Substance Use

Does Throwing Up Help You Sober Up?

woman throwing up in toilet

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Throwing up won’t make you sober. It can reduce the amount of alcohol in your stomach, but it won’t sober you up the next day. This is because alcohol quickly gets into your bloodstream before leaving your body through digestion. 

Trying to make yourself vomit can lead to problems like acid reflux and dehydration. These can turn serious in rare cases.

If you want to become sober, the best thing to do is to drink a glass of water and wait. Your body will naturally remove toxins through your kidneys and liver. (1)

If stopping drinking makes you feel physically uncomfortable or very upset, it might be a sign of alcohol withdrawal. This condition will require medical help.

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The Physiology of Alcohol Absorption

While vomiting is often associated with the feeling of being drunk, it won’t hasten the process of becoming sober. Alcohol, as highlighted by MedlinePlus, has notable effects on the Central Nervous System (CNS) once it enters the bloodstream. (2) The CNS, comprising the brain and spinal cord, governs vital functions like breathing and blood pressure. 

Alcohol, a depressant, briefly alters communication in the CNS. It slows down the heart rate and gives rise to the sensations of intoxication. (3)

As alcohol progresses through the digestive system, it undergoes metabolism. From there, the liver and kidneys eventually eliminate it from the body. The duration of this process can vary, ranging from a few hours to several weeks. 

Regrettably, inducing vomiting won’t expedite this natural elimination process; in fact, it could pose potential dangers.

Common Myths vs. Facts: Does Vomiting Actually Help?

Myth: Vomiting helps you sober up after consuming a large amount of alcohol.

It’s a widespread belief that inducing vomiting can sober you up after consuming alcohol. However, let’s debunk this myth and delve into the facts surrounding alcohol metabolism.

Alcohol Metabolism: The Reality

Alcohol metabolism primarily occurs in the liver and kidneys. The liver processes alcohol, breaking it down into byproducts like acetaldehyde, and the kidneys help eliminate these byproducts from the body. 

This natural detoxification process takes time, varying from a few hours to several weeks. It’s based on factors like the amount of alcohol consumed and individual differences. (4) (5)

Why Vomiting Doesn’t Help

Making yourself vomit may reduce the alcohol content in your stomach, but it doesn’t eliminate the alcohol already in your bloodstream. Alcohol rapidly enters the bloodstream, and by the time you induce vomiting, a significant portion has already been absorbed.

Moreover, vomiting can lead to complications such as acid reflux and dehydration, the latter of which can be severe in rare cases. Instead of expelling alcohol from your system, vomiting risks additional health issues. (6) (7)

The most effective approach is patience and hydration if you’re looking to sober up. Letting your body naturally metabolize and eliminate alcohol through the liver and kidneys is safer and more reliable.

If stopping alcohol consumption triggers physical distress or severe discomfort, seeking medical attention for possible alcohol withdrawal is important. 

Why People Vomit After Drinking

Intentionally causing yourself to vomit is never recommended as a method of avoiding alcohol intoxication. According to the National Library of Medicine, vomiting can cause dehydration, which leads to an imbalance of electrolytes. It also causes acid erosion in the esophagus. (8)

A side effect of drinking too much alcohol is vomiting. Binge drinking induces acid reflux, leading to a sensitive gag reflex. This can cause you to vomit involuntarily. Chronic vomiting increases these negative health risks by repeatedly introducing acid to the esophagus.

The Risks Associated with Self-Induced Vomiting

Intentionally causing yourself to vomit is never recommended as a method of avoiding alcohol intoxication. According to the National Library of Medicine, vomiting can cause dehydration, which leads to an imbalance of electrolytes. It also causes acid erosion in the esophagus.

Below are a few more specific things that can happen when you force yourself to throw up after drinking alcohol.

