Scientific experts do not know why people get hangovers. A few possible reasons may exist but hangover prevention and treatment are in the very early stages of comprehension. Much variation exists depending on a person-by-person scenario. Learn more about the common symptoms of hangovers, possible causes and what to do if a loved one is struggling with alcohol.
Signs and Symptoms
Typical signs of a person with a hangover are physical illness. Some emotional symptoms may be demonstrated as well. The following signs may or may not appear depending on the individual and severity of the hangover:
- Decreased attention and concentration
- Decreased REM sleep
- Muscle aches
- Stomach pain
The Science of Hangovers
The precise cause of hangovers has not yet been identified. Hangovers are still an elusive condition not well understood by the scientific community. Although many signs and symptoms are known, it is not well known why some people get the symptoms and others do not. Scientists and doctors who study hangovers are not even sure what causes it to happen but the current theory rests on three possibilities:
- Direct effects of alcohol on the body
- After effects of alcohol on the body
- Combination of both
Some of the following other causes may be reasons hangovers start.
Acetaldehyde – a by-product of alcohol metabolism, some experts believe if acetaldehyde builds up on the body, toxic effects of the condition may mirror hangover symptoms. Some people are genetically unable to metabolize it quickly and experience toxicity symptoms (hangover).
Dehydration or electrolyte imbalance – alcohol is a diuretic and increased urination can bring on dehydration
Drug use – smoking cigarettes, marijuana, taking cocaine or using other drugs can contribute to symptoms of a hangover
Gastrointestinal problems – alcohol can inflame the lining of the stomach, produce fatty liver and increase gastric acid or secretions from the pancreas and intestines
Genetics – a history of alcoholism in the family may be associated with a tendency for increased hangover symptoms
Low blood sugar – when the body metabolizes or processes alcohol, the process may inhibit glucose production and result in hypoglycemia
Methanol – a compound present in some alcoholic beverages created during fermentation, methanol may contribute to a hangover. It is best to avoid run, red wine, brandy and whiskey which contain methanol
Psychological traits – increased hangover symptoms occur more often in people who display neuroticism, anger and defensive traits. Negative life events and guilty feelings about drinking may lead to hangovers.
Hangovers result from drinking but not much is known how it affects a person’s thinking. People do get hangovers after drinking alcohol. Generally, the more a person drinks, the greater the effects of a hangover. For some people, a problem with drinking develops where it is hard to stop. In this case, it is wise to pursue treatment or help to quit problem drinking before it gets worse.
If you or a loved one are not able to quit drinking alcohol on your own, it may be time to seek treatment. Call The Villa to find out how we can help support your journey to sobriety.