Alcohol hangovers are more significant and costly than people realize, new research shows. Although individuals may be "street legal" to drive a car, or go to work and operate machinery, they can be just as impaired with a hangover as if they were over the alcohol limit. These observations and others will be shared at the 41st annual scientific meeting of the Research Society on Alcoholism (RSA) in San Diego June 17-21.
"Alcohol hangovers have a significant impact on safety through impairment, and on the economy through absenteeism," said Chris Alford, associate professor in applied psychology University of the West of England. "The different symptoms of a hangover involve a range of physiological and other responses. Furthermore, people are different and so suffer a range of symptoms. Therefore, what works best for one person may not work well for another."
Alford will discuss hangover-treatment options at the RSA meeting on June 19.
"Current treatments can provide symptomatic relief," said Alford. "For example, the caffeine in a strong coffee will not sober you up, but it may help you feel more alert the day after a night of drinking. A headache pill may help a pounding headache, and drinking water will overcome thirst. However, generally feeling 'unwell' is likely linked to the alcohol metabolites, or chemical breakdown products, that are still in your brain and body. We need to develop treatments that directly target the alcohol metabolites that produce the hangover symptoms."
Alford added that research shows that, even if you think you are immune, you will get a hangover if you drink enough. "Because hangovers produce impairment that affects safety," he advised, "give a miss to the types of drink that you know give you a hangover, and drink moderately to avoid a hangover – it's just common sense."