5 Reasons to Feel Drunk When You’re Sober

It’s fun to hang out with friends to have a drink or two. But are you feeling drunk but haven’t had a drink? There can be many reasons for you to ask:

Why do I feel drunk but I’m sober?

Feeling drunk without drinking is typical in a medical condition called auto-brewery syndrome. Besides, you may also experience this drunken feeling if you lack sleep, suffer from sleep drunkenness, or are dehydrated. Sometimes, inner ear infections and low blood sugar may also cause this feeling

But don’t worry, because, with a few quick fixes, you’ll be able to get rid of this problem. This article will explain all you need to know about feeling drunk without actually drinking. So, sit tight, and keep reading till the end. 

Auto brewery syndrome isn’t easy to diagnose. The doctors may mistake your condition for something else entirely. In the last several decades, researchers documented only a few cases in the research journals. 

5 Reasons Why You Feel Drunk Without Drinking

Sometimes you’ll wake up feeling drunk without drinking. Or you may deny having alcohol, but your blood sugar levels may begin to differ. 

A person might rarely seem drunk but deny drinking. But there are scientific explanations for this phenomenon. Here are five reasons to explain your question: ‘why I feel drunk but I’m sober.’

i-feel-drunk-but-i'm-sober

Auto Brewery Syndrome

In other words, the gut fermentation syndrome or auto-brewery syndrome sometimes may be called ‘drunkenness disease.’ 

This condition is rare and may make you feel intoxicated without having alcohol. Auto brewery syndrome is typically the most common cause for this feeling. It results when your body transforms starchy and sugary foods into alcohol. 

Auto brewery syndrome isn’t easy to diagnose. The doctors may mistake your condition for something else entirely. In the last several decades, researchers documented only a few cases in the research journals. 

But you’ll hear about this condition many times in the news. Most of the headlines involved people arrested for being drunk while driving. This condition is rare, so it only makes the diagnosis very important. Symptoms may include:

  • Feeling drunk without drinking 
  • Becoming super intoxicated after having only a bit of alcohol 
  • Dizziness 
  • Disorientation 
  • Flushed skin 
  • Dehydration 
  • Nausea 
  • Fatigue 
  • Concentrations and memory problems 
  • Belching or burping 
  • Dry mouth 
  • Fatigue

You’ll notice how many of these symptoms are similar to having a hangover or being slightly drunk. 

If the condition worsens, it may lead to chronic fatigue syndrome, IBS, or depression.

In auto-brewery syndrome, your body automatically ‘brews’ carbohydrates into ethanol or alcohol. Too much yeast inside your intestines or stomach may lead to this condition. Both children and adults may have the auto-brewery syndrome. 

Generally, it’s another complication of infections, imbalance, or other diseases. 

It’s not innate, meaning you won’t be born with it. But other inborn conditions like Crohn’s disease may trigger the condition. 

At times, liver problems may be at the root of the problem. The liver can’t filter out alcohol from your system fast enough. These people have a higher risk of having auto-brewery syndrome. 

drunkenness-disease

Too much yeast in the body may also trigger this disease. Poor nutrition, diabetes, and a low immune system may contribute to it as well. 

The research data on auto-brewery syndrome is limited, making diagnosis difficult. The physician may ask you to do a stool test to see if you have excess yeast in the stomach. It only involves getting a stool sample, so the test isn’t painful. 

Treatment 

You can begin by reducing carbs from your diet. A healthy diet can reduce the lifespan of every human. So, consider adding more proteins and other nutrients. Additionally, treating the main reason causing it (like Crohn’s disease) will also remove the symptoms. 

The physician may also prescribe antifungal medication to remove fungal infections in your stomach. Medications like fluconazole, nystatin and acidophilus tablets are the most common ones for the condition. 

Besides, you’ll also have to avoid simple carbohydrates and sugary foods. By simple carbs, I mean corn syrup, potato chips, crackers, or white rice. You might also have to avoid tablets containing glucose. 

In sleep drunkenness, your brain skips this inertia phase. And so, the transition is rough, causing you to feel as though you’re drunk. You might feel drunk right after you wake up as opposed to the auto-brewery syndrome.

