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Health Protocols

Alcohol: Reducing the Risks

Background

A hangover is the result of an episode of excessive alcohol consumption (Mayo Clinic 2014). During any occasion that involves alcohol consumption, the risk of hangover and other problems increases with each successive drink (Gruenewald 2015).

Hangover symptoms typically peak when the blood alcohol level drops to zero, and can last more than 24 hours (Verster 2008). The particular symptoms and their severity depend on the amount of alcohol consumed and on individual characteristics (Slutske 2014; Mayo Clinic 2014); some of the many symptoms that may be experienced during a hangover include (Verster 2008; Penning 2012; Mayo Clinic 2014):

  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Thirst and dry mouth
  • Headache
  • Clumsiness
  • Nausea, vomiting or stomach pain
  • Poor concentration and memory
  • Irritability, anxiety, or depression
  • Dizziness
  • Shakiness or shivering
  • Sweating
  • Hypersensitivity to sound and light
  • Body aches
  • Rapid heart rate and pounding heart

A hangover can severely impact normal functional capacity. Both attention and reaction times are diminished during hangover, which may increase risks associated with tasks that require vigilance, such as driving (Howland 2010; Penning 2012). Evidence from one study suggests mental functioning is no better, and possibly worse, during a hangover than during intoxication (McKinney 2012). In a driving simulation test, driving performance was significantly impaired on the morning following an evening of heavy drinking compared to the morning after no drinking, with more lapses of attention and greater difficulty concentrating, and shorter sleep time was correlated with a higher number of attention lapses (Verster 2014).