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Study Debunks Caffeines Sobering PowerStudy Debunks Caffeines Sobering Power

December 8, 2009

2 Min Read
Study Debunks Caffeines Sobering Power

WASHINGTONA new study published in Behavioral Neuroscience debunks the myth that a strong cup of coffee will help sober up an intoxicated person and reveals that popular caffeinated alcohol-energy drinks dont neutralize alcohol intoxication.

People who have consumed only alcohol, who feel tired and intoxicated, may be more likely to acknowledge that they are drunk, said co-author Thomas Gould, PhD, of Temple University. Conversely, people who have consumed both alcohol and caffeine may feel awake and competent enough to handle potentially harmful situations, such as driving while intoxicated or placing themselves in dangerous social situations.

In the lab, caffeine made mice more alert but did not reverse the learning problems caused by alcohol, including their ability to avoid things they should have known could hurt them, according to the study.

Scientists gave groups of young adult mice various doses, both separately and together, of caffeine and of ethanol at levels known to induce intoxication. The doses of caffeine were the equivalent of one up to six or eight cups of coffee for humans. Control mice were given saline solution.

Researchers tested three key aspects of behaviorthe ability to learn which part of a maze to avoid after exposure to a bright light or loud sound; anxiety, reflected by time spent exploring the mazes open areas; and general locomotion.

Ethanol increased locomotion and reduced anxiety and learning in proportion to the dose given. By itself, caffeine increased anxiety and reduced both learning and locomotion. Compared to the control animals, mice given caffeine were significantly more inhibited, less mobile and less savvy about avoiding the unpleasant stimuli.

When the drugs were given together, ethanol blocked caffeines ability to make the mice more anxious. Conversely, caffeine did not reverse ethanols negative effect on learning. As a result, alcohol calmed the caffeine jitters, leaving an animal more relaxed but less able to avoid threatsa combination that the researchers speculated could make people more likely to believe they are not drunk or not impaired enough to have problems functioning.

The alcohol-energy drink combinations have skyrocketed in popularity, Gould noted. The bottom line is that, despite the appeal of being able to stay up all night and drink, all evidence points to serious risks associated with caffeine-alcohol combinations.

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