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Caffeine Makes Drunks Feel Dangerously Sober

posted 06:46 AM EST, Thu December 10, 2009
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Caffeine Makes Drunks Feel Dangerously Sober © Photo Credit: Laurenmarek

Researchers say that drinking coffee as a way to sober up after drinking too much alcohol may not be such a good idea – in fact, by making people feel more sober than they are, it might just make things worse.

Researchers at Temple University in Philadelphia tested the ability of mice to navigate a maze filled with aversive stimuli. The animals were given an opportunity to learn the maze (and to experience the unpleasant stimuli) and then were tested on their prowess under different conditions involving caffeine and alcohol.

The results:

  • Mice given alcohol alone did poorly on the maze and were unable to learn well
  • Mice given caffeine equivalent to 8 cups of coffee did less well than non caffeinated mice, and displayed significant anxiety – they moved around less.
  • Mice given alcohol and coffee did as poorly on the maze as mice given alcohol alone, but they seemed to have more confidence and less anxiety than the mice given caffeine alone – they moved around more.

The researchers say that while people who have consumed only alcohol tend to get sleepy and feel ‘drunk’, that 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."

Study leader Dr. Thomas Gould, explained that while people on caffeine and alcohol may feel relaxed and alert, that according to the performance of mice in this study, their motor skills are just as impaired as those who drank alcohol alone.

Read the full study results in the journal, Behavioral Neuroscience

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