Hangovers More of a Headache Than You Think
Wiese affirms Cloninger's definition, saying multiple studies show decreased
reaction times, less ability to concentrate, lower managerial skills, and
increased risk for injury, even after some of the more obvious hangover
symptoms are gone and alcohol can no longer be detected in the blood.
Wiese describes one study looking at airline pilots, where pilots drank
enough one night to meet the criteria for having a hangover the next day. The
pilots followed an eight-hour "bottle to throttle" standard before
entering a flight simulator. Wiese says even though half of the pilots didn't
feel like they had a hangover, their thought, or cognitive, functions were
"The point being is that many people see being hungover as having a
headache or just not feeling great, but don't recognize that their cognitive
function is actually impaired," says Wiese, "and that may have
implications for whether people decide to work with heavy machinery, decide to
drive, or operate aircraft, for example. People should be aware that their
cognitive function may not be optimal, even though they may not be feeling the
most severe symptoms."
Wiese says 75% of all drinkers will have a hangover in a year, and 15% will
have a hangover at least monthly, which has a large economic impact.
"You're talking about a big part of the American workforce, and if each of
those [people] misses work one or two times a year, and then if you toss on the
decreased productivity from the cognitive decline ... it starts to become a
fairly large opportunity cost, a large loss in productivity," Wiese
Some studies have put the annual cost in the U.S. at a whopping $148 billion
per year, while another researcher estimated the average annual loss to be
about $2,000 per working adult, Wiese writes. Light-to-moderate drinkers cause
87% of all alcohol-related problems in the workplace and, paradoxically, this
same group suffers more hangovers than heavier drinkers.
So, the million-dollar question is, what can be done about hangovers?
Humorist and writer Robert Benchley said, "there is no cure for the
hangover, save death." He was close. Wiese says "prevention" is the
only surefire hangover cure, followed closely by moderation and not drinking on
an empty stomach.
Some studies also have found the only other effective remedies are drinking
plenty of nonalcoholic fluids to rehydrate you, vitamin B6, and prostaglandin
inhibitors -- the class of anti-inflammatory drugs that include ibuprofen and
aspirin, according to Wiese. These should be taken at the time you drink the
alcohol for a small effect in reducing hangover severity.
There was one study of an herbal preparation called Liv.52 that was shown to
reduce hangover symptoms, but Wiese writes the results are suspect because of
the way the study was conducted and because the manufacturer sponsored the