Dehydration: A Serious Consequence

One of the hazardous effects of alcohol is its ability to suppress the release of vasopressin, a hormone responsible for signaling the kidneys to retain fluid. When alcohol interferes with this process, excessive urination occurs, leading to a significant loss of fluids. The more alcohol consumed, the greater the risk of dehydration. (8)

Voluntarily inducing vomiting exacerbates fluid loss, intensifying the risk of severe dehydration—an urgent medical concern. Recognizing signs of life-threatening dehydration is crucial: (9)

  • Increased thirst
  • Dry mouth
  • Lack of sweat or urination
  • Unusual sleepiness
  • Slow breathing
  • Confusion
  • Fainting
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Rapid breathing
  • Shock

If you’ve experienced vomiting or diarrhea due to excessive alcohol intake, the risk of dehydration is heightened. Immediate fluid replenishment through water or a sports drink is essential to mitigate these complications. 

If keeping fluids down becomes challenging and a substantial amount of alcohol has been consumed, seeking emergency attention is important. This could signify alcohol overdose or poisoning, and medical assistance can help. 

Esophageal Erosion

Alcohol consumption heightens the likelihood of developing acid reflux, a condition where stomach acids flow back into the esophagus and throat, causing discomfort. Intentional vomiting further aggravates this issue, reintroducing acids to the esophagus.

According to MedlinePlus, acid reflux can have severe repercussions, including the exacerbation of asthma, the formation of ulcers, and the initiation of precancerous changes in the esophagus. (10) This underscores the importance of recognizing the potential harm that self-induced vomiting can inflict on the delicate balance of the digestive system.

Malnutrition, Lung Aspiration, and Beyond

While dehydration and esophageal erosion are prominent risks associated with self-induced vomiting, it’s crucial to acknowledge other potential consequences, including malnutrition and lung aspiration. It also messes up the stomach lining and can hurt the small intestine.

Mental and Physical Toll

Frequent vomiting, especially as a response to excessive alcohol consumption, can lead to nutrient deficiencies, contributing to malnutrition. The body relies on a consistent intake of nutrients for optimal functioning, and repeated vomiting disrupts this balance, impacting overall health.

Lung Aspiration

Intentional vomiting poses the risk of inhaling stomach contents into the lungs, known as lung aspiration. This can lead to serious respiratory issues, infections, and lung damage.

Such consequences, while not immediately apparent, can manifest over time, underscoring the need to prioritize the well-being of both the digestive and respiratory systems.

How to Get Sober Safely

True sobriety takes time. Your body must eliminate the alcohol before you are genuinely sober. According to Alcoholic Beverages Control, your liver can break down one alcoholic drink per hour.

Once alcohol reaches the liver, it converts to acetaldehyde. This dangerous toxin is converted to acetate before leaving the system. The more you drink, the longer this process takes. 

Hydrating and snacking on nutrient-rich foods can minimize the symptoms you might experience during this time. They include nausea, dehydration, indigestion, and dry mouth. However, eating will not decrease your blood alcohol level.

Keep Hydrated

Drinking water is one sure way to improve hydration. Hydration can help if you’re hungover and experiencing uncomfortable symptoms like nausea and dry mouth. However, hydration will not speed up detoxification or push alcohol out of the system quicker. 

Alcohol is detectable in your urine for 48 hours or longer, no matter how much water you drink. After a night of drinking, your blood alcohol concentration is much higher, so it can take even longer to leave your system.

Follow a Healthy Diet

Although eating well will not help you sober up, it can repair tissue damage caused by alcohol use. Alcohol Research states that a proper diet helps repair tissues damaged over time from excessive alcohol use. It is also beneficial for people with Alcohol-Associated Liver Disease.

