What's the best hangover cure? Truth be told, there isn't one

Dec 09, 2009
alcohol

(PhysOrg.com) -- With the holiday party season at hand, UNC's Dr. James C. Garbutt offers these tips about how to enjoy a few drinks responsibly -- while sparing yourself and those around you from the potentially disastrous consequences of overdoing it.

So you’re heading out to the big holiday party, and you’re planning to have fun.

And for you having fun means having a few drinks, whether it’s , or harder stuff, and maybe some champagne at midnight on New Year’s Eve, too. Nothing wrong with that, as long as you don’t overdo it. And most importantly, as long as you don’t drive while impaired by alcohol.

Unfortunately, too many people will overdo it, and find themselves waking up on New Year’s Day with a terrible splitting headache and a queasy stomach.

For those folks, the bad news is that while myths about hangover “cures” abound, there isn’t a single one that has been scientifically proven to work, said James C. Garbutt, M.D., a professor of psychiatry in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine who specializes in alcoholism treatment and research.

“The most important message I would emphasize is that people shouldn’t drink too much in the first place,” said Garbutt, who is a member UNC's Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies. “Hangover is one negative consequence of excess but there are many others, including accidents, which can be serious, loss of control over emotions such as anger or sadness, and bad decision-making exemplified by the classic office party gone wrong."

In addition, it’s worth noting that drinking too much in a single night can result in fatal alcohol poisoning. In other words, you can literally drink yourself to death. If someone passes out after heavy drinking, that’s a serious medical emergency and the person should be taken to the hospital right away, Garbutt said.

That being said, there are steps you can take to enjoy a few drinks responsibly and prevent getting a hangover.

“Eating food is an important element in reducing drinking and reducing risk of intoxication,” Garbutt said. Eat a meal before you take your first sip of alcohol, he advises, and continue to take in food as the night wears on. Food, fats especially, help slow down the body’s absorption of alcohol. But to truly be effective, the food must be in your stomach first. If you wait until you’re feeling buzzed or tipsy to start eating, it’s already too late.

Another good way to pace yourself: After finishing a drink with alcohol, drink a glass of water before your next round. This will both dilute the concentration of alcohol in your blood and help prevent dehydration, Garbutt said.

And if you ignore this advice and end up with a hangover anyway, there are things you can do that, while not a cure, will aid in your recovery. For example, taking two ibuprofen just before you go to bed and then again when you wake up will help reduce your headache pain. But it’s best to avoid aspirin, because alcohol can aggravate gastritis and aspirin can increase risk of gastric erosion and bleeding. “Put the two together and there might be increased risk of gastrointestinal bleeding,” Garbutt said. You should also avoid acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol, because in some people taking this drug while is in their system can cause serious liver damage.

Rehydration is also very important, Garbutt said. Drinking a sports drink, such as Gatorade, will help both rehydrate you and replace salt and other electrolytes lost through the increased urination that drinking causes.

What about those hangover “cures” we’ve all heard about? Drinking coffee? Doesn’t help. Hair of the dog that bit you (i.e., drinking one more round of whatever caused your hangover)? All that does is delay the start of your recovery. Eating a big, greasy bacon and egg breakfast, or any other legendary “morning after” meal? Might’ve helped if you’d eaten it before you started

Provided by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine (news : web)

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User comments : 15

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CptWozza
not rated yet Dec 09, 2009
A hangover is the body's response to poisoning, it's as simple as that. The best hangover cure is time, so that your body can slowly get rid of these toxins. Sometimes the body tries to vomit its way out of this sorry situation, you just have to hope that you don't pass out first and that if you do, you don't pass out on your back or you'll choke to death on your own puke.

