Cures for a Hangover

A neighbor asked me to research this topic on the web. Since I already have the text, why not submit it as a contribution to the well-being of fellow noders? I wish I had this information in my drinking days. I would have stopped much later.

Aspirin and pain killers

Take two Advil to get rid of that throbbing head. Aspirin will mask the pain, but only take it when you wake up in the morning. Painkillers work if you take them before bed, but the results will fade by the time you wake up. Never pop aspirin before you go out drinking, it hinders your ability to attain a buzz and may make you hangover worse.

Strong black coffee, Coke, Jolt cola

To break out of your hangover funk take large quantities of caffeine. It constricts blood vessels in the brain, it reduces the cerebral blood pressure that makes a headache worse.

Drink lots of water!

While drinking the night before you probably took 15 trips to the bathroom and the body became dehydrated in the process. When the brain cells are dehydrated, they shrink, stretching nerve endings and causing headache pain. This is possibly the best hangover cure.

Sweat it out!

The advice is based on the theory that sweating gets rid of alcohol and toxins. However, while you may get rid of trace amounts of alcohol through sweating, many hangover symptoms are due to dehydration. So losing even more water through sweating is not going to help.

Keep boozin'!

This technique will probably reduce the shakes, sickness, and a bad mood, but it has a down side. Alcohol will ease the symptoms until you stop drinking. So plan to drink all day, and don't forget to reserve your mat in the mission downtown.


To take you brain off the pain, sex is good distraction. You'll feel instant relief because your brain releases low-level endorphins (the body's natural painkillers). If you don't produce endorphins, the activity should distract you for a while.

A big greasy breakfast

Give you body nourishment and settle your stomach. Eating gresay food during a beer bender or just before going to bed will minimize the hangover because it lets you process the alcohol over a longer period of time. But the morning after is too late and won't make a bit of difference.

Cold shower

The idea behind this remedy is to shock the body out of its terrible condition. More "pain is gain" nonsense! Major sensory changes like a cold shower make a hangover worse. Alcohol withdrawal actually causes hypersensitivity to any stimulus.

Gatorade and Vitamin B

Quench your thirst and at the same time replace fluid, minerals and vitamins you lost the night before. A sports drink replaces salts and minerals while a multi-vitamin wouldn't hurt. Hospitals regularly give people with extremely high blood alcohol levels a dose of vitamin B1 thiamine, which helps your body process alcohol and gets it out of you system. By injection is fastest acting and makes you feel good all over.


You might be feeling rather stupid the morning after with a hangover, but you don't have to talk like an idiot!

The term's etymology shouldn't be too hard to figure out: it's derived from the action of hanging over the damn toilet in the morning. Here's a few lesser-known synonyms and colloquialisms for hangover:

-Babbelas (South African slang)
-Veisalgia (Medical)
-Overhung (English Slang)
-Greek Flu (English slang)
-Two-Day Terry (Australian, describing a 2-day hangover, named in honor of Terry Wogan)
-Bleary Eyed (Australian slang)
-A Bit Gone English/Australian slang

& various websites
Thousands of years after the first "morning after the night before", we can send people to the Moon and create computers of mind-numbing power, yet we are still far away from a science-based, experimentally verified hangover cure. Why? The simple answer is that in the eyes of most governments, doctors and industries, a hangover cure would trigger a catastrophic upsurge in alcohol abuse, tempting mild drinkers to overindulge. Hangovers are, after all, nature's way of saying "don't do this to yourself" ...

I expect most of us have done it - gone out on a drinking binge, or even stayed at home and had a few too many, only to suffer terribly the next day. If you haven't yet experienced this, don't worry, the chances are that you will one day!

The classic symptoms of a hangover can sometimes begin even before your drinking session has stopped. It starts with a headache, then maybe feeling dizzy, nausea, vomiting. It's time to stop drinking and take precautions - these are well documented above by stepnwolf, but at this early stage I personally find drinking as much water as possible to be the most helpful.

A truly bad hangover can make you feel very ill for a long time after you stop drinking and the alcohol has cleared from your system. Your heart rate soars and your body overheats. You sweat and become dehydrated, you feel like you have the 'flu'. Your neuromuscular performance is impaired and your reaction times are slow; EEG scans show decreased brain wave activity for up to 16 hours after the alcohol has cleared from your bloodstream.

