Here’s the definitive, evidence-based answer: will a person’s BAC go down if they drink coffee, take a cold shower, or vomit?
No – none of these methods will lower your BAC.
The only effective ways to decrease your BAC are:
- Stop drinking alcohol immediately
- Wait for your body to flush out the alcohol from your body
That’s because the liver is the main organ in charge of lowering the BAC (it does 90% of the work), and it takes time to process the alcohol out of your system.
It’s a common myth that doing some clever tricks and hacks will reduce your blood alcohol concentration.
What is BAC?
Blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is a method used for measuring the amount of alcohol in your bloodstream.
For instance, a person with BAC of 0.10% has one part of alcohol for every 1,000 parts of blood.
And BAC of 0.08% (and higher) exceeds the legal federal limit for driving in the United States (1).
Why are Cold Showers, Coffee and Vomiting Not Effective?
Because they don’t directly affect your liver’s ability to process the liqueur out of your body, which is how your BAC is reduced.
1. Cold Shower
Taking a cold shower doesn’t affect your BAC and it’s just needless torture.
All it does is it makes you more awake.
Drinking coffee is also ineffective, although it acts as a mild diuretic (2).
However, caffeine may also increase the need to urinate and your kidneys will pull a little bit of ethanol (the chemical compound behind alcoholic beverages) to your bladder.
And if you start drinking water to replenish your water reserves (that you lost by visiting the WC), you might slightly dilute your alcohol levels, once your body has absorbed the water that you started consuming.
But even then, coffee might only have a tiny effect on your BAC and it’s nowhere near an effective way for sobering up fast.
Vomiting doesn’t make one’s BAC go down either.
But it prevents your bloodstream from absorbing unabsorbed booze that’s sitting in your stomach (if there’s any).
This means that your liver will only have to process the alcohol that’s already been absorbed by your body.
So, if anything – at least you won’t be making yourself more intoxicated than you already are.
What Determines BAC Levels?
These are the main factors affecting your BAC, according to The University of Texas at Austin (3):
- The number of standard drinks you’ve had
- The time during which these drinks are consumed
- Body weight
- Race (ethnical background)
- The food you have consumed
- The medications you are using
What is a Standard Drink?
A standard drink is a drink that contains 0.6 fl oz. or 14 grams of pure alcohol (4).
- 12 fl oz of light beer contains 4.2% alcohol
- Regular beer has a 5% alcohol content
- 7 fl oz of malt liquor has 7% alcohol
- 5 fl oz of table wine contains 12% alcohol
- 1.5 fl oz of distilled spirits (vodka, whiskey, tequila, rum, gin, etc.) contain 40% of alcohol
Note that all of these are considered standard drinks.
And when it comes to how many standard drinks some of the most common alcoholic beverages equal to:
- 16 oz of beer: 1.4 standard drinks
- 22 oz of wine: 3 standard drinks
- 12 oz of a margarita: 2-4 standard drinks, depending on the ratio of ingredients
How Will BAC Go Down?
BAC goes down naturally, which is a process your body (liver, kidneys and the gastrointestinal tract) does on its own.
The rate at which your liver lowers your BAC depends on the percentage of alcohol in your bloodstream.
It takes time to sober up as the rate at which alcohol is excreted by the body is roughly 1/2 to 1 drink per hour (5).
The body itself neutralizes 10% of alcohol through urine, sweat, and breath, although the liver is primarily responsible for breaking alcohol into ketones and eliminating it.
- Also read: Why does coffee make me nauseous?
But don’t forget that drinking coffee, taking a cold shower, or vomiting has very little to no effect on processing liquor by the body.
How Much Does Your BAC Drop per Hour?
On average, your body processes alcohol at a rate of 1 standard drink per hour – 0.012-0.015 g/100 ml per hour (6).
Or in other words – it takes 6.5 hours for the body to process a BAC level of 0.10.
So if you drank one glass of wine, the liver will probably metabolize it in one hour.
However, this may vary from one person to another, depending on their weight, sex and overall health condition.
How to Calculate Your BAC?
The best and most accurate method to calculate your blood alcohol concentration is by a blood test.
But we assume that you don’t have time for this so alternatively, you can try the method below as a rough estimate:
1. Find out how many standard drinks you’ve downed
Remember that a standard US drink has 0.6 of ethanol (alcohol), while 16 oz of beer equals 1.4 standard drinks.
