For many years, it has been widely assumed that drinking coffee after consuming large amounts of alcohol will help to speed up the process of eliminating the alcohol’s intoxicating effects.
A current article on the CNN website, however, provides insights from several medical, dietetic and addiction specialists who claim that this assumption is not true.
The caffeine in coffee acts as a stimulant and can make a person feel more alert, but that does not mean that the person is any less intoxicated, says Dr. Robert Swift, an addiction specialist from Brown University.
Dr. Swift says that brain chemicals named GABA and adenosine produce the sedative effects that alcohol can provide. The ingestion of caffeine either while or shortly after drinking alcohol can interfere with these sedative effects.
Some health professionals feel that combining alcohol and caffeine can be a potentially dangerous practice. It is thought that by drinking some coffee after consuming lots of alcohol, some inebriated people may think they are more sober than they actually are, and decide to drink more alcohol.
Registered dietitian Melissa Majumdar points out that consuming caffeine after drinking does not change the timeframe for the alcohol to metabolize. Even alternating alcoholic drinks with non-alcoholic drinks will not change the body’s alcohol absorption rate.
Dr. Swift brings up the point in the CNN article that an intoxicated person who feels more alert after drinking some coffee may decide that they are sober enough to drive. No matter how alert they may feel, the doctor says, the person will still be just as impaired and their reaction time will be affected.
Although some people will try all sorts of strategies to get around it, the only method that really works for minimizing the effects of alcohol is to space their drinks an hour apart.
One method that Melissa Majumdar also recommends to decrease one’s alcohol intake and stay hydrated, is to consume water.