The Hangover: What You Need to Know

physical effects of alcohol hangover

When you drink heavily, you are at risk of a hangover.

Symptoms can begin a few hours after your last drink when your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) begins to drop and peak when your BAC hits zero. These symptoms can last for up to a day and may be extremely disruptive to your ability to function physically and mentally.

Is a hangover an unavoidable effect of drinking? Is it harmless or a danger to your body? Here’s what you need to know.

Signs of a Hangover

Not sure if what you are experiencing is illness or a hangover? The signs and symptoms of a hangover include:

  • Mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Increased heartbeat
  • Shakiness
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Achiness
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Headache
  • Stomachache
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Flatulence
  • Fatigue
  • Sensitivity to light and sound

Additionally, alcohol poisoning may be indicated by the above plus seizures, a drop in body temperature, passing out, vomiting that won’t end, slow and/or irregular breathing, confusion, and/or being in a daze.

Hangover Causes

Of course, a hangover is caused by drinking more alcohol than your body is used to, but it’s specifically caused by:

  • Dehydration: When you drink alcohol, you often urinate more frequently, which can cause you to get dehydrated. Dehydration triggers thirst and lightheadedness, two common hangover symptoms.
  • Inflammation: Too much alcohol can trigger an inflammation response that can negatively impact the ability to concentrate, memory, and appetite.
  • Irritation of the stomach: Increased production of stomach acids is triggered by alcohol consumption – the more you drink, the more stomach acids are produced. This, in turn, slows down how quickly the stomach can empty itself, which can cause symptoms like nausea and vomiting.
  • Low blood sugar: A drop in blood sugar triggered by alcohol intake can be an issue for some drinkers, causing fatigue, shakiness, mood changes, weakness, and more.
  • Poor quality of sleep: “Passing out” while under the influence of alcohol is not the same as getting good quality, restful sleep. Fatigue may be an issue as a result and part of the hangover experience.
  • Dilated blood vessels: Drinking alcohol can cause blood vessels to dilate, which in turn can contribute to the development of a headache.

Hangover Treatment

There is no magical cure for a hangover, but you can address the symptoms and signs you experience and feel better. For example, if you are dehydrated and nauseous, you can sip water throughout the day, and eat bland, simple foods to raise your blood sugar without upsetting your stomach. Often, getting some sleep can help as well, giving the body time to repair itself and rejuvenate.

Avoid a Hangover

Girl feeling a hangoverThe best way to prevent hangover is to avoid excessive alcohol intake. If you are unable to moderate your drinking (e.g., limit yourself to no more than one or two drinks in a 24-hour period), then treatment may be the next step. In fact, an inability to stop drinking despite the experience of negative consequences – including hangovers – is a sign that an alcohol use disorder may be an issue, and when that is the case, treatment services are appropriate.

There are numerous different problems with alcohol that can trigger the need for treatment; thus, there are numerous treatment services that may be a good choice. Each person has a unique experience with alcohol and will benefit from different types of therapies that will help them to learn more effective coping skills while stopping the use of alcohol and all other illicit substances safely.

Some options include:

  • Personal therapy: One-on-one therapy provides a safe forum for patients to explore the issues that may be driving their urge to drink and keep drinking. In some cases, this is the first step for patients who are unsure whether or not they need more intensive treatment. The objective opinion of a professional who specializes in substance abuse treatment can help to identify the need for alcohol abuse or addiction treatment.
  • Group therapy: Meeting regularly with others who are also learning how to live without alcohol after an abuse or addiction issue can provide a community of healing as well as a healthy, learning environment. Patients benefit from the experience of others as well as the experience of sharing what they have learned while learning the skills that will carry them through their recovery.
  • Alternative therapies: Not everyone enjoys or makes rapid progress through talk therapy. In some cases, an active or interactive therapy makes more sense. Art therapy, dance therapy, psychodrama, animal-assisted therapies, and others can be a positive addition to a comprehensive treatment program.
  • Holistic treatments: Aromatherapy, yoga, meditation, tai chi, acupuncture – there are a number of holistic treatment options that can be a positive alternative to alcohol use when it comes to stress relief. In combination with other therapeutic efforts, holistic therapies can increase the chances of avoiding relapse for the long-term.

End Hangovers Starting Today

If hangovers are impeding your ability to maintain your responsibilities at work and home, treatment can improve your quality of life if you are unable to stop drinking on your own. Learn more about the treatment options available to you today when you contact Axis now.