Fact Checked and Peer Reviewed
April 24, 2019
If you’ve spent any time drinking, you’ve likely heard the rumors that coffee will sober you up, or that eating a good meal can help avoid a hangover the next day, or that beer won’t get you as drunk as other types of alcohol.
But let’s be honest — Just as with any other topic out there, there’s a decent amount of misinformation surrounding alcohol and the behaviors accompanying it. And with alcohol especially, it’s important to know the truth before engaging in potentially risky behaviors.
Here are a few of the most common alcohol-related myths that circulate, as well as the truth behind them.
Myth: Building tolerance to alcohol over time means it’s OK to drink more.
Reality: More than anything, a growing tolerance to alcohol is a sign that you should lay off the drinks, not continue to up them. Building a tolerance means that as your body gets acclimated to alcohol, it begins to take more and more to reach the effects that a small amount used to produce. As alcohol intake continues to increase, a person is more at risk for alcohol-related health issues, such as liver disease. If you find that it is taking more and more alcohol for you to feel intoxicated, it may be time to step back and evaluate your drinking habits. Otherwise, you could be heading down a dangerous path.
Myth: “Liquor before beer, in the clear. Beer before liquor, never been sicker.”
Reality: You’ve likely heard this saying, and if you live by this while drinking, it’s probably not doing you much good. The truth is that it doesn’t matter what kind of alcohol you drink or the order you drink it in. What matters is the amount of alcohol you take in and whether you’ve had food. According to the New York Times, this myth is likely rooted in the way the body digests alcohol, since carbonated drinks can irritate the stomach lining and lead to faster alcohol absorption rates.
Myth: Caffeine can help a person sober up faster.
Reality: Again, not true. That cup of coffee will do absolutely nothing to help the body process alcohol any faster. What it will do is possibly make you feel more alert, but not actually make you any more sober. And, according to CNN, combining alcohol and caffeine can even be dangerous. One reason for this is that sine caffeine can make a person feel more awake and alert, it may allow them to believe they are less intoxicated than they really are and could lead to risky behavior, such as driving under the influence. Another risk is that because a person believes they are more sober after caffeine, they make drink more than they would in a normal situation.
Myth: Eating and drinking water before bed will help avoid a hangover the next day.
Reality: That late night snack/water isn’t likely to do you any good. The truth is that your body has already absorbed alcohol from what you’ve had to drink and food won’t do much to change that. In fact, according to research conducted in Canada, the only realistic way to avoid a hangover is simply to not drink. Lead study author Joris Verster tells BBC that avoiding a hangover will likely remain difficult until researchers know exactly what causes them. “Research has concluded that it’s not simply dehydration – we know the immune system is involved, but before we know what causes it, it’s very unlikely we’ll find an effective cure,” he said. So in other words, it’s probably best to think about if that night out is worth the next day’s misery.
Myth: Beer won’t get you as drunk as other types of alcohol will.
Reality: A drink is a drink.National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism guidelines indicate that a 12-ounce can of beer, a 5-ounce glass of wine and 1.5 ounces of liquor all have the same amount of alcohol content will lead to the same amount of intoxication. The idea behind this myth isn’t necessarily completely wrong, though. Since a can of beer is much more liquid than a 1.5-ounce shot, people may not be as likely to have as many drinks if sticking to beer, whereas hard liquor can be drank quickly. The manner in which you drink certain alcohols may also contribute to this myth. According to The Conversation, “We develop expectancies from a number of sources, including our own and others’ experiences. If wine makes you relaxed, it’s probably because you usually sip it slowly in a calm and relaxed atmosphere. If tequila makes you crazy, maybe it’s because you usually drink it in shots, which is bound to be on a wild night out.”
Beth Leipholtz is the founder of Life to be Continued, a blog about the realities of getting sober young. She writes about her own experience falling into substance use disorder and how she found her way back out. Beth also works as a web designer and photographer in Minnesota. Follow her on Instagram @beth_leipholtz and on Twitter @el9292.