What Is A Hangover?

A hangover is characterized by multiple unpleasant physical and mental symptoms that occur as a result of heavy alcohol consumption. Physical symptoms include fatigue, weakness, thirst, headache, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, decreased sleep, sensitivity to light, and bloodshot eyes. Other less serious symptoms include dizziness, vertigo, depression, anxiety, and irritability. More severe symptoms can be extremely dangerous and include increased systolic blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, tremors, dehydration, and sweating.

What Factors Lead To A Hangover?

The symptoms of a hangover range from person to person and can depend on the type of alcohol consumed and the amount consumed. In general, a hangover will occur within several hours after drinking has ended, when the person’s Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) starts to fall.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, there are multiple factors that contribute to a hangover. Among them are the direct physiological effects of alcohol on the brain, the withdrawal of alcohol from the body, alcohol’s diuretic nature causing dehydration, alcohol-induced low blood sugar, restricted food intake, disturbed sleep, use of other drugs, and certain personal characteristics.

Non-Alcohol-Related Factors That Cause Hangovers

In addition to the physiological effects that alcohol has on the body, there are also other factors that don’t involve alcohol that lead to hangovers. Combining other drugs with alcohol is believed to affect hangovers since many drugs can lead to hangover symptoms by themselves and can influence alcohol intoxication.

Certain characteristics and personality traits can potentially factor into alcohol hangovers. There is some existing evidence that suggests increased hangover symptoms occur in people with aggressive, defensive, and neurotic tendencies. Negative events in someone’s life and feelings of guilt with alcohol consumption also have been reported to contribute to increased hangovers.

Research has also found that a family history of alcoholism may be linked to the occurrence of hangovers because it increases one’s risk of developing alcoholism themselves.

The Connection Between Alcoholism And Hangovers

Among the studies that have looked at the relationship of alcohol hangovers and varying contributing factors, it was found that those with a higher risk of developing alcoholism were at a greater risk for experiencing hangovers. Those with a risk of alcoholism experienced more acute withdrawal and hangover symptoms which may have encouraged them to continue drinking to avoid the unpleasant symptoms.

Alcohol withdrawal (AW syndrome) occurs when someone stops drinking and the body eliminates the alcohol. AW may cause nervous system hyperactivity, including tremors, sweating, and increased heart rate, which are symptoms also observed in hangovers.

Can Someone Addicted to Alcohol Become Tolerant To Hangovers?

While repeated alcohol consumption can lead to tolerance, it doesn’t mean that someone will become tolerant to alcohol’s after-effects. Alcohol tolerance is the need to drink more or drink more often to achieve the desired effects. Someone who has developed a tolerance to alcohol, and addiction in many cases, will also have developed withdrawal.

Withdrawal is a term used to describe the symptoms someone experiences when they stop drinking alcohol or using a drug. Because many of the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal (AW) and alcohol hangovers overlap, an alcoholic is not immune to the effects of a hangover and will continue to crave alcohol due to withdrawal.

Do Hangovers Deter People From Abusing Alcohol?

It seems to make sense that experiencing hangovers would make someone less likely to want to continue drinking. But according to a study led by the University of Missouri and Brown University School of Public Health, hangovers were viewed merely as a temporary annoyance, rather than a reason to quit drinking for many alcoholics. Furthermore, the often overlapped AW symptoms led many alcoholism sufferers to continue to crave alcohol.

The Health Consequences of Alcoholism Go Beyond Hangovers

Alcohol consumption is a big part of our culture, and while it is used to celebrate many wonderful occasions, it can easily become abused. In addition to causing addiction and life-threatening accidents, alcoholism can also lead to organ damage, a weakened immune system, and an increased risk of certain cancers, including mouth, esophagus, pharynx, larynx, liver, and breast. Hangovers from alcohol consumption are only the tip of the iceberg in regards to the adverse health effects of alcohol abuse.

Getting Treatment for Alcoholism

If you suffer from alcoholism, or you have a loved one who does, it is important to know that it is never too late to seek help. Treatment is vast, but some readily available options include the well-known 12-step program, inpatient rehab programs, and outpatient therapies. Whichever treatment you choose, look for a program that involves behavioral therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy, motivational therapy, marital and family counseling, and one-on-one interventions.

All of these therapies are designed to help the person suffering from alcoholism to develop the skills they need to stop or cut back on drinking, build a strong support system, and help them achieve reachable goals.

Treatment may also involve medication to help the person sustain abstinence by easing the effects of withdrawal. When the person in alcohol detox treatment has completed their inpatient or outpatient program, they may choose to join an Alcoholics Anonymous group for continued peer support.

When it comes to receiving treatment for alcoholism, the most important thing to understand is that you or a loved one doesn’t have to go through recovery alone. If you have any questions about treatment for alcoholism and would like help with finding a program near you, contact us today. Our friendly staff will help you figure out the next step towards healing.