Alcohol should be on the list of things you need to avoid. Even a tiny amount can make you feel very drunk. So, it is better to be safe than sorry.  

Sleep Drunkenness & Deprivation

If you wake up and feel disoriented, tired, and confused, you might be experiencing sleep drunkenness. Waking up from a deep sleep makes us energized and lets us take on the days. Sleep drunkenness is a feeling of reflex after waking up or sudden action. 

It’s a kind of sleep disorder, alternately named ‘confusional arousal.’ But the Symptoms include the following:

  • Confusion upon waking 
  • Blunt responses 
  • Startled reflexes 
  • Physical aggression without the recollection of it ever happening 
  • Disturbances in memory 
  • Slow speech 
  • Difficulty in concentration 
  • Brain fog in daytime

The episodes of confusion may last between five to fifteen minutes. Some of these may last even longer at forty minutes. 

sleep-deprivation

When we wake up, our brain goes through a natural event called sleep inertia. You might experience difficulty in waking or grogginess during this period. Slowly, your brain transitions into waking up. 

In sleep drunkenness, your brain skips this inertia phase. And so, the transition is rough, causing you to feel as though you’re drunk. You might feel drunk right after you wake up as opposed to the auto-brewery syndrome.

Besides, you might get sleep drunkenness by sleeping too much or too little. Spending about nine hours in sleep might make you experience sleep drunkenness more than average. Antidepressants may also trigger sleep drunkenness. 

If you experience sleep drunkenness occasionally, you don’t have to worry about anything. However, if you get sleep drunkenness once every week, it’s best to visit a doctor. 

Lack of sleep may affect you the same way alcohol does. Vital communications between neurons weaken when you don’t get enough sleep. This effect may lead you to feel a lapse in memory and have concentration problems. It also affects our perception of the world and increases cognitive lapses. 

Lack of sleep also interferes with gathering coherent thoughts. 

Staying without sleep for more than 24 hours is equivalent to having a BAC of 0.1%, beyond the legal limit of 0.08%. 

So, if you don’t sleep enough, you may also experience feeling drunk during the daytime. However, this feeling doesn’t last long, maybe only a day till you get proper sleep again. 

Treatment

There isn’t a particular treatment that people recommend to get rid of sleep drunkenness. However, you can try getting a good night’s sleep every night. It’s important to sleep about eight hours to function efficiently. 

So, avoid naps during the day. Also, avoid taking antidepressants as they might cause insomnia and sleep drunkenness at times. You will need to tweak your lifestyle a bit. But these changes are very straightforward. 

Getting sleep drunkenness occasionally is okay. But you should see a doctor when it gets out of control. Waking up tired frequently, missing work, and sleeping on the job might occur during sleep drunkenness. If these do happen, you have to see a doctor.

Hypoglycemia or Insulin Shock

Low blood sugar levels may also interfere with your ability to think straight. Or in other words, it may also cause you to feel drunk. Hypoglycemia is when the glucose levels in your blood drop alarmingly low. This condition occurs in people with diabetes. 

If you use insulin, you’re more at risk for getting hypoglycemia than others. the symptoms may include:

hypoglycemia

Not treating hypoglycemia may cause other symptoms similar to feeling drunk but worse.

  • Blurred vision
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty in concentration
  • Slurred speech and clumsiness
  • Unusual behavior
  • Collapsing

You can get hypoglycemia even when you’re sleeping. An individual going into hypoglycemia may appear to be drunk. They may appear confused when talking, lose their balance, and seem disoriented. 

But contrary to how they seem, they are not having fun. The hypoglycemic brains need nourishment to function adequately. And how they act is the brain’s way of showing it. 

Dehydration may have severe consequences on our bodies. Dehydration can cause vertigo, nausea, and lightheadedness. 

Medication, skipping meals, not eating enough carbs may cause the blood sugar levels to drop in diabetic patients. Besides, intense exercising without plans may also trigger hypoglycemia. Healthy people may also get it, not just diabetic people. 

