Getting rid of a hangover
We’ve got bad news. Many hangover cures and prevention remedies are available, but scientific evidence for their effectiveness is generally lacking. Few alcohol hangover treatments have undergone rigorous investigation, and scientists don’t really even know the cause of alcohol hangovers. Conservative management of symptoms offers the best course of treatment. We present our findings here, plus offer some suggestions of how to prevent hangovers the next time you want to drink.
How to get rid of a hangover
1. Give it time.
Time is the most important component of getting rid of a hangover because hangover symptoms will usually resolve from 8 – 24 hours after your last drink.
2. Level out your blood-sugar levels.
Consumption of fruits, fruit juices, or other fructose containing foods may help decrease hangover intensity. Eating bland foods that are made of complex carbohydrates, such as toast or crackers, can even out low blood sugar levels in people subject to hypoglycemia and as a bonus, can possibly relieve nausea.
3. Take in more fluids (non-alcoholic, of course).
Drinking non-alcoholic beverages during and after alcohol consumption may help reduce alcohol induced dehydration.
4. Use over-the-counter medicines to treat specific symptoms.
Antacids can relieve nausea and inflammation of the stomach lining after a heavy night of drinking. Aspirin and other NSAIDs, or non steroidal anti inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen or naproxen might also help reduce headache and muscle aches associated with a hangover. Use these medicines with caution, however, because you can worsen stomach irritation. And avoid paracetamol or acetaminophen TOTALLY, because alcohol metabolism enhances acetaminophen’s toxicity to the liver.
5. Drink a cup of Joe.
Caffeine is commonly used to counteract the fatigue and malaise associated with the hangover condition, and can briefly relieve these particular symptoms.
6. Eat well, if you are not nauseous.
Get a good meal in yourself to replace lost nutrients from excessive drinking. If you cannot stomach a full, balanced meal, electrolyte solutions and bouillon soup are good for replacing the salt and potassium you lose from drinking alcohol.
7. Sleep it off.
Get plenty of rest. Most hangovers are gone in a day, but they can affect cognitive function and performance, making your thinking or judgment cloudy. To perform at your best for tomorrow’s day of work, rest your body.
What NOT to do to get rid of a hangover
Drinking alcohol to get rid of a hangover DOES NOT help you get rid of a hangover, it just masks potential alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Re-administration of alcohol, or the “hair of the dog that bit you” remedy, only enhances the existing toxicity of the alcohol you just consumed and may increase the likelihood of even further drinking. Not a good thing.
How to prevent a hangover in the first place
No compelling evidence exists to suggest that any conventional or complementary remedy can treat alcohol hangover. The most effective way to avoid the symptoms of alcohol induced hangover is to practice abstinence or moderation. Here are a couple of tips for your next big night out.
1. Drink less, even if you get drunk. Even among people who drink to intoxication, those who consume lower amounts of alcohol appear less likely to develop a hangover than those who drink higher amounts. Just to give you some numbers, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism recommends that women have no more than 1 drink per day and men no more than 2 drinks per day.
2. Avoid certain types of alcohol. Beverages that contain a number of congeners such as brandy, whiskey, and red wine may be more likely to produce a hangover than those with low levels of congeners.
3. Have a drinking strategy. Drinking alcohol slowly and on a full stomach can help slow the effects of alcohol and lead to less consumption. Likewise, drinking a glass of water in between drinks will not only help you drink less alcohol but it will also decrease dehydration.
Alcohol hangover discussion
Until researchers, doctors and experts understand the pathology of alcohol hangover in more detail, effective treatment for hangovers is not really possible. At the moment, most hangover remedies do not significantly reduce overall hangover severity. Some remedies can reduce specific symptoms such as vomiting and headache, but are not effective in reducing other symptoms such as drowsiness and fatigue. Hangover cures that may help us in the future include medications that inhibit prostaglandin synthesis or accelerate alcohol metabolism.
What do you think? Has anything worked for your hangovers in the past? Please share your comments, questions or experiences with hangover remedies here. We’d love to hear from you!
Reference sources: Treatment and prevention of alcohol hangover. Curr Drug Abuse Rev. 2010 Jun;3(2):103-9.
Interventions for preventing or treating alcohol hangover: systematic review of randomised controlled trials. BMJ. 2005 December 24; 331(7531): 1515–1518.
Medline Plus topic on hangover treatment
Photo credit: The Movie "The Hangover"