True or False: You Can Cure a Hangover

mythbuster graphic So you had a blast at the party last night, but the inevitable price you pay the following morning has you wondering, “Is there anything I can do to make this pounding headache, nausea, and exhaustion go away?” Probably not. Just as you can’t sober up by taking a cold shower and having a cup of black coffee, there is no simple remedy for a hangover. However, there are a few steps you can take to make the next “morning-after” more bearable.

Evidence Against the Health Claim

A hangover is your body’s way of telling you it is unhealthy to overindulge. Indeed, an effective treatment for hangovers would undermine our body’s own defense system against drinking too heavily. In any event, it is important to understand how alcohol consumption and hangovers are related. After you stop drinking, your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) begins to drop. Hangover symptoms peak around the time your BAC is zero. Alcohol acts as a diuretic (increases urine output) leading to dehydration and the loss of electrolytes. Although alcohol initially acts as a sedative; drinking actually disrupts your sleep cycle causing you to wake up fatigued. Finally, acetaldehyde , a toxic byproduct produced as your body breaks down alcohol, is responsible for many hangover symptoms. There is no scientific evidence in support of any method to rid the body of hangover symptoms. However, myths are still out there regarding surefire hangover remedies. Strong black coffee, for example, is a favorite among hangover sufferers who reason that a jolt of caffeine will restore some energy. However, caffeinated beverages, like alcohol, are diuretics and only worsen dehydration!The modest benefits of acetaminophen (eg, Tylenol) may not be worth the increased risk of liver toxicity that can occur in the presence of alcohol. Ibuprofen and aspirin are safer for the liver, but may worsen any stomach irritation caused by the excesses of the night before.According to another popular myth, called the “hair of the dog” theory, drinking first thing in the morning will help ease the effects of alcohol withdrawal. Although logical and possibly effective in the short-term, once your brain stops reacting to the new alcohol, the hangover will kick back in. Do not expect to recover by drinking more. The additional alcohol will be metabolized and the unavoidable hangover will return as your BAC drops.

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