So what is a hangover? Is it just our body reminding us that we have just tried to poison ourselves? Is it our brain crying out, "Remember: don't ever do that again!"?

The fact is that hangovers are still poorly understood, and the reasons behind them are many and various.


  • There is no doubt that toxins are produced in the body as a result of the liver breaking down alcohol - the main culprit here is acetaldehyde. This is broken down by an enzyme to harmless acetic acid, but the rate of breakdown depends on your speed of drinking, your gender and ethnic background - Oriental Asians in particular are deficient in acetaldehyde dehydrogenase.


  • Dehydration is another major factor in causing a hangover. Alcohol is diuretic - it makes you pee more! Just when your body needs extra fluid to help dilute the toxins, you're flushing valuable water down the toilet. This is why drinking water last thing before going to bed helps to reduce or prevent a hangover.



  • Not only are you passing more water than your body would like, but you are draining your system of vitamins and salts. Calcium, magnesium, potassium, and vitamins B1, B2, C are lost in the urine, and vomiting or diarrhea lead to a further loss of potassium and magnesium. Changes in blood potassium levels can cause muscle weakness, headache, changes in heart rate and general fatigue.


  • The type of alcoholic beverage is linked to the severity of the hangover. In general clear, colourless drinks such as vodka, gin and white wine are far less likely to give you a hangover. Bourbon is one of the worst offenders; red wine, port, brandy and tequila fall somewhere in the middle. This effect is due to the presence of chemicals called congeners - a group which includes methyl alcohol, aldehydes, histamine, tannins, tyramine, iron, lead and cobalt. As a rule of thumb, the cheaper the booze, the worse the hangover - cheap brands of whisky and champagne are especially notorious. Also cheap wines that haven't been laid down for long enough contain high levels of 'nasties' and are to be avoided.


May what goes down not come back up again - Traditional toast


Sources include:

The unpleasant physical aftereffects from the use of alcohol (commonly called hangover) derive from excessive consumption of ethanol. Once the chemical reaches the stomach, about 20% of it make it straight to the bloodstream (the remaining 80% are absorbed by the small intestine). Once in the circulatory system, about 10% of the ethanol is eliminated by sweat, urine or exhaled through the lungs, while the remaining 90% build up in our toxin-processing plant, the liver, and primarily affect the Central Nervous System (CNS), causing the sensation of being drunk.

Inside the liver, hepatocyte cells produce enzymes that degrade ethanol into acetaldehyde, an even more poisonous substance that affects the oesophagus, liver, stomach, intestines and brain linings, causing gastritis, nausea, diarrhea and heartburn. In normal conditions (i.e. small quantities), acetaldehyde is converted into relatively harmless acetic acid by another enzyme, and drained from the liver to the bladder for imminent elimination. When acetaldehyde builds up within the body because of excess consumption, hangovers are likely to appear within hours.

This goes for the general principle, but things can get worse depending on what you have been drinking. Brown alcohols (rum, gold tequila, whiskey, etc.) contain a large quantity (as much as 2% by volume) of methanol, a substance that takes 10 times longer than ethanol to break down. If you can choose, go for clearer spirits, like vodka, which contain the least methanol.

One of the main impacts of alcohol byproducts on the organism is dehydratation. Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning that it prevents the kidneys from saving dihydrogen oxide from urine. The result is an excess loss of water, in quantities greater than those taken while drinking alcohol. The deficit of water is compensated by the body borrowing from stockpiled water in organs such as the brain. The loss of water in the brain causes it to shrink slightly, and because the brain's dura (the cortex enveloppe) is connected to the skull by pain-sensitive filaments, the deformation is likely to cause hangover-related headaches.

To make matters even worse, alcohol alters the flow of electrolyte ions through brain cells, slowing down the inter-neuronal transmission rate. Also, the liver glycogen reserve tends to deplete as alcohol breaks it down to glucose, which goes straight to the bladder for elimination (the glucose deficit is primarily responsible for shakiness, diziness, excessive sweating, blurred vision and tiredness).

You probably didn't know all this, notably that your brain shrank after binge drinking. Neither did I, and that's why I woke up with a bad headache at 04:00 pm today.

And I'm glad it was only vodka, methanol-wise.


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