How Long Does A Hangover Last

In Diagnosis & Treatment by Dr. Clinton Osborn

A hangover occurs after drinking alcohol heavily from the previous night. An individual with a hangover will experience symptoms of dizziness, headache, confusion, sleepiness, and thirst. It usually occurs in the morning after a heavy night of drinking, but it can occur anytime during the day.
A person with a hangover may experience high levels of anxiety, depression, shame, and embarrassment. The severity of the symptoms depends on how much alcohol was consumed, the amount of sleep that the person has, weight, and other factors. Because of these factors, it’s difficult to determine how long a hangover lasts.
At GuruMD, we know it’s a pain to go to the doctor for a hangover (not to mention potentially embarrassing). Using our guide and an online consultation with GuruMD, you can use an online doctor to help you treat your symptoms.
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How long does a hangover last?

A hangover typically lasts up to 72 hours after drinking, but it might be shorter or longer depending on other factors. It may correlate to how much a person consumes, dehydration levels, ethnicity, gender, nutritional status, liver health, medication, and much more.

What Affects The Duration of The Hangover?

Even though 5 to 8 drinks for men and 3 to 5 drinks for women is the adequate amount of alcohol to cause a hangover, the dosage differs between each individual. Certain eating habits can reduce the ability to metabolize acetaldehyde (a compound found in alcohol), so the byproduct will accumulate. In turn, this leads to flushing of the skin. With that in mind, a hangover would last longer for these groups.
People who are vulnerable to migraines have more issues with hangovers. In addition to that, if you are taking medication that speeds up the liver function, then you will be able to metabolize alcohol faster. The duration of your hangover will be greatly reduced. However, if you take medications that inhibit the liver’s function, you risk reducing your liver’s ability to metabolize alcohol efficiently. This leads to an accumulation of toxins and byproducts, resulting in more prolonged hangovers. With that in mind, we can safely say that a woman with low body mass taking prescription painkillers will have problems with a few drinks, while a 250-pound linebacker who enjoys his daily six-pack beers a night may not experience much of a hangover.
How fast you drink can also play a significant role in breaking down the alcohol component. The quicker you drink, the harder it is for the liver to metabolize the alcohol substance, therefore leading to longer-lasting hangovers. Another thing to keep in mind is that darker beverages such as brandy, whiskey, tequila, and red wine causes more severe hangovers than clear drinks like gin and vodka.

How Does Alcohol Affect The Brain and the Body?

The first symptom of alcohol intoxication usually starts with a pleasurable sensation in the brain. You will feel relaxed, satisfied and enthusiastic about life. As you increase your consumption, you will experience blurry vision and your reaction time will start to decrease. Your coordination and perception become incredibly unreliable. You will begin to make poor judgments, reduce concentration levels, and your speech will slur. As you continue to drink more, you will experience confusion, memory blackout, lethargy, vomiting, and suppress the respiratory system.
The mechanism of action often occurs when the stomach absorbs the alcohol content and delivers it to the bloodstream, where it travels to the brain. It can affect the nerve cells and cause the release of chemical signals like GABA that lead in pleasure and decrease inhibition on the frontal lobe. The motor pathway becomes stimulated  and the blood sugar processing system becomes less effective. As more ethanol enters, you will start experiencing a sedating effect.
In the body, alcohol can cause increased urination which then results in dehydration. The blood vessels in the skin can dilate, resulting in increased cardiac output and flushing. The liver will start working extremely hard to get rid of ethanol, and may not be able to regulate blood sugar levels adequately. With constant drinking, it can lead to liver scarring, which can eventually result in cirrhosis. Alcohol is extremely acidic and toxic, so it could irritate the stomach lining and cause nausea, vomiting, and bleeding. Plus, extra calories that are consumed can easily be converted into fat because of the effects of ethanol. Dehydration and accumulation of acetaldehyde play a significant role in causing a hangover. In addition to that, blood chemistry, sleep process, inflammatory chemicals, hormones, and various other processes can affect the length of the hangover.
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What Are The Treatment for Hangover?

There are various treatments for hangovers that you should take a look at. That way, the next time you drink shots at a party, you will know what to do to get rid of those annoying headaches in the morning.

Water

During the hangover process, people are often getting very dehydrated. It’s important to replenish with plenty of water throughout the day. This can help regain balance in your body system to reduce the hangover symptoms.

Electrolyte

Alcohol can deplete vital nutrients and electrolytes. The best remedy would be to get some Gatorade or any sports drinks with electrolytes to replenish your system.

Eating

Eating bland foods such as bread and crackers can ease your stomach. The best type of food would be chicken soup with rice mixed into it. The plain rice can soothe the stomach, and the chicken soup can provide nutrients and electrolytes.

Pain

If the headache is unbearable, a painkiller can help mitigate the symptoms. Keep in mind that acetaminophen, like Tylenol, can be detrimental to the liver in high concentrations, and aspirin can be erosive to the stomach. It’s best to talk to the pharmacist about this to get a better idea of which type of painkiller can reduce your symptoms.

Rest

Having a good night’s sleep can help speed up the recovery process. It’s also a good idea to have water next to the bed, to rehydrate in the morning.

Take Home Message

Alcohol can help people relax during a social occasion, but too much of it can lead to a hangover in the morning. This is mainly because of dehydration, loss of electrolytes, and changes in the brain and body system. A hangover typically lasts for 72 hours, but it can be more or less depending on the person’s race, weight, gender, age, and other factors. With that in mind, it’s essential to get plenty of rest, hydration, and electrolyte after a night out of drinking. Therefore, it can help you recover faster from a hangover. Consult a licensed physician online to find out more.
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