You downed tequila shots at home before even hitting the pub and now have to talk to your parents on the phone. You have to meet your boss at 9am after an all-night rager at your flat. You need to have a serious conversation with your partner after you've both been drinking. Whatever the case, many of us have been in a situation where we are tipsier than we would like to be and need to sober up — fast. So, what do you do?
Unfortunately, there's no magic potion that will undo the effects of alcohol on your body. Once you've consumed alcohol and it's in your bloodstream, "there's not a way to get the alcohol out of your body faster," says Alexis Halpern, MD, emergency medicine physician at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Centre. If there were a way, there would be far fewer drunk driving accidents or alcohol-related injuries per day.
That said, if you are already intoxicated, there are a few things that you can do to wake yourself up, Dr. Halpern says. Since drinking alcohol has a sedative effect, anything you do to stay energised might make you feel better or at least somewhat more sober. But remember: "feeling" sober is not the same thing as being sober, so it's a really bad idea to attempt to do things that you can only do sober, like drive a car or operate machinery, she says.
For starters, drinking water or a something with electrolytes and staying hydrated is always a good idea, Dr. Halpern says. Alcohol is super dehydrating, so by replacing the fluids your body has lost you may feel a little less drowsy and drunk. Also, you may want to drink some coffee or other caffeinated drink to counteract the depressive effects of alcohol, she says. Taking a step outside and getting some fresh air, or taking a cold shower may also momentarily refresh you, she says. But it's wise to avoid any "exhilarating" activities (like swimming or going for a drive) that could be dangerous under the influence of alcohol, she says.
These are just some strategies to consider, but again keep in mind that you're "still going to have the same amount of alcohol in your body, which clouds your judgment," Dr. Halpern says. You may have heard that drinking more alcohol (aka the "hair of the dog"), and maintaining a buzz can make you feel better when you're drunk, but that's a myth, she says. "It might help you go to sleep, and then your body will metabolise it all off, but it's not gonna help you sober up," she says.
At the end of the day, there's not much you can do to sober up fast, so if you're in a bind, just focus on staying awake. And in the future when you're drinking, remember to pace yourself and maybe stick with some trustworthy friends who you know have your back and won't let you don't do anything too embarrassing while drunk.