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Let’s Talk Genetics and the “Morning After”

It’s true – hangovers are just plain awful. But new research has found that those who are genetically predisposed to alcoholism may actually hold onto the painful memory of them more than the average joe.

Let’s dig in…

Family History Impacts How You Remember Hangovers

Dr. Richard Stephens, a psychologist at Keele University, set out to study hangovers in people with a family history of alcohol use disorder, curious as to whether hangovers – described as unpleasant effects felt the morning after drinking alcohol – had an impact on people who already had a genetic predisposition to drink too much.

To arrive at his conclusion, Dr. Stephens used data from two studies. The first one asked 142 people – 24 of whom had a family history of problem drinking – about the frequency of their hangovers over the last 12 months. Interestingly enough, it was found that this group reported more frequent hangovers – even when researchers controlled the level of drinking across all subjects.

The second study consisted of 49 participants, 17 of whom had a family history of alcoholism. Each was interviewed the morning after a night of drinking. It had previously been thought that those with a genetic predisposition to drink too much would be prone to experiencing more severe hangovers, but this wasn’t the case.

Instead, Dr. Stephens found the opposite: Those with a family background in alcoholism did not experience worse hangover symptoms when compared to those who didn’t have any family history of such.

What Do These Findings Mean?

Dr. Stephens explained these results, stating: “We started off this research by questioning whether hangovers might impact on problem drinking, either positively by providing a natural curb on excessive drinking, or negatively should some drinkers feel compelled to drink through a hangover, known as “the hair of the dog” drinking.”

“Taken together with findings from prior research it appears that people who are predisposed to develop problem drinking are no more susceptible to developing a hangover after a night of alcohol than people who aren’t predisposed. However, we found that such people appear to remember their hangovers more lucidly.

“It may be possible to exploit this lucid memory for hangovers to curb excessive drinking. Reminding problem drinkers of the negative consequences of incapacitating hangover, for example, letting down family members due to abandoned plans, may help them to manage their alcohol consumption.”

The research, entitled “Does familial risk for alcohol use disorder predict alcohol hangover?” was published in the journal Psychopharmacology.

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