The problem is the emphasis on fun, which the writer here gives unneccessary glory to. Why do people think they need to drink to have fun? Why is the imbibing of a toxic organic solvent viewed as a form of entertainment? Viewing this intoxication as fun is the principal problem, because people reason that to have more fun, they have to comsume more poison. People may argue that they drink to be socially at ease, but the argument is the same - learn to be socially at ease without it. If it's too difficult to talk to others without booze then you are probably pathologically shy.
Velanarris
5 / 5 (1) Dec 09, 2009
A hangover is the bosy's reaction to dehydration and nutrient overabundance in addition to vit B reduction in the mucus membranes of your body.

There is one cure that works everytime and it works quickly. Before you go to bed, drink a bottle of pedialyte. It's made specifically to address all of the above side effects.
Mike_Scherer
5 / 5 (2) Dec 09, 2009
Despite its deprecators, it's a plain fact that most people find drinking is one of life's great pleasures, so it's inevitable that doing it too much is a common problem.
Here are two good ways to prevent or mitigate a hangover:
Soy Lecithin gel-caps during and after drinking is a tremendous help. 1-6 grams, no known limit, commonly used as an emulsifier in foods like chocolate. Over the years I've seen articles about it's protective effect for the liver and neurons - kind of a ringer. Also increases apparent sobriety.
A high vitamin B dose is well known to help avoid hangover. Your basic "Vitamin B stress formula" will do the trick.

Both these must be used before bed. Once you have a hangover it's too late.
CptWozza
1 / 5 (1) Dec 09, 2009
These suggested hangover cures are very elaborate and clever, but isn't it better to avoid needing this self-medication in the first place? When I wake up in the morning, all I need is breakfast, and if I've had sufficient sleep I will feel alert and healthy.

I do not understand why people view drinking as one of life's great pleasures, to use your expression mike. Alcohol tastes bad, smells worse and causes you damage. Even in moderation it is harmful, it's just that the human body is rather good at dealing with the consequences, as long as the amount of ethanol is not too great.

Suggesting that it is ok to deal with hangovers because alcohol consumption is a "pleasure" simply exposes the act as one of short-term gratification at the expense of medium and long term well-being. You pay for this "pleasure" by feeling "unpleasant" later on. So what has been gained in the end? For the record, I am not religious at all, being a somewhat proud atheist and secular humanist.
Velanarris
not rated yet Dec 09, 2009
I drink in order to prevent flying off the handle and gunning people down. Sometimes a person just enjoys being artificially stupid.
Mike_Scherer
not rated yet Dec 09, 2009
Hi CptWozza,
No one would disagree with the ideal that it's best to avoid severe overindulgence. Likewise it's dangerous to know how to overindulge and not have to pay for it. But I must take issue with your assertion that even moderate intake is harmful because there is a great deal of evidence that this is not the case. On the contrary, moderate alcoholic beverage intake (especially red wine) is looking more and more like a genuinely healthy thing to do. (at least for most people).

As for the pleasurability of drinking, I merely point out the glaringly obvious: that now, as through all recorded history, the vast majority of people find drinking pleasurable. Arguments based on denying this fall far from the their target because for people who enjoy these beverages, there is a price for not drinking - the loss of its taste and effect.
CptWozza
not rated yet Dec 09, 2009
I totally agree that history shows that most people find drinking pleasurable. I can hardly expect that to change, and I know I'm on the losing side here, and I expect to be rated poorly. My view is not popular. I feel strongly that this majority have a disturbed view of what constitutes pleasure. It does not matter that I find myself vastly outnumbered; I still think I am correct; it is not pleasurable, just addictive.

As for reported health benefits, there is a more recent view which validates my statement about moderation (I believe it is even on this website). Moderate drinking causes damage, it's just that moderate drinkers tend to be more financially secure and therefore healthier. Correlation is not causation. This also explains the "French paradox" - the french could not possibly drink enough resveratrol to reverse aging, since they'd die of severe alcoholism in doing so. When other factors are eliminated, even moderate drinking is exposed for its light damaging effects.
Mike_Scherer
not rated yet Dec 09, 2009
CptWozza, what do you mean that the "majority have a disturbed view of what constitutes pleasure?" Are you actually meaning what this says? Really? It's not really pleasure? Please reconsider. The implications are severe for you.