2. Multiply your standard drinks number by 0.025
Or in other words, if you’ve had a tall glass of beer (around 16 oz), then your standard drink number would be 1.4.
In this case, you’d multiply 1.4 by 0.025 to get a rough estimation of your blood alcohol percentage.
3. Consider how much time has passed since your last drink
Try to figure out how much time has passed since your last sip of booze.
4. Subtract 0.025%
Now subtract 0.025% for each complete hour that passed since your last drink.
So let’s say that you finish one drink in one hour and you had four drinks.
Thus, if two hours have passed since your fourth and last drink, then you subtract 0.05 from 0.10 and you end up with a rough estimate of your blood alcohol level of 0.05%.
3. Wait some more before driving
If you still feel intoxicated and/or your approximate estimation of your BAC is still above the legal limit, just wait.
Don’t get behind the wheel if you’re still unsure that it’s safe to drive.
- Also read: Why does my pee smell like coffee?
It’s better to spend an extra hour or so waiting for your BAC to naturally go down, instead of doing something stupid that you can potentially regret for the rest of your life.
How Can I Lower My BAC Fast?
You can’t make your blood alcohol level go down faster as this process is entirely controlled by your body.
For example – exercising and sweating may lower your BAC by a maximum of 1% (7).
While eating a lot won’t help much either (although eating before, during and after consuming liquor may make your body process alcohol slower, and thus, lessen its effects).
And the good old chewing gum will only mask the smell of booze but it won’t lower your BAC.
Does Drinking Water Reduce BAC?
No, although it can keep you hydrated because alcohol is a diuretic and it can dehydrate you (8).
However, eating a lot and drinking water works wonders when it comes to eliminating toxins from your body.
And drinking fruit juices may slightly help with reducing your BAC a bit quicker.
But the process will still take a couple of hours so don’t count on a fruit juice to suddenly make you sober again.
Do You Metabolize Alcohol Faster When Asleep?
No, being asleep or awake has no effect on how fast your body processes liquor.
Once alcohol enters your bloodstream, it’s game over (i.e. don’t count on making it go out any faster).
As a result, sleeping can’t help you sober up faster.
Is BAC Lowered by Having Only One Drink Per Hour?
Drinking one drink per hour won’t prevent you from becoming drunk or somehow reducing your BAC.
The body will process some of the booze you drink per hour but it still won’t fully eliminate it from your bloodstream in 1 short hour.
Thus, having one standard drink per hour will just add up on the total alcohol content while making you drunk more gradually.
When you’re drunk, nothing helps – be it sleeping, drinking water, drinking coffee, vomiting or even taking a cold shower.
And no, “clever” tricks such as sucking pennies won’t help you, either.
It’s that simple – your BAC has to go down naturally and this process just takes time.
Now that we’ve broken down the misconceptions about BAC, tell us:
Which fancy myths for sobering up have you tried?
And what’s the highest BAC level you’ve ever had?
Leave your comments below!
Will drinking coffee, taking a cold shower, or vomiting lower a person’s BAC?
No, none of these methods will lower a person’s BAC.
The only effective ways to decrease BAC are to stop drinking alcohol immediately and wait for the body to naturally flush out the alcohol.
What is BAC?
BAC stands for blood alcohol concentration, which is a measure of the amount of alcohol present in a person’s bloodstream.
Why are cold showers, coffee, and vomiting ineffective in lowering BAC?
These methods don’t directly impact the liver’s ability to process alcohol, which is necessary to reduce BAC.
Cold showers and coffee may have minimal effects, but they are not reliable or efficient ways to sober up quickly.
What factors determine BAC levels?
Various factors influence BAC levels, including the number of standard drinks consumed, the time over which they were consumed, gender, body weight, race, the food consumed, medications used, and any existing illnesses.
How can I calculate my BAC?
The most accurate method to determine BAC is through a blood test.
As an estimation, you can multiply the number of standard drinks consumed by 0.025 and then subtract 0.025% for each hour that has passed since the last drink. H
owever, this method provides only a rough estimate, and it’s best to wait for the body to naturally metabolize alcohol before driving.
Did somebody say coffee? Two shots of espresso for me, thanks. Oh, nevermind – I’m Simon, nice to e-meet you, dear CoffeeLifior! I like to write, drink coffee and I believe in Jesus. Highly-caffeinated drinks are my thing, but you can occasionally see me sip on decaf (my wife never finishes her coffee). Speaking of which, I’m off to grab another cup of caffeinated goodness now, laters!