Most, if not all, people who have an alcohol use disorder (a.k.a. dependency on or addiction to alcohol) have looked for a “magic bullet” to help them sober up after a bout of heavy drinking. And certainly, a variety of myths continue floating around (especially by word-of-mouth or on the internet) about sobering up. Let’s take a look at three of those myths.
The first myth is… You can sober up fast.
Since time immemorial, countless people have tried sobering up quickly. From drinking lots of water to intensive (sweat-producing) running, bicycling or exercising, and many other approaches in between, none of these “formulas” have been scientifically shown to be effective.
The main reason? There’s really nothing one can do to speed up the way a person’s liver breaks down the alcohol in their blood. In other words, the myth of “sobering up fast” will remain what it is: a myth.
The second myth is… Vomiting helps you sober up.
Sure, when someone who has drunk an exorbitant amount of alcohol purposefully induces vomiting, the alcohol in their stomach that has not yet been absorbed is-… well, evacuated. The key point here is that alcohol absorption starts with the very first drink that’s consumed. So in the case of someone who has “had a few” (or more), there’s typically a substantial amount of alcohol in their blood by the time any sort of induced vomiting commences.
The myth-buster here is, once alcohol is in the bloodstream, alcohol levels in the blood won’t be significantly diminished by purposely vomiting.
The third myth is… Eating Carbohydrates and Fatty Foods Helps You Sober Up.
Do you recall ever being told that eating foods high in carbohydrates and/or fats will help you sober up? The problem is, eating this way will only help prior to drinking alcohol. Yes, high-carb food and fatty foods decrease the absorption of alcohol from the gastrointestinal tract. But after the alcohol has been absorbed, your blood alcohol level will not be affected by anything you eat, high-carb, fatty or otherwise.
So, no, none of these 3 myths have any validity to them, and are not an effective way to sober up. However…
If you want to sober up permanently, the fact is alcohol use disorder can be treated. But a quick and easy “1-2-3” formula does not exist, at least not yet.
Since having an alcohol use disorder—or a chemical dependency on any drug, for that matter—is, according to the American Medical Association, a chronic illness, abstaining for a few days or trying this or that “trick” is not going to cure it.
In order to recover from a substance use disorder, a.k.a., “the disease of addiction” (dependency on alcohol or drugs), typically a person needs some long-term or repeated care to get and stay sober. Some of the approaches that have worked for millions of people include the following:
Medically-assisted detox is a process offered at treatment centers and hospitals for those seeking to stop drinking and safely go through the withdrawal symptoms that accompany such, as well as to avoid relapsing. However, detoxing is just the first step — most people seeking to recover from alcohol dependency need further treatment as a follow-up to not having alcohol in their system for the first time in months, years or even decades. Research bears this out: The vast majority of those who do not get treatment after detoxing eventually relapse.
Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder
Here (see below) are some of the most effective types of treatment for chemical dependency on alcohol and/or drugs:
- Inpatient Treatment — At a licensed residential treatment center, structured programs are offered with round-the-clock comprehensive care, safe and substance-free housing, medical monitoring and trained therapeutic counseling staff members. Education about both addiction and recovery, plus behavioral therapy and other supportive services are part of each day in treatment. Once having completed the inpatient portion of treatment, each person follows a structured and well-supported aftercare program to help them sustain their sobriety.
- Outpatient Treatment — While not as intensive as inpatient treatment, outpatient programs nonetheless have the advantage of flexing with treatment protocols to meet your schedule. Therapeutic counseling, education about addiction and recovery, and staff support all occur within a more adaptable environment. Outpatient programs also include follow-up aftercare, once a person has completed their outpatient treatment program.
- Support Groups — Ongoing support can come from recovery networks such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. These programs are cost-free, peer-based support groups, based upon the 12 Steps (spiritual principles learned and practiced with the guidance of a self-selected sponsor), and formed as an organization of alcoholics or drug addicts to help each other stay “clean and sober.”
In conclusion, if you want to sober up, the best way is to sober up permanently… which means making a decision to go through the detox process (hopefully with help from the medical staff at a detox center or treatment facility), and then following that up with an addiction treatment program.
 Swain, E. “How to Sober Up.” 9/30/21. Addiction Group.