Perhaps you might consider that it's possible that those who find it pleasurable are the ones who receive positive benefits while those who don't, don't. Wouldn't be the first time that people's tastes differed for good reason.

Interesting that you mention resveratrol. Latest is that it's absorbed far better by the mouth than the stomach. So getting enough to do something is quite doable. All one has to do is savor it, sip by sip.
CptWozza
not rated yet Dec 09, 2009
No I'm afraid the implications are not severe for me at all. I'm not missing out on anything. Alcohol only tastes nice when it's mixed with a fruity flavour. This is something you can get by drinking fruit juice, minus the intoxicating effects of a highly toxic solvent. I really do not see how and why drinking in either moderation or to the point of inebriation is pleasurable. And it's not like I haven't tried it, is it?

There are no positive benefits at all. Using a drug to make you more socially at ease is a disturbed approach and I use the word disturbed sincerely. I was a shy child, but I learned to be socially at ease by trying, and getting tipsy had nothing to do with it at all. You'll be hard pressed to convince me that I'm missing out. I have a healthy body and healthy mind. Nobody can get enough resveratrol by sipping or by getting plastered. We get our antioxidants via fruits and vegetables, it's as simple as that. It's not necessary to induce the body's defense mechanisms.
FGHafler
not rated yet Dec 09, 2009
Thank you for writing this article. It really opened up my eyes to your point of view. I was looking for more advice for my own medical needs and found this. Allthough it was not what I was looking for I did find it easy to read and captivating. I was looking for advice on a new medicine. I am using this Mexican pharmacy for my needs as they are owned and run by Americans whom I have grown to trust but I find it hard to get advice unless I see the doctor. Anyway I have gone a bit off topic and want to just thank you for your article.
Velanarris
3 / 5 (2) Dec 10, 2009
I really do not see how and why drinking in either moderation or to the point of inebriation is pleasurable.


When you find yourself lacking the ability to have a conversation with someone and need to dumb yourself down alcohol is of great assistance.

There are multiple reasons why people find intoxication, of many forms, pleasurable. Just because you don't prefer it does not mean it is a "highly toxic solvent" which drinking alcohol isn't. What you're probably thinking of is either the secondary reactionary component of alcoholic metabolism or synthetic ethanol which is an industrial solvent, but not the same chemical structure.
Bonkers
5 / 5 (2) Dec 10, 2009
My god what has got into these people, drinking is enjoyed in minor excess by billions of humans. All the nay-sayers can go and bore someone else to death.

Oh, and btw, hair of the dog does work because it gets the liver's alcohol dehydrogenase enzyme back onto its favourite target, ethanol, rather than the other higher order alcohols, and these have toxic by-products that make you feel groggy. - OK all you win is a slower release of tehse toxins, but its enough. I find a bloody mary is as good a cure as anything.

ironjustice
5 / 5 (1) Dec 10, 2009
A hangover is the bosy's reaction to dehydration and nutrient overabundance in addition to vit B reduction in the mucus membranes of your body.

Someone who knows his stuff.
Two B-complex the night of the drinking and you will not have a hangover ..

There is one cure that works everytime and it works quickly. Before you go to bed, drink a bottle of pedialyte. It's made specifically to address all of the above side effects.

Anynomouse
not rated yet Dec 13, 2009
16 ounces of prevention:

Much overdrinking comes from a vicious cycle of alcohol dehydration and thirst, so drink a water with every drink. Alternate virgin and real drinks (i.e. jack & coke / just coke) and noone will ever know. It has worked for me.
Spencer61
5 / 5 (1) Dec 13, 2009
I can think of one illegal substance that offers no hangover and no lethal dose.. There is no reason for marijuana to be illegal when we willingly sell a much harder and more dangerous drug in restaurants and gas stations.

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