No Hangover Cure

If There's a Cure for Hangover, Science Hasn't Found It

Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on December 22, 2005
From the WebMD Archives

Dec. 22, 2005 -- If you are reading this with one bleary eye, with pain in your head, and a vulture-like taste in your desert-dry mouth, this won't be good news.

Science has never found a hangover cure that works.

Sure, everyone has a pet hangover remedy. And the Internet hums with hope of hangover help (cash up front, please). Do any of these things -- or anything at all -- cure a hangover?

A team of medical researchers including Max H. Pittler, MD, of the Universities of Exeter and Plymouth, U.K., tried to find out. They consulted the experts. They looked in every medical journal, and at every scientific meeting report, in every language. And here's what they found out:

"No compelling evidence exists to suggest that any conventional or complementary intervention is effective for preventing or treating alcohol hangover," Pittler and colleagues write in the Dec. 24-31 issue of the BMJ.

From Aspirin to Prickly Pears

Pittler's team found pitifully few clinical trials of hangover cures. These trials tested dietary supplements such as prickly pear, borage, yeast, and artichoke. They tested the drug Inderal and fruit sugar and an antivomiting drug called tropisetron (Navoban).


A couple of the cures seemed to help a few symptoms. But the results were far from convincing, Pittler and colleagues say.

The biggest problem seems to be that doctors have never come up with a clear-cut, testable description of hangover symptoms. And exactly how drinking too much alcohol causes hangovers isn't entirely clear.

"Until the pathology of alcohol hangover is understood in more detail, an effective intervention is likely to remain elusive," Pittler and colleagues write.

There is, however, an absolutely certain way to prevent hangovers.

"Practice abstinence or moderation," the researchers advise.

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SOURCES: Pittler, M.H. British Medical Journal, Dec. 24-31, 2005; vol 331: pp 1515-1517.
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