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Had One Too Many? 8 Smart Ways to Sober Up Fast

Zero judgment! Here's how doctors and science say you can shake that fog and snap to greater coherence when you need to.

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Plenty of us have been there: you got together with that fun group of friends—it was a party, or maybe after one of those nonstop kind of weeks—and you threw a few back. And by “a few,” we mean “definitely too many.”

To be clear: for individuals with certain health conditions, such as diabetes or alcoholism just as two examples, drinking can come with serious consequences. And for anyone who drinks and then mans a vehicle, or, say, who’s tasked with supervising children, obviously that drinking is a danger to others’ health and welfare.

But there are plenty of cases when you just had maybe a little too much innocent fun, and suddenly you’ve got to snap out of it. In that case, we’ve got you. The Healthy @Reader’s Digest spoke with doctors and looked at recent years’ research to help you navigate the space between carefree and careful.

Here are ways experts say you can sober up fast.

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Hydration

Water may be as good at clearing up a boozed-up brain as it is at curing your thirst. “Alcohol dehydrates the body which causes a lot of the side effects of alcohol,” said Zehra Siddiqui, DO, medical director of Ryan Chlesea-Clinton, an independent health center affiliated with Ryan Health that treats underserved populations in New York City. “Also it does help to dilute the alcohol.”

You can also dilute the alcohol in your cocktail or glass of wine by splashing some carbonated water in there for a spritzer effect.

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close-up of a bubbly soft drinkdkidpix/Shutterstock

Bad carbonation

Just a heads-up that carbonated beverages with high alcohol content—beer, champagne, or even rum and Coke—may speed up your body’s absorption of alcohol more than the non-bubbly kind. In a 2007 study of 21 people, 66 percent of people who consumed vodka absorbed the alcohol faster if it was mixed with a carbonated beverage compared with water.

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light and dark pink pillsAnna Hoychuk/Shutterstock

Enzyme tablets

What if popping a pill could immediately let any imbiber ace a DUI test? A team at UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science has worked on one that contains oxidase to break down alcohol, and a second enzyme to clean up the toxic waste that oxidase causes.  The study, which appears in Nature Nanotechnology, suggests the capsule essentially processes alcohol the way the liver does. “With further research, this discovery could be used as a preventative measure or antidote for alcohol intoxication,” says study author Yunfeng Lu, PhD, a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, in a news release. Lu reported that the treatment decreased the blood alcohol level in mice by 45 percent in four hours.

different shaped bread loaves and a bag of wheatBluskystudio/Shutterstock

And good carbs…

Bread-based buffets may help soak up alcohol, but having any type of food in your stomach can help slow down your absorption of alcohol. This, of course, can reduce your chances of getting too intoxicated. “Eating a high-carb diet lowers the ratio of alcohol in your blood and slows absorption,” says Dr. Siddiqui.

Meals high in fat, protein, or carbohydrate will delay gastric emptying, and thus lower the amount of alcohol that is absorbed, according to a 2012 review in the journal Clinical Liver Disease.

women toasting different colored cocktailsvectorfusionart/Shutterstock

The clock

It takes your body around an hour to absorb one drink, suggests the The International Alliance for Responsible Drinking. And the more you drink, the more time it takes for the alcohol to be eliminated from your system.

glass of carrot juice with carrots, ginger, apple, and parsleyShebeko/Shutterstock

Smoothies

They’re not just for post-spin class anymore: your average ginger-apple-carrot is loaded with all kinds of goodness that’ll get you out of your drunk doldrums faster than you can say,”Can I get a side of wheat grass with that?”

“Depending what’s in them, smoothies really are great,” adds Dr. Siddiqui. “Pineapple, ginger, mint, and coconut—that’s a personal favorite, but think fruits and veggies that are high in vitamin C and antioxidants.”

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woman running on a trailDudarev Mikhail/Shutterstock

Exercise

Ever notice during a bar crawl that the farther you have to walk to the next destination, the longer in the night you can hang in there? Turns out, a little cardio goes a long way into preventing you from getting a tad too happy during happy hour. “Exercise gets the blood flowing through the liver so it detoxes your blood faster,” says Dr. Siddiqui.

man kissing woman's cheek, both eyes closedEvgeniy pavlovski/Shutterstock

Love

While a loss of amore is often why we guzzle alcohol to begin with, a healthy dose of it could actually contain its ill effects. A study from the Universities of Sydney and Regensburg indicates that oxytocin, i.e., the love hormone, injected into animals helped them quickly retain motor and brain function after alcohol impairment. The findings appear in PNAS.

So instead of not having sex because of a headache, understand it could actually help you avoid the three-martini aftermath.

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Sources
  • Zehra Siddiqui, DO, medical director, Ryan Chlesea-Clinton, New York City
  • Nature Nanotechnology:”Biomimetic Enzyme Nanocomplexes and Their Use as Antidotes and Preventive Measures for Alcohol Intoxication.”
  • Stanford Children's Health: “Understanding Alcohol's Effects.”
  • International Alliance for Responsible Drinking: “What Happens When You Drink?”
  • PNAS:Oxytocin Prevents Ethanol Actions at δ Subunit-Containing GABAA Receptors and Attenuates Ethanol-Induced Motor Impairment in Rats.”
  • Clinical Liver Disease: Alcohol Metabolism
Medically reviewed by Michael Spertus, MD, on October 22, 2019

Kristine Gasbarre
Krissy is the senior editor leading content for TheHealthy.com and “The Healthy” section of Reader’s Digest magazine. For two decades she has worked in digital media, books, and magazines and is a #1 New York Times and internationally bestselling ghostwriter. Her work has been featured in Reader’s Digest, People, the New York Times, the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), Sirius/XM Oprah Radio, and more. With degrees in psychology and cultural media studies, she assisted with a clinical research project at the Cleveland Clinic and is a certified group fitness instructor, the owner of two irresistible rescued dogs, and the partner of a physician leader in healthcare quality who is also a stage IV lymphoma survivor.