What are Typical Hangover Symptoms?
Drinking Too Much: What Causes A Hangover And What Are The Symptoms?
A vast majority of people who have consumed alcohol in excess can attest to the unpleasantness of the “morning after.” This is such a common occurrence in the adult human experience that it has its own special word: the dreaded “hangover.” While hangovers can occur after the excessive consumption of most drugs that cause cognitive impairment, alcoholic hangovers are by far the most common.
Anyone who has experienced the hangover phenomenon knows that it is not pleasant, but many people may not understand what causes these symptoms. In this article we will explore why hangovers occur, the possible symptoms of hangover, and how to treat them.
What Is A Hangover?
As outlined above, a hangover is the set of physical and psychological consequences that eventually follows the excessive consumption of alcohol.The severity of hangover symptoms can depend on a number of factors including age, metabolism, weight, and amount and type of alcohol consumed.
Hangover effects begin to become apparent when the blood alcohol content (BAC) of the individual begins to drop. As BAC drops and blood returns to its normal, alcohol-free state, this change can have physical and psychological effects on the person. Because of this, most people begin to feel the most severe effects of a hangover when they wake in the morning after drinking. While asleep, the liver has worked to remove alcohol from the blood, leading to hangover symptoms.
Nausea, Dizziness, Vomiting, and Other Hangover Symptoms
The amount and type of alcohol consumed plays a big factor in how severe hangover symptoms can be, ranging from mild to debilitating. There are a whole host of other factors that can contribute to hangover symptoms as well.
These factors may include:
Drowsiness may be a side effect of alcohol consumption, causing a person to fall asleep or “pass out.” Anyone who has experienced this effect may realize that this type of “sleep” does not provide the body and mind with the quality of rest that it needs to function properly. Alcohol can cause fragmented, disrupted sleep that may contribute to drowsiness the next day along with a significant loss of productivity.
The biggest contributing factor to hangover symptoms may indeed be dehydration. The consumption of alcohol can suppress the release of a hormone called vasopressin. This hormone is produced by the brain and sends signals to the kidneys, telling them to retain fluid. As a result of this disruption, alcohol increases urination and excess loss of fluids. The result is dehydration which is a major contributing factor to other symptoms such as thirst, fatigue, and headache.
Alcohol has an astringent effect that causes irritation to the sensitive lining of the stomach and intestines. It causes the stomach to produce more bile or stomach acid, leading to indigestion. Irritation of the intestinal lining can cause mild to severe discomfort.
Along with stomach and intestinal issues, alcohol can contribute to the inflammation of many soft tissues in the body such as muscles, joints, and tendons. This may lead to an overall soreness or sick feeling that can interfere with daily life.
Like many chemical reactions, when the liver processes alcohol it produces by-products. One of these by-products is a compound called acetaldehyde. This compound is a toxic, short-lived byproduct that can contribute to the inflammation of the liver, pancreas, brain, gastrointestinal tract, and other organs.
Many people seek alcohol intoxication because it has positive effects such as calmness, relaxation, and even euphoria. The brain is a very complex and effective organ that quickly adjusts to the presence of alcohol in the body as it tries to maintain chemical balance. This concept is the basis of chemical dependence and may lead to feelings of increased depression and anxiety once BAC returns to a normal level.
Other symptoms related to issues above may also occur. These symptoms may include
- Sensitivity to light and sound
- Muscle aches
- Reduced alertness
- Decreased ability to concentrate
- Rapid heart rate
- Increased blood pressure
Because the human race is such a diverse category, alcohol will naturally affect people differently. One person may experience a severe version of every one of these symptoms while another person may not experience any symptoms at all.
Because of this, it is also impossible to determine a set number of alcoholic beverages that will lead to hangover symptoms. There is no “magic number” to avoid, and it is important to understand that whenever someone consumes enough alcohol to become intoxicated, there is always a chance for hangover symptoms to develop.
