Moderation best way to beat hangover


Several safe and effective over-the-counter remedies are available to relieve the symptoms of a hangover. All are preferable to the "hair-of-the-dog-that-bit-you" treatment of popular lore.

"A hangover symptom that is relieved by having a drink can be an important warning sign of alcohol addiction," said Dr. Robert Maslansky, an internist at New York University Medical Centre and director of Addictive Rehabilitation Services at Bellevue Hospital Center.

More than 10 million North Americans are estimated to be alcoholics and another 7.5 million are alcohol abusers.

"Alcohol-related illness is a most serious substance-abuse problem," Maslansky said. "Of all addictive drugs, only nicotine is considered a graver health liability. The best treatment for a hangover is prevention - by exercising moderation in drinking."

Common "morning-after" symptoms of excessive alcohol consumption, such as headache, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, thirst, irritability and rapid heartbeat are usually a short-term reaction to alcohol's toxic effects and do not in themselves indicate a serious drinking problem.

Alcohol's deleterious effects include stomach irritation, dehydration, irregular heartbeat, low blood sugar and dilation of blood vessels, which can raise blood pressure.

Any over-the-counter medicine that contains a mild pain killer and sodium bicarbonate can help relieve many of these complaints, Maslansky said. He suggested avoiding products containing aspirin, which may aggravate an inflamed stomach, and choosing one with acetaminophen.

Water can reverse alcohol's dehydrating effect, an antacid and bland food can soothe an upset stomach, complex carbohydrates can counteract low blood sugar and caffeine can improve the grogginess and torpor associated with hangover.

The type or types of alcohol consumed may affect the hangover. Most alcoholic beverages contain congeners, substances which are added for color and flavor. The worst hangovers appear to result from drinks with many congeners - brandy, bourbon and red wine - and from mixing drinks. However, the main factor is quantity of alcohol ingested, and a hangover can result from drinking too much beer, wine or any distilled spirit.

Smoking seems to make any hangover more severe.