MadSci Network: General Biology

Re: What would the effects of alcohol followed by caffeine be on a Daphnia?

Date: Sat Mar 10 12:38:54 2001
Posted By: G. Monreal, Staff, Cardiothoracic Surgery , The Ohio State University
Area of science: General Biology
ID: 983822479.Gb

Hello Deshan!  Thank you for your question.

You asked:  "What would the effects of alcohol followed by caffeine be on a 
Daphnia?  Also, can these effects be related to the effects of coffee and 
alcohol on humans?"

Before I answer your question, let me direct you to several previous MadSci 
answers that describe the effects that caffeine and alcohol have 
individually on Daphnia and/or the human body:
Performing a MadSci search on the keywords "Ethanol," "Alcohol," and 
"Caffeine" will also turn up many more answers.

It's a common belief that after drinking heavily, drinking a cup of coffee 
will "sober up" the person due to the generalized characterizations that 
caffeine (stimulant) will negate the effects that alcohol (depressant) has. 
There are several papers published which investigate whether caffeine can 
reverse the effects of alcohol.  Here's what these researchers found:

E. Nuotto M.D. and his colleagues in Finland had volunteers drink a cup of 
coffee after becoming intoxicated, and then tested them on various motor 
skills and observed their personality changes. They found no significant 
reversal of the effects (an antagonistic effect) of alcohol by caffeine, 
nor did they see an enhanced effect (a synergistic effect). 

Bertil Waldeck treated mice with alcohol followed by caffeine and found 
that alcohol and caffeine may interact to alter the metabolism of brain 
catecholamines, although the exact mechanisms have not yet been studied.  
Caffeine was not found to reverse the effects of alcohol.

H. M. Franks et al. also performed a study similar to E. Nuotto using human 
volunteers and measuring manual dexterity, reasoning exercises, reaction 
times, and verbal fluency.  This study also showed that caffeine did not 
negate the effects of alcohol on their volunteers.

Mitchell et al. found that caffeine did not cancel out the effects of 
alcohol.  He did find, however, that caffeine elimination by the body is 
impaired with alcohol on board, leading to higher levels of caffeine in the 
blood.  The proposed mechanisms for this are uncertain, but Mitchell 
theorizes that alcohol may have some effect on cytochrome P-448, which is 
involved in caffeine metabolism.

In summary, there is no conclusive evidence which shows that caffeine can 
reverse the effects of alcohol.  Keep in mind that the time period between 
drinking alcohol and caffeine comes into play, as do their dosages.  Based 
on the observations by the studies described above, I would guess that 
giving alcohol to your Daphnia will result in a drunken Daphnia.  
Administering caffeine afterwards should have no effect --- your Daphnia 
should still be under the influence of alcohol.

If you are planning on testing the effects of alcohol and caffeine, please 
study your Daphnia with the utmost kindness and respect.  I hope the above 
helped to answer your questions, but feel free to email me at if you have any more questions.

G. Monreal

E. Nuotto et al.:  Coffee and caffeine and alcohol effects on psychomotor 
function.  Clin. Pharmacol. Ther 31: 68-75, 1982.

Bertil Waldeck:  Ethanol and caffeine:  A complex interaction with respect 
to locomotor activity and central catecholamines.  Psychopharmacologia 36: 
209-220, 1974

H. M. Franks et al.:  The effect of caffeine on human performance, alone 
and in combination with ethanol.  Phychopharmacologia 45: 177-181, 1975.

Mack C. Mitchell, et al.:  Inhibition of caffeine elimination by short-term 
ethanol administration.  J. Lab. Clin. Med 101: 826-833, 1983.

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