No Surprise: Study Finds Avoiding Alcohol is the Only Hangover Prevention

Turns out you can't trust those anti-hangover home remedies.

You’ve tried it all: chasing drinks with water, drinking only beer, drinking only clear liquor, or binging on late night fries. But you still wake up with a pounding headache, nausea, dry mouth and that feeling you were run over by a mack truck.

Hangovers aren’t fun and everyone has their own theories about how to prevent them. However, new research suggests that hangovers may be an inevitable after-effect of drinking too much, no matter what “tricks” you use to avoid them.

Hair of the Dog

A study from the Netherlands and Canada found that a vast majority of drinkers experience hangovers after a night of heavy drinking, regardless of what kind of alcohol they consumed or over what length of time.

Researchers surveyed 800 Canadian students on the night they drank the most in the previous month. They were asked to recall how much they drank over how long and the severity of their hangover the next day, if they had one. Almost all of them did.

After estimating the students’ peak blood alcohol concentration (BAC), researchers found that 89% of students with a BAC of 0.08 or higher had hangovers the next day. To put it in perspective, this is the legal limit for driving in the US; so if you’re too drunk to drive, you’re probably going to feel it the next morning.

An even higher portion of the participants, 92 percent to be exact, got hangovers if they had a BAC of .1 or higher; 98 percent of those with a BAC of .2 or higher woke up hungover. Those are some pretty steep odds.

Unavoidable Consequences

Put simply, “the more you drink, the more likely you are to get a hangover,” said lead researcher Joris Verster, Ph.D., assistant professor of pharmacology at Utrecht University.

The findings back up a previous study, also led by Verster, that found downing water or eating food after drinking only slightly decreased hangover symptoms the next day. In that study, 826 Dutch students were surveyed about a night of heavy drinking.

More than half followed their drinking with a meal, including fatty foods like fries, in the hopes of avoiding hangovers. More than two-thirds of the students drank water while drinking, and half drank water right before bed.

Although these groups reportedly felt slightly better in the morning than those who didn’t eat or drink water, their hangover symptoms, mainly nausea and headache, were just about as severe. Said Verster: “drinking water may help against thirst and a dry mouth, but it will not take away the misery, the headache and the nausea.”

Lingering Hangover Questions

This is because dehydration may contribute to hangovers, but it doesn’t cause them, and scientists still don’t know what does.

“Research has concluded that it’s not simply dehydration—we know the immune system is involved, but before we know what causes [hangovers], it’s very unlikely we’ll find an effective cure,” said Verster.

Until they find out, the solution is simple: lay off the booze.


Additional Reading: Study: Your Genes Could Make You a Compulsive Drinker


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