Treatment for Insulin Shock

For hypoglycemia, it’s essential to eat a snack containing sugar. After ten minutes, you can test your blood sugar. If it increases a bit, eat your meal. You’ll start feeling better in no time.

Inner Ear Infection and Dehydration 

The ear is the organ responsible for keeping our feet on the ground. Meaning it helps us with balance. If there’s a problem with the ear, you may experience dizziness and disorientation.  

Inner ear infections may at times be the reason for feeling drunk without actually drinking. It is somewhat similar to feeling drunk, but not entirely. You might feel nauseous, dizzy, and stumble. But it won’t impair your cognitive ability the way the other reasons do. 

Viral infections are typically the cause of ear infections. 

However, researchers couldn’t determine precisely why ear infections occur. So, the reasons are still a bit unclear to this day. If you suspect having an ear infection, it’s vital to see a doctor. It’s not a good idea to leave it untreated. 

It’s possible to feel dehydrated when you lose more water than you drink. 

Dehydration may have severe consequences on our bodies. Dehydration can cause vertigo, nausea, and lightheadedness. 

Besides, you may also feel unsteady and woozy if you’re dehydrated. Like ear infections, you may feel physically drunk rather than cognitively. But dehydration is much worse than your regular old hangover. 

It can reduce blood pressure and blood volume, reducing the blood fluids in your brain. 

The insufficiency in these fluids may lead to improper functioning, leading to dizziness. It’s crucial to see a doctor if your heartbeat is rapid. 

Additionally, if you feel confused and disoriented, you should see a doctor. These symptoms mean that your case might be worsening, and you need immediate medical attention. 

Treatment 

To get rid of dehydration, you simply need to rehydrate yourself. And for the future, all you can do is take some preventive measures. Staying rehydrated and eating fruits that contain water is the right way to go.

You should visit the doctor if you have an ear infection. 

Alcoholic Food and Sprays 

It’s possible, and a trend these days, to be drunk without drinking. 

You can even get drunk off of hand sanitizer, which is hilarious to think. But it’s true because you can get drunk on food and other items that have alcohol without realizing it. Let’s see how. 

alcoholic-food

If you didn’t drink but were in the vicinity of alcohol spray, you might get drunk. 

The effects last only for a short time. Besides, there are several food items these days that contain alcohol. For example, alcohol gummy bears, alcoholic cupcakes, alcoholic whipped cream, and even alcoholic pizzas!

It might be possible that you ate something with alcohol without realizing it. That would explain why you feel tipsy although, in your books, you’re sober.

These new items are relatively popular these days. You’ll be surprised at how innovative creators have become to get drunk without drinking. 

Treatment

And for alcoholic sprays and food, there isn’t much to say. You’ll just have to go about the old ways to get rid of a plain old hangover. The reason is, you’re probably actually drunk. So, the best idea is to do what you have not to be hungover. 

FAQs

What causes the feeling of drunkenness?

As you consume alcohol, your liver starts breaking it down. First, it breaks into acetaldehyde, and then it further breaks into acetic acid. You will start feeling drunk if you keep drinking faster than your liver can break it down. 

What is the condition where you feel so tired that you feel drunk?

This condition is called sleep drunkenness. This article mentions it being the cause of feeling drunk when you’re sober. Besides feeling drunk, you’ll also appear drunk. 

What can I have instead of alcohol?

There are several refreshing drinks you can try instead of alcohol. For example, soda and lime, kombucha, and mocktails are a few of the best. Besides, you can also try virgin mojito and cranberry juice. 

Final Words 

So, why do I feel drunk but I’m sober? Hopefully, you know why now. Feeling drunk while being sober doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Well, unless it hampers your daily life, that is. 

You should try getting rid of the feeling if a medical condition is causing it. 

Otherwise, maybe try welcoming the feeling. Either way, feeling the buzz without drinking might not sound like it’s serious. But a visit to the doctor’s office doesn’t hurt anyone. So, look after yourself.

Munira Binte Hasan

Munira Binte Hasan

Munira is an aspiring psychologist from the University of Dhaka. She loves reviewing and writing content. In her free time, she loves to read or listen to music. She believes in advocating mental health issues and healthy expression of emotions.

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