DUI & Caffeine

Question: I don't know why I got a .165 on the breath test. I drank a lot of coffee and I thought that I'd have been good to drive. Instead I got a DUI in Cobb County a week ago.

I thought that coffee would had lessened the effects of the alcohol and made me fine to drive. Or if not fine to drive, then not obviously intoxicated and well over the DUI limit of .08.

I was driving home with my wife from dinner and a comedy club when I was pulled over by the Cobb County police. The cop said I swerved. I probably did swerve. I did some of the tests like he asked and then he arrested me and allowed my wife to drive the car home to Marietta.

I guess I shouldn't have been driving but since I drank all that coffee shouldn't I have done better on the breath test? Everyone says that coffee makes you less drunk.

C.T. in Marietta, GA

Answer: Many people use caffeine, which is a drug, to “sober up” after drinking alcohol. People consume coffee and energy drinks like Red Bull, Monster and Rock Star hoping that the caffeine will counteract the effects of the alcohol.

Numerous studies have been performed over the years to determine if caffeine can antagonize, or lessen, the effects of alcohol. Early studies mostly concluded that caffeine had little impact on combating the effects of drinking. (See Forney & Hughes, Combined Effects of Alcohol and Other Drugs (1968)).

Some recent studies, however, have concluded that caffeine does have some impact on countering the effects of alcohol. A study found that the equivalent of one to two cups of coffee lessened the judgmental effects of alcohol on alertness and peripheral responses, indicating that caffeine can counteract at least some of the effects of drinking. (See Burns & Moskowitz, Two Experiments on Alcohol-Caffeine Interaction, 6 Alcohol, Drugs and Driving 303 (1989-1990)).

Arguably, caffeine can lessen some judgmental effects of alcohol, but it seems to have no impact on actually reducing an individual's blood-alcohol concentration.

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