Can Drinking Alcohol Cure Your Hangover?
Today, the age old question will be answered: can drinking alcohol in the morning cure your hangover?
As most university students have heard at least once from their ~smartest~ friend, there is a popular myth that drinking alcohol in the morning can help with bad hangovers. People will meet up for mimosas the morning following an unforgettable, yet forgotten, night to hopefully get a little comfort and share a few laughs about the night before. However, is there any truth to this common practice?
First, let’s understand what exactly is a hangover. The Cambridge Dictionary defines it as “a feeling of illness you get the day after drinking too much alcohol” but I find the Urban Dictionary truly captures the essence of the word when they write “nausea and headaches often caused by way too much f*****g alcohol” and “the want to never drink or eat again”. Symptoms include fatigue and weakness, head and muscles aches, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, shakiness, decreased ability to concentrate, excessive thirst, etc. They typically appear when one’s blood alcohol content drops significantly and is at or near zero. There are many factors which cause hangovers, such as: (Mayo Clinic, 2017)
the production of excess urine which leads to dehydration
a triggered inflammatory response from the immune system which can lead to memory problems, decrease appetite, inability to concentrate, etc.
An irritation of your stomach’s lining due to increase production of stomach acid and a emptying delay which leads to the common nausea and vomiting
A drop in blood sugar which brings fatigue, weakness, shakiness, etc.
An expansion of blood vessels which causes headaches
An increased feeling of sleepiness, thus leaving you groggy and tired
All these consequences to our seemingly good choices have left generations of individuals to look for the ultimate cure for hangovers. So this begs the question: does drinking the hair of the dog actually help?
If hangovers are caused by a drop in blood alcohol to zero (or close) then delaying that physiological condition by consuming more alcohol seems logical.
However, most experts do not advise this method since this will simply perpetuate a cycle of alcohol abuse and normalize unhealthy drinking patterns instead of allowing your body to recover. It usually just delays the inevitable until the extra alcohol that you “snoozed and boozed” leaves your body. (National Health Service, 2020) It can actually lead to a worse hangover since they tend to get worse over time and during periods of heavy drinking. In a study conducted on 454 undergraduate students who had experienced a hangover at least once in their life, 25% of them reported using alcohol as a cure. They also reported drinking more days overall, experiencing more binge-drinking occasions as well as consuming 2 to 3 times more alcohol in a single evening. Additionally, they had a significantly higher chance of one day receiving a lifetime alcohol dependency diagnosis when compared to the other 75%. Another survey was done on Dutch college students who were asked to rate effectiveness of certain hangover interventions on a scale ranging from 0 (not effective) to 8 (100% effective). The results showed that alcohol was seen as having 56.4% effectiveness while water had 92.9%, sleeping had 87.1% and breakfast at 77.1%. (Verster, 2009)
Moral of the story, while drinking alcohol the following day seems logical, it does not really “cure” one’s symptoms. It only delays them. In addition, it can lead to some pretty bad habits in the long run. The best option after celebrating finals seems to be staying in bed and pounding those glasses of water and aspirin.
Cambridge Dictionary, 2020. Hangover. Retrieved from https://dictionary.cambridge.org/fr/dictionnaire/anglais/hangover
Mayo Clinic, 2017. Hangovers. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hangovers/symptoms-causes/syc-20373012
National Health Service, 2020. Hangover cures: Alcohol support. Retrieved from https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/alcohol-support/hangover-cures/
Urban Dictionary, 2003. Hangover. Retrieved from https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=hangover
Verster, J., 2009. The “hair of the dog”: A useful hangover remedy or a predictor of future problem drinking? Current Drug Abuse Reviews. 2(1): 1-4. doi: 10.2174/1874473710902010001