Alcohol Hangover Symptoms

Last Updated: December 10, 2019

What is a Hangover?

A hangover is the experience of an unpleasant series of symptoms that occur as a consequence of excessive alcohol consumption. The severity of a hangover is dependent on many factors, including age, genetics, weight, and the type and amount of alcohol consumed.1  Hangovers typically begin when blood alcohol content significantly drops and returns to about zero, with most people feeling the full effects of a hangover by the time they wake up in the morning following a night of heavy drinking.2 Hangover symptoms can significantly impair cognitive functioning and affect any planned activities, sometimes lasting for up to 24 hours.3 

Symptoms of a Hangover

The symptoms of a hangover vary from person to person and are dependent on the quantity of alcohol consumed.4 Typical hangover symptoms include:5 
  • Fatigue.
  • Drowsiness.
  • Weakness.
  • Thirst and dry mouth.
  • Sleepiness.
  • Headache. 
  • Muscle aches.
  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Stomach pain.
  • Sensitivity to light and sound.
  • Anxiety.
  • Irritability.
  • Reduced alertness.
  • Sweating.
  • Shakiness.
  • Decreased ability to concentrate.
  • Rapid heartbeat.
  • Increased blood pressure.

Treatment Options

Despite the plethora of various over-the-counter pills and tablets that claim to prevent or cure hangovers, there is no compelling evidence suggesting that any such intervention is effective. In fact, the most effective remedy for avoiding the symptoms of a hangover is to abstain from alcohol or drink in moderation.6  Hangover symptoms that follow a single night’s drinking will go away on their own, but there are some things that can be done that may help to minimize the severity of a hangover. If you choose to drink, it may be beneficial to:4
  • Eat before and while drinking.
  • Drink beverages with fewer congeners (components of alcoholic beverages produced during fermentation that make a hangover worse).7
  • Stay hydrated by sipping water between drinks.
  • Know your limits and do not feel pressured to drink beyond them.
  • Take it slow, and try to drink no more than one drink per hour. 
The occurrence of regular hangovers can easily begin to negatively impact personal relationships, work performance, and overall quality of life. Prolonged and heavy drinking can also lead to alcohol withdrawal upon the sudden cessation of alcohol use.  The range of symptoms associated with alcohol withdrawal can be very painful and uncomfortable and may include trembling, insomnia, headache, and anxiety, as well as other more serious physical and mental symptoms such as hallucinations, seizures, and delirium tremens.8   If you or a loved one are experiencing alcohol withdrawal or suffering from the effects of an alcohol use disorder, please know effective treatment for alcohol problems is widely available. Please contact an addiction specialist at a professional alcohol rehab center today to learn more about the individualized therapy options that can best serve you as you begin your path to lasting recovery. 

Sources

  1. The New York Times. (2018). Do Hangovers Get Worse as We Age?
  2. Alcohol Hangover Research Group. (2010). The alcohol hangover research group consensus statement on best practice in alcohol hangover research. Current Drug Abuse Reviews, 3(2), 116-126.
  3. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2019). Hangovers.
  4. Mayo Clinic. (2017). Hangovers.
  5. Penning, R., McKinney, A., & Verster, J.C. (2012). Alcohol hangover symptoms and their contribution to the overall hangover severity. Alcohol and Alcoholism, 47(3), 248-252.
  6. Pittler, M.H., Verster, J.C., & Ernst, E. (2005). Interventions for preventing or treating alcohol hangover: systematic review of randomized controlled trials. BMJ, 331(7531), 1515-1518.
  7. Rohsenow, D.J., & Howland, J. (2010). The role of beverage congeners in hangover and other residual effects of alcohol intoxication: a review. Current Drug Abuse Reviews, 3(2), 76-79
  8. Harvard Health Publishing. (2019). Alcohol Withdrawal.
Last Updated on December 10, 2019
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