Author Options:

Can you sober up by hyperventilating? Answered

Since the body exhales alcohol, would hyperventilating speed up getting rid of alcohol from the system and speeding up sobriety? If so, are the effects noticeable? How can we find out?


Just because your body expels trace amounts of alcohol (urination being far more efficient than respiration) doesn't mean your body is metabolizing it any faster. Whatever you get rid of by these means has already been metabolized. Hyperventilation will not speed up this process, since an increase in oxygen will not really effect the speed at which your liver and kidneys can function. Even if you were able to exhale or urinate the alcohol quickly enough to lower its presence in a breathalyzer, it would only be difficult to detect for a short period of time. The same amount of alcohol will still be present in the blood stream, and as soon as your liver and kidneys can process more it will be present in your breath and urine once again. If it were possible (which it isn't) to reduce your alcohol emissions, you would still be every bit as drunk as you were before, so you still wouldn't sober up or feel the effects any less. Until someone comes up with some sort of enzymes you can ingest to metabolize alcohol more quickly, it looks like the only solution is to sleep it off.

Sounds like a good enough answer... For the record, this is for science... E.G. Not for me...

All you'll do is reduce the amount of alcohol in the breath you breath out. Your body is going to excreet a certain amount in your breath and no more.

Nope. You'll just get dizzy...

While trace amounts of alcohol from the blood do get exhaled, the body's primary means of dealing with ethanol is metabolizing it to ethanal, which is converted to acetic acid, and then using it to make Acetyl-CoA which is used in the tricarboxylic acid cycle to produce ATP.

When the police use a breathalyzer, the limit in most places is 0.08 grams of ethanol/ 210 litres of breath. I'm not sure how fast you can hyperventilate for an extended period of time, but 210 litres is a lot of breath. According to this wikipedia article, the average a man can exhale after taking a full breath is 4.6 L, which works out to roughly 46 breaths per .08 grams of ethanol. Also, the quantity of ethanol exhaled would decrease as the blood alcohol level decreased.

So in short, no you can't hyperventilate enough to make you sober faster than your body can metabolize the alcohol. Not to mention the light-headedness and other fun effects of hyperventilation.