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Hangover

Is it possible to avoiding getting a hangover?


It's a well-known fact that if you drink too much alcoholic drink, drink the wrong kinds of things, and get a few other things wrong, you can end up suffering a hangover the next day. This, the HANGOVER is something which we'd like to be able to avoid, while still being able to indulge in alcohol, the drug of choice of a great many people!

There are various theories about "the hangover" and how to avoid it. At one end of the scale there are people who believe that by means of a well-mixed cocktail of various things that are good for you, it is possible to get drunk without having a hangover. Various pseudo-scientific notions are expressed on how this is supposed to work. At the other end of the scale are extreme sceptics, some of them respectable scientists who say things like "it's impossible to avoid having a hangover" or "the only way to avoid having a hangover is not to drink!". The reality is another matter, and it is open to scientific study. You can do your own experiments, and I hope you have fun and don't get too ill.

A hangover can be quite unpleasant. After a wild night of boozing and partying, you wake up with a terrible headache, maybe a feeling of nausea, sickness, and a phobia of fried food. According to party experts at BBC Radio 1, a hangover is "officially over" at 3pm the next day. However, you may have experience yourself of what it's like for you. It does seem to vary from one person to another, and some people suffer from hangovers seldom, or often, and some can withstand a much bigger overdose or excess than others.

There is much folklore about what to do (the next day) if you have a hangover. Drinking tomato juice is a favourite. Various vitamin supplements, sugar-rich items, are also recommended by some. Then there's the idea of medication such as pain relief tablets. Also, there's the much-quoted "hair of the dog" (the hair of the dog that bit you), drinking alcohol the next day when you've got a hangover. This is an idea of curing "like with like", a bit like homoeopathy, but without the dilution! However, I've never been happy about recommendations of drinking alcohol the day after having a drinking session. It starts to tend towards addiction if you're not careful. Of course it would be much better to avoid having a hangover in the first place.

Now let's not get too involved with belief-based ideas about what "definitely works" or "always works". In practice, some things work better for some people, and different things for others. I get a bit upset about some of the quackery that goes on, where medical claims are made that are not well founded. However, I also get a bit upset about cynics and sceptics saying things which are also not scientific. Science isn't a battle of beliefs, but a proving-ground where evidence is gathered and hypotheses tested, producing knowledge which is useful!

I have my own experiences, as I enjoy the recreational use of the drug ethanol, and I find the mindbending effects of it quite inspirational. (I am a schizophrenic, so that helps!). Of course I want to avoid getting a hangover, especially as I am not in good health physically anyway. So, in case you're interested, here are a few things I have found out that work for me:

* If I drink alcohol when my mood is already good, the fun is amplified up. Inhibitions are reduced, and various SILLY things happen. (Silly things are good).

* If I drink alcohol when depressed, it does not improve the mood. Despite the additional joy in party-mode, it's no good drinking alcohol to "drown your sorrows", as they will not fit into the bottle. Because of this, I avoid drinking alcohol if I am depressed.

* As with using Nitrous Oxide in a custom-car engine, it's to be used sparingly, and not all the time. Effectively, I believe in "excess in moderation". That is, having a wild time of it on rare occasions.

* It is the results that count, not merely the experience. It's how much creative work can be achieved by the mood-altering effects. (I believe this would also be true of other drugs, if prohibition were ended and it were possible to ensure quality).

* I have reason to believe, from my own experiences, that I am less likely to have a hangover the next day if I drink plenty of fluid during the boozing time (ie avoid being dehydrated).

* I also have reason to believe that when drinking too much alcohol, getting drunk, it is far better to expend plenty of energy doing silly things than it is to sit there doing nothing. I have my own theories about this, and I have yet to have these put to scientific test, but it's almost as if the exercise of doing silly things somehow burns-off whatever toxic by-products are generated from the digestion of ethanol.

So, what I suggest as a way towards trying to avoid having a hangover is: Drink plenty of tomato juice, orange juice, and soft drinks at the party. DO crazy silly things such as climbing up lamp-posts, giving a bouncy castle a good testing, etc. Go to bed late, because you are tired-out, not because you've lost the ability to stand up. Learn how much alcohol you can drink without suffering problems. This takes practice. It's different for different people, and it's for you to learn it for yourself. This should be done early in life for preference. (This could be why France has much less of a "drink problem" than the UK).

Also note that "silly things" should be done with a reasonable view to safety. Don't climb anything higher than you're willing to fall off, and if there's water involved, make sure your friends are there so you don't drown.

I could give plenty of advice about how to get drunk responsibly, but on this page I'm trying to help to solve the HANGOVER problem. In my experience, plenty of fluids and plenty of action will reduce the chance of illness the next day considerably. But that's my experience. You might find something is different in your own experience. Time for experimentation. Science can be fun.

Now let's look at the cynical viewpoint and see if it makes scientific sense. Is it true that there is no way of avoiding a hangover (short of not drinking alcohol) ? Well, what if we reverse the idea and say "Is it possible to inflict someone with a much worse hangover by getting them to drink the wrong things and do the wrong things?". Surely no-one would doubt that if a person were to mix their drinks, ie have brandy and whisky, or red wine and white wine, or cider and lager, they are more likely to suffer for it with a hangover than if they drank just vodka and orange, or a sequence of piņa colada, or just beer? Also, if the victim of the test were to drink only strong liquor and almost no other fluids and were to fall unconscious, they'd be more likely to wake up in hospital (if at all), than if they drank the same number of units of alcohol with a healthy quantity of fruit juice. The idea that all of the situations are equal doesn't match the facts. So, if it's possible to have a worse hangover by mixing your drinks, then a hangover-reduction strategy would be to avoid mixing your drinks. This combined with other techniques (to be discovered by experiment) could lead to a set of hangover-avoidance techniques which might in the end lead to knowledge of how to avoid hangovers completely.


Methanol Theory: One idea that was suggested a while ago was that some drinks contain methanol, and the more methanol there is in a drink, the worse it is for hangovers. Now let's get this right: Party Alcohol is Ethanol which is C2H5OH and it's the alcohol we like to drink. Methanol is CH3OH and it's "wood alcohol", the stuff in "Meths", traditionally believed to be drunk by tramps. Methanol is not good for you! It turns into formic acid and other nasties. Try to avoid drinking it! But is it true that some drinks contain too much methanol? And what is too large a dose? Surely it would be possible to put some drinks through a gas chromatograph and find out the percent methanol as well as the percent ethanol. In other words, it would be possible to put this theory to the test. I happen not to have much belief in the "methanol in drinks" theory, but it's not BELIEF that's important. It's Science. It is by scientific research and experimentation that the reality is discovered.


If you consider that you have something to add that will advance the knowledge of hangovers and their avoidance, you can write in and this page can be improved. e-mail

If you feel inspired to do some research and make a good Phd thesis, go for it! Plus, if you give this page a reference, it all helps.