is a finite event.  If the amount of ETOH exceeds the capability of the alcohol dehydrogenase to clear it, then the body can only do so much.  The elimination rate remains the same.

Stated a little differently, after the peak point of alcohol ingestion whereby the person’s BAC will get no higher, there is a near straight-line course that one can plot over time to show the elimination.  The body’s system of elimination is saturated and cannot work any faster.  The amount of alcohol metabolized each hour is independent of the amount in the blood.

So know the facts, know the science, and make the right choices.




-Justin J. McShane, Esquire, Pennsylvania DUI Attorney

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Justin McShane

PA DUI attorney Justin J. McShane is the President/CEO of The McShane Firm, LLC - Pennsylvania's top criminal law and DUI law firm. He is the highest rated DUI attorney in PA as rated by Justin McShane is a double Board certified attorney. He is the first and so far the only Pennsylvania attorney to achieve American Bar Association recognized board certification in DUI defense from the National College for DUI Defense, Inc. He is also a Board Certified Criminal Trial Advocate by the National Board of Trial Advocacy, a Pennsylvania Supreme Court Approved Agency.

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