Hangovers More of a Headache Than You Think
June 5, 2000 - Everyone has his or her own hangover remedy. Ancient Romans
said eat fried canaries. Modern Greeks in college fraternities say drink more
"hair of the dog that bit you" -- meaning more alcohol. But although
many people swear by their personal hangover cure, a review of more than 100
studies finds that, other than time, only a few things may actually help.
Hangovers may actually be more of a headache than previously thought,
according to Jeffrey G. Wiese, MD. Medical problems associated with hangovers
can be severe for some people. People with heart problems can be at greater
risk for heart attacks, says Wiese, because hangovers put people in a situation
"that is very similar to high stress, and that is an increase in blood
pressure, a high heart rate."
He adds that there is some evidence that blood cells involved in clotting
called platelets become "stickier," thus making blood clots more
likely. Other studies have shown that thinking and performance can be
Wiese and colleagues from the General Internal Medicine Section of the
Veterans Affairs Medical Center in San Francisco reviewed more than 4,700
medical journal articles written about alcohol intoxication since 1965, and
found 108 that addressed the hangover. Their findings were published in a
recent issue of the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.
"It's something that here and there, people toyed with, but nobody ever
really got around to saying how big of a problem this is," Wiese tells
WebMD, adding many people simply view the hangover as penance, nothing more,
One "big purpose" of the review, says Wiese, was to not only alert
the public to the problem of hangovers, but also to raise awareness among
physicians that this is something worth asking your patients about "to try
to assess those who might be at greater risk for alcoholism.
"We need to get over the social sentiment, 'well, that's what you
deserve,' if this is really putting people at risk, and do a better job of
raising awareness so people know that this can cause medical problems,"
Wiese tells WebMD.
But more common than potential medical problems is the muddleheaded feeling
the day after. Robert Cloninger, MD, a well-known researcher in alcohol
studies, defines a hangover quite simply as "feeling bad after
drinking." But it does go beyond just that, Cloninger tells WebMD.
"You don't think as well; you're achy; you're slower; you're really not
functioning a 100%," he says. Cloninger is a professor of psychiatry,
genetics, and psychology at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo.
Wiese writes about the common symptoms of hangovers, predominantly a
headache, then a poor sense of overall well-being, diarrhea, loss of appetite,
shakiness, fatigue, and nausea. The alcohol causes the bad feelings because it
leaves a person dehydrated and malnourished. One debatable theory, Wiese
writes, is that a hangover is the first stage of alcohol withdrawal.