Hangover from Alcohol
Alcohol has been a facet of human life since prehistory; just as the vast majority of adults (and by no means a small proportion of adolescents) in the UK have had the experience of being drunk at least once, so too have they endured that least sympathy-inducing malaise, a hangover. Unfortunately, however, for some people trapped in the web of addiction hangover becomes a daily ordeal, and one which many feel they can only dispel via the consumption of yet more drink.
What is a Hangover?
Hangover is the experience of a combination of unpleasant effects – both physical and psychological – caused by the consumption of alcohol (see below for symptoms). It typically strikes upon or shortly after waking on the morning after a night of drinking, although it can set in before sleep, or indeed quite some time after waking (if the affected person has consumed enough to still be drunk in the morning). Hangovers typically last for several hours, although the duration is affected by several factors including the quantity and type of alcohol consumed, the physiology of the individual concerned, and their activities during the hangover.
What Causes Hangover?
Somewhat surprisingly, considering how long human beings have known about hangover, its exact causes are still comparatively poorly understood. Factors contributing to hangover include dehydration, metabolic acidosis, vasodilation (the widening of blood vessels), increase stress and heart, the accumulation of acetaldehyde, disruption to the body’s metabolism of glucose, sleep deprivation and more.
Some specific ingredients in certain drinks including congeners – substances other than alcohol produced during fermentation which are responsible for most of the taste of distilled drinks (spirits) – are also known to play a role, which is why some drinks have come to be considered more likely to cause hangovers than others.
Hangover as an Addiction Symptom
Hangovers are commonly believed to be withdrawal symptoms from alcohol, but they are definitely two different conditions. Hangovers are a result of consuming too much alcohol, while withdrawal is caused by consuming “too little”: when a person is addicted to alcohol and ceases to drink, withdrawal symptoms can set in within a few hours of their last drink (and can be fatal in some cases).
However, there is of course a connection between hangover and addiction, in that an alcohol addict will invariably drink to excess frequently, and will thus suffer from hangovers much more frequently than the average person; this can compel them to recommence drinking upon or shortly after waking, in an attempt to stave off the unpleasant symptoms of hangover.
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What Are the Types of Hangover?
In recent times, partly because of the emergence of the phenomenon of “list articles”, many pieces have been published online describing the various different “types” of hangover one may experience. However, these “types” have no basis in real medicine: each person’s experience of hangover is different (though of course many commonalities may be found). A hangover is a hangover, though any one instance of it may feel very different from another.
What are the Symptoms of Hangover?
Hangover symptoms – which as noted above can increase in severity and duration as a result of numerous factors – typically include nausea, headache, sweating, fatigue, dizziness, diarrhoea and other gastrointestinal problems, problems concentrating, impaired motor control, anxiety, pronounced thirst, dry mouth, loss of appetite, irritability, shivering, tremors, and feelings of general discontent and discomfort.
It is important to remember that because of the time it takes alcohol to leave a person’s system, someone waking after a night of excessive drinking and feeling abnormal may not (yet) be suffering from hangover, but may still be drunk, and affected by an impairment of motor skills and decision-making which can contribute to fatal accidents (especially on the road).
How Is Hangover Diagnosed?
It would be unusual for a formal medical diagnosis of hangover to be required – doctors would typically only be required in more serious scenarios such as alcohol poisoning (and would certainly frown upon anyone seeking their attention for a mere hangover) – but if it were, diagnosis would correlate the above symptoms with the previous consumption of alcohol.
How Is Hangover Treated?
Hangovers are usually alleviated by basic pain medication, rest, and the consumption of plenty of fluids and, when possible, food. Some people opt for the consumption of more alcohol (“the hair of the dog that bites you”) though for obvious reasons this is not recommended by doctors.
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Facilities and organisations providing help to people suffering from alcohol addiction can be found throughout the UK; get in touch with your GP and/or an addiction specialist to discuss treatment options which may be available to you.
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