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Treating A Hangover
From the dawn of human civilization people have been developing hangover “cures.” Certain cultural foods, drinks, and various remedies have been touted as hangover cures for thousands of years. The effectiveness of these methods may vary, but it shows that people have been trying to solve the problem of alcohol overconsumption for a very long time.
In the modern age there have been many over-the-counter remedies and medications that boats the ability to prevent, reverse, or cure hangovers.There has been no convincing evidence to suggest that any of these remedies will cure a hangover, but they may treat the individual symptoms that present themselves.
Many people swear by over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. While this may help relieve some of the pain associated with hangovers, these medications can irritate the stomach and overload the liver, causing more intense issues.
Other people may drink electrolyte sports drinks in an effort to restore hydration balance to their body after drinking. Staying hydrated is very important when dealing with the symptoms of a hangover.
The only proven way to prevent a hangover is to avoid the overconsumption of alcohol, plain and simple. Modern society has tried time and time again to “have its cake and eat it too,” meaning that there have been innumerable attempts to isolate the positive effects of alcohol consumption while eliminating the negative effects of alcohol hangovers.
The passage of time will remedy the hangover effects of one night of drinking a vast majority of the time. The symptoms typically dissipate within 24 hours of alcohol leaving the system. While there are no known or preventative cures for the symptoms of hangovers, there are some precautions that you can take prior to or during alcohol consumption that may lessen the severity of symptoms.
These precautions include
- Eat before and while drinking. As we now know, alcohol irritates the lining of the stomach, so it is important to have food in your stomach to avoid gastrointestinal issues.
- Limit sugary alcoholic drinks as much as possible. Sugar can contribute to dehydration and worsen the effects of a hangover.
- Fight the effects of dehydration by drinking water between every alcoholic drink that you consume.
- Listen to your body and know your limits. Resist the pressure to drink more than you can realistically handle.
- The liver can only process one alcoholic drink per hour. Following this rule is a good way to avoid hangover.
If a person regularly experiences hangovers it can negatively impact every aspect of their life. It can lead to increased anxiety, irritability and other personality changes that can affect relationships at work and home.
With the frequent excessive consumption of alcohol, you may also run the risk of developing a physical dependence which can lead to alcohol withdrawal. Alcohol withdrawal can have life-threatening consequences, so it is highly recommended that you seek detoxification under the supervision of licensed medical professionals. This can be achieved by seeking treatment for alcohol use disorder.
Generally, alcohol addiction treatment will either be inpatient or outpatient, and the common purpose is to have professionals guide you through detoxification, withdrawal, and give you the tools to live a sober life. With both inpatient and outpatient detox, to achieve sobriety you have to want it.
Outpatient detoxification therapy is usually only administered when a person has been using alcohol for a short period of time, and is pretty much healthy in all other respects. They may only be experiencing mild withdrawal. Inpatient detoxification therapy generally takes place on site and lasts a bit longer, because the patient is likely to be experiencing acute withdrawal and may not be able to maintain sobriety without supervision.
With A Nationwide Network Of Treatment Facilities, Vertava Health Is Here To Help
If you feel as though you or a loved one has developed an issue with alcohol, Vertava Health is here to offer guidance. Call us today at 877-630-2970 to start your journey towards lasting recovery.
To better understand what alcoholic hangovers are and how to avoid them, we’ve compiled a list of frequently asked questions:
- What does being hungover feel like?
A hangover caused by alcohol consumption may feel like a vague sickness and include soreness, headache, sweating, and trouble sleeping. There are also mental symptoms that may include depression and anxiety.
- What actually causes a hangover?
Hangovers are caused by a number of different factors. The largest contributing factor to most of the of major physical symptoms is dehydration. Alcohol tells your body to stop retaining fluids, causing frequent urination and dehydration.
- How long does a hangover last?
The majority of hangovers subside within 24 hours of alcohol leaving the bloodstream after one night of drinking. If alcohol has been consumed for more than one night, the effects of hangover may compound and even be dangerous. It is important to realize that if you think you may be suffering from alcohol use disorder, detoxification under the supervision of medical professionals is highly recommended.