WASHINGTON People who drink may want to know that coffee won't sober them up, according to new laboratory research. Instead, a cup of coffee may make it harder for people to realize they're drunk.
What's more, popular caffeinated "alcohol-energy" drinks don't neutralize alcohol intoxication, suggest the findings from a mouse study reported in the journal Behavioral Neuroscience, which is published by the American Psychological Association.
"The myth about coffee's sobering powers is particularly important to debunk because the co-use of caffeine and alcohol could actually lead to poor decisions with disastrous outcomes," said co-author Thomas Gould, PhD, of Temple University, in extending the research to what it means for humans.
"People who have consumed only alcohol, who feel tired and intoxicated, may be more likely to acknowledge that they are drunk," he added. "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 laboratory, 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 (pure alcohol) 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.
Gould and co-author Danielle Gulick, PhD, then tested three key aspects of behavior: the 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 maze's open areas; and general locomotion.
Ethanol, as ex
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American Psychological Association