Drinking and hangovers
If you are participating in dry or “damp” January, the notion of nursing hangovers may be far from your mind. Alternatively, if this is your first sober week in a while, you may be starting to see more clearly the role (and toll) alcohol has played in your life. According to the CDC “getting drunk or intoxicated is the result of consuming excessive amounts of alcohol. Binge drinking typically results in acute intoxication. The CDC reminds us that alcohol intoxication can be harmful for a variety of reason, including:
- Impaired brain function resulting in poor judgment, reduced reaction time, loss of balance and motor skills, or slurred speech.
- Dilation of blood vessels, causing a feeling of warmth but resulting in rapid loss of body heat.
- Increased risk of certain cancers, stroke, and liver diseases (e.g., cirrhosis), particularly when excessive amounts of alcohol are consumed over extended periods of time.
- Damage to a developing fetus if consumed by pregnant women.
- Increased risk of Motor-vehicle traffic crashes, violence, and other injuries.
The truth about alcohol
According to the CDC, alcohol affects every organ in the body. It is a central nervous system depressant that is rapidly absorbed from the stomach and small intestine into the bloodstream. Alcohol is metabolized in the liver by enzymes. However, the liver can only metabolize a small amount of alcohol at a time, leaving the excess alcohol to circulate throughout the body. The intensity of the effect of alcohol on the body is directly related to the amount consumed.
How much is too much to drink?
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, adults of legal drinking age can choose not to drink, or to drink in moderation by limiting intake to 2 drinks or less in a day for men and 1 drink or less in a day for women, when alcohol is consumed. Drinking less is better for health than drinking more. Charles Frost, DO of CMC Primary Care Elm Street shares “many patients are unclear about the number associated with moderate drinking. They may think they drink far less than someone else they know, so it feels moderate. The truth may be that they are way consuming way above the guidelines.” Dr. Frost recommends you have an honest conversation about your drinking with your primary care provider at your annual appointments. He adds, “consuming alcohol, especially in excess, can have many adverse reactions in our lives. Having open and honest dialogue with your doctor can provide us with an opportunity to stay ahead of any potential health problems drinking could cause.”
What exactly is a hangover?
According to the Mayo Clinic, hangover symptoms typically begin when your blood alcohol content drops significantly and is at or near zero. Usually, they are in full effect the morning after a night of heavy drinking. This depends, of course, on what and how much you drink. Symptoms may include:
- Fatigue and weakness
- Excessive thirst and dry mouth
- Headaches and muscle aches
- Nausea, vomiting or stomach pain
- Poor or decreased sleep
- Increased sensitivity to light and sound
- Dizziness or a sense of the room spinning
- Decreased ability to concentrate
- Mood disturbances, such as depression, anxiety and irritability
- Rapid heartbeat
Your heart and alcohol
According to Dr. Odle of CMC Cardiology, “patients may experience holiday heart syndrome during or after the holiday season as a result of heavier drinking patterns often experienced during the holiday season, or on weekends.” Dr. Odle shares that the best way to avoid holiday heart syndrome is to avoid alcohol all-together, or at least follow the CDC’s recommended guidelines for moderate drinking. Of course, a racing heart can be a sign of serious issues and you should call 911 if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
Are hangovers dangerous?
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, hangovers can last 24 hours or longer. During this time, hangovers can be both painful and dangerous. The NIAAA shares that a person’s attention, decision-making, and muscle coordination can all be impaired. This can affect their ability to drive, operate machinery, or care for others.
How can I help a hangover?
While the market is flooded with products claiming to prevent or cure a hangover, the truth is only time will help. Not even the hair of the dog that bit you can get you through your hangover fast. It may alleviate some symptoms at first, but it could contribute to and prolong the malaise and other symptoms according to the NIAAA.
How can I prevent a hangover?
The best way to prevent hangovers is by not consuming alcohol at all.
Consult your health care provider if you believe you have a drinking problem or if you want to discuss reducing or eliminating your alcohol intake. Call 911 if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
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