Hangover effects on your next drink

Hangover effects on your next drink

The phrase “I’m never drinking again,” may be all too common the morning after a night of indulging. But a new study finds that a hangover actually has little to no influence on the next drinking session.

The study, to be published online in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research in May, surveyed nearly 400 men and women over a 21-day period asking them to report on their alcohol consumption and other habits.

Researchers from the University of Missouri took a deeper dive into how hangovers can either defer or even speed up the next drink.

“If hangovers motivate ‘hair of the dog’ drinking to alleviate hangover symptoms, perhaps they play a direct role in the escalation of problematic drinking,” said Thomas M. Piasecki, corresponding author of the study, in a statement. “On the other hand, if hangovers punish or discourage drinking, why wouldn’t we find that the people at highest risk of problem drinking are those who actually experience the fewest hangovers?”

Researchers reviewed two past studies that looked at the effects of hangovers on motivation to drink or not to drink. Piasecki points out that both studies referred to people with hangovers often and those who have a high resistance to hangovers can both be hazardous to health.

“In fact, the two findings may be compatible. For example, we have found that drinkers who reported being relatively insensitive to the intoxicating effects of alcohol were actually more likely than their ‘lightweight’ peers to report having one or more hangovers during the study period,” he said. “This is consistent with other research suggesting that being less sensitive to alcohol promotes heavy drinking. People who don’t experience as much intoxication when drinking may have difficulty learning their limits and therefore may be more prone to drink to hangover-inducing levels.”

From the nearly 400 people surveyed, there were nearly 2,300 alcohol intake experiences reported, with more than 450 of those occurrences reporting hangovers the next day.

Piasecki said that they concluded hangovers appeared to have very little effect on the next drinking period.

“On average, the time between drinking episodes was extended by only a few hours after a hangover. We looked to see whether there were particular subgroups of drinkers who might show distinctive patterns like ‘hair of the dog’ use, but we didn’t find clear evidence for that,” he said “Participants made a diary entry each morning, and they were asked to rate their likelihood of drinking later the same day. It was striking that ratings made on hangover and non-hangover mornings did not differ. Even when the drinkers were acutely suffering a hangover, it didn’t seem to affect their conscious drinking intentions. No doubt this reflects the fact that drinking behavior is determined by a host of factors, like day of the week, opportunity, and social plans.”

Piasecki said that their findings reveal information about the relationship between hangovers and alcoholism.

“If hangovers don’t strongly discourage or punish drinking, links between current problem drinking and frequent hangover seem less incongruent,” he said. “If hangovers don’t generally hasten drinking, we can rule out a direct causal role of hangovers in the acceleration of problem drinking.”

Dr. Tracy Quinn, a family medicine physician at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington. Ill., says that hangovers are essentially a build-up of acetaldehyde, which is a toxin in the liver. 

“Hangovers make you feel horrible because alcohol is toxic,” Dr. Quinn says. “Scientifically, nothing has been shown to ‘cure’ a hangover, but there are a few tips to help nurse the pain. The bottom line is that the best way to avoid a hangover is to stay away from alcohol entirely.”

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About the Author

Sarah Scroggins
Sarah Scroggins

Sarah Scroggins, health enews contributor, is the director of social media at Advocate Aurora Health. She has a BA and MA in Communications. When not on social media, she loves reading a good book (or audiobook), watching the latest Netflix series and teaching a college night class.