International Hangover Day 2022: Experts Explain Science Behind Sore Head

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August 6 is International Hangover Day and it is no coincidence that it falls the day after International Beer Day.

Anyone who drinks alcohol has probably gone through a time when they felt a little rough as a result of the previous night’s revelry. On the occasion of International Hangover Day, News week asked scientists to explain the biological basis of a hangover.

“In some ways, a hangover is best described as a mini-withdrawal syndrome where the body reacts to drinking too much with opposing physiological responses,” Dr. George F. Koob, director of the US National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, said.

“Once alcohol enters the brain, brain circuits begin to adapt to minimize the disruptions caused by alcohol and return circuits to their basic level of functioning. As a result of this acute tolerance, when the alcohol wears off, activity in circuits that were suppressed by alcohol are now exceeding baseline activity levels,” he added.

Two experts explained the science behind hangovers to Newsweek, explaining why binge drinking makes you feel bad the next day. The stock photo above shows a group of friends toasting with shots of alcohol.
Marcos Elihu/Castillo Ramirez/Getty

For example, alcohol initially slows down activity in the brain’s amygdala, which is responsible for processing emotions. This reduces anxiety, but rebound excitation in the amygdala the next day can contribute to the increase in anxiety and irritability during a hangover.

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“Likewise, circuits initially activated by alcohol may be less active for a while when the alcohol wears off. While alcohol initially increases activity of the reward system in the brain, muted reward activity may contribute to malaise and anhedonia during a hangover,” he said. koob. News week.

There are many other ways alcohol can contribute to a hangover. For example, alcohol irritates the lining of the stomach and increases acid release, which can contribute to nausea and upset stomach during hangovers.

“Alcohol converts to acetaldehyde, a toxic metabolite that causes inflammation and damages TBEN. Acetaldehyde’s contribution to hangovers remains uncertain. While alcohol can reduce the amount of time it takes to fall asleep, it disrupts sleep architecture and reduces sleep. total sleep time, which could contribute to fatigue the next day,” Koob added.

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dr. Sally Adams, an associate professor of psychology specializing in alcohol and addiction at the University of Birmingham, said that when the amount of alcohol in the blood approaches zero, the body tries to convert it into waste products that can be removed from the blood. body.

“To do this, the body synthesizes a toxic chemical that makes us feel unwell, sick and nauseous,” she said. News week. “At the same time, after consuming alcohol, we see inflammation in the stomach and small intestine, dehydration and an imbalance in electrolytes. Together, these effects can make us feel pretty awful.”

Adams said to date there is “no convincing evidence” for a product that prevents or reduces a hangover.

“Probably because it has many complex effects on the body and brain and most remedies focus on just one, which is water for dehydration. The only way to prevent a hangover is by not drinking or drinking in moderation, Adams added.

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Koob said drinkers should avoid the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025, US Department of Health and Human Services and US Department of Agriculture for alcohol. According to the three, adults of legal drinking age can choose not to drink or drink in moderation. Men should limit their intake to two drinks or less per day, while women should limit themselves to one drink or less per day.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” Koob said. “Spreading out drinks and food throughout the evening can reduce overall consumption and protect the stomach from immediate irritation. While there are many purported hangover remedies on the market, compelling evidence of effectiveness remains elusive. Preferred strategies for dealing with the discomfort of a hangover vary considerably, but water, rest and time seem to be common components.”

Koob concludes that a hangover is not only miserable but also dangerous. “During a hangover, attention, decision-making, memory and muscle coordination can all be affected. These effects make it more difficult to do things like drive a car, ride a bike, fly planes, or even perform surgery. So while the alcohol may be gone, the ability to perform important tasks can still be compromised.”

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