Avoid Your Triggers

Here are some specific triggers that individuals might encounter:

  • Stress: High levels of stress at work, in relationships, or due to life events can lead some individuals to seek relief from alcohol.
  • Social Situations: Social events, gatherings, or peer pressure can create environments where drinking is normalized, triggering excessive alcohol consumption.
  • Emotional Distress: Feelings of sadness, loneliness, or emotional pain may drive individuals to use alcohol as a means of self-medication.
  • Unresolved Trauma: Individuals with unresolved trauma, such as past abuse or significant life events, may turn to alcohol to numb emotional pain.
  • Boredom: Lack of stimulation or a sense of purpose can lead to boredom, and some individuals may turn to alcohol as a way to alleviate this feeling.
  • Celebrations: While celebrations are occasions for joy, they can also be triggers for excessive drinking, as alcohol is often associated with festivities.
  • Routine Habits: Engaging in daily habits that involve drinking, such as happy hours or after-work rituals, can create a routine that reinforces alcohol consumption.
  • Environmental Cues: Specific environments, such as bars, clubs, or certain places associated with drinking, can act as triggers for individuals struggling with alcohol use.
  • Peer Influence: The influence of friends, family, or colleagues who engage in heavy drinking can contribute to an individual’s own problematic drinking behaviors.
  • Negative Emotions: Dealing with negative emotions like anger, frustration, or resentment can prompt individuals to turn to alcohol for emotional relief.
  • Financial Stress: Financial difficulties or worries may lead some individuals to use alcohol as a way to escape or cope with the pressures they are facing.

Activities that promote emotional wellness, like cycling or walking, can help counter these triggers. However, if you find it difficult to achieve sobriety without relapsing, you may have Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). (11

Alcohol Use Disorder is an uncontrollable urge to drink despite the adverse effects of alcohol. AUD is a complex disease that causes mental and physical changes that are challenging to treat alone.

Setting Realistic Goals

Establishing realistic and achievable goals is the key to a successful sobriety journey. Start by setting small, measurable objectives that you can gradually build upon.

This could include reducing the frequency of drinking or abstaining from alcohol for a specific period.

Take A Cold Shower

Cold showers emerge as a surprisingly potent strategy in your journey to sobriety. Beyond the initial shock, they serve as a powerful distraction, effectively interrupting cravings and redirecting your focus. (12) The mental clarity induced by the cold water creates a refreshing ritual. 

It offers a moment for self-reflection and reinforces your commitment to positive change. The release of endorphins contributes to a natural mood boost, providing a healthier alternative for stress relief.

By incorporating cold showers into your routine, you not only replace unhealthy habits but also strengthen your support system by encouraging others to adopt this practice.

This simple yet impactful step becomes a valuable tool in maintaining sobriety. It will address immediate challenges and contribute to your overall well-being.

When to Seek Medical Advice

If you have Alcohol Use Disorder and you’re vomiting to get better, getting sober on your own might be difficult. This is due to changes in the brain that cause alcohol dependence. When your body is dependent on alcohol, you will develop withdrawal symptoms when you stop drinking.

According to the National Library of Medicine, withdrawal symptoms can vary.

Typical signs of alcohol withdrawal include:

  • Anxiety and nervousness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Excessive sweating
  • Shaking and trimmers

If you’ve experienced any of the above symptoms and only felt relief after relapsing, seek professional help. Withdrawal symptoms expand and become life-threatening over time.

Drug and alcohol rehab centers provide treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder and medication to minimize the discomfort of withdrawal.

Worried About Alcohol Use Disorder? Get Help Now!

If you or someone you care about is dealing with alcohol addiction, seeking professional help is crucial. MedlinePlus suggests that treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder may involve various approaches, such as behavioral therapies. These can include things like Motivation Enhancement Therapy, Medication-assisted detox, and Counseling.

Behavioral therapies play a huge role in uncovering the root causes of addiction. From there, you can establish effective coping strategies to prevent relapses.

Addiction is a lonely and isolating disease. Rehabilitation centers like Zinnia Health offer group activities in addition to drug treatment to stave off loneliness and facilitate a sense of community.

If you’re ready to take your power back and kick alcohol for good, contact Zinnia Health at (855) 430-9439 to get started. 


Call us
Ready to get help?
(855) 430-9439
Why call us? Why call us