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4 myths about how to sober up quickly

If you and your friends stopped by a bar after work for a couple of drinks, you may have nursed two beers over the course of the evening. Then you may have eaten pretzels and drunk water. When it’s time to drive the few kilometres home, you may figure you’re fully functional. However, this assumption—if inaccurate—can be extremely costly.

Drunk driving laws in British Columbia are some of the strictest in the country. In many provinces, the maximum legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08. However, in British Columbia, you can face serious penalties if your BAC is just 0.05—and novice drivers can face penalties for having any trace of alcohol in their system.

There are many misconceptions floating around about tricks to sobering up. If you get behind the wheel after drinking, it’s important that you know the facts:

  1. Coffee won’t help. Drinking coffee (or other caffeinated beverages) may make you feel more alert when you’re drunk—which counteracts the sedative effect of alcohol. However, it does nothing to rid alcohol from your blood stream or reduce your impairment.
  2. Water helps, but not the way you think. Drinking alcohol makes your body dehydrated. Therefore, drinking water in tandem with alcohol helps to prevent dehydration. In addition, drinking water over the course of a night of drinking will help you to avoid a hangover the following day. However, it does nothing to expedite the flushing of alcohol from your system.
  3. Eating can help somewhat, but only if you time it properly. Many people believe that eating bread and other carbohydrates can serve as a sponge to “absorb” the alcohol. This isn’t actually how it works. However, having some food in your stomach before you start drinking could slow down the absorption of alcohol in your system—which can help you avoid sudden impairment. Nonetheless, eating food after you’ve been drinking does nothing to make you sober.
  4. The “one drink per hour” rule doesn’t work. There is a commonly held notion that by spreading your drinking out over the course of the evening, you can avoid getting drunk. The amount of time it takes to metabolize alcohol varies from person to person. For the average 73-kilogram man, one 12-ounce bottle of beer takes two hours to metabolize. Therefore, for the average person, drinking more than one drink every two hours may increase your chances of getting drunk.

Don’t let a carefree night out with friends end in criminal charges. Knowing the facts about how alcohol works in your body can help keep you and your friends safe.

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