What are Hangovers?

A Hangover, also known as Veisalgia, is the unpleasant side effects following heavy consumption of alcohol. The most common symptoms of a hangover include headache, nausea, thirst, irritability, and increased sensitivity to light and noise, but a range of other symptoms may also be experienced. More alcohol than your system can handle. The result of this overload of alcohol is that your body becomes depleted in nutrients and water.

When alcohol is consumed, your body needs to metabolize it to remove it from the body. Until this happens, alcohol is absorbed into the blood stream and travels all over the body, causing various affects on our internal organs. The liver is very important in this process, because it is responsible for breaking down the alcohol in a process called oxidation.

The term hangover was originally used in the 19th century to describe unfinished business or something left over from a meeting. In 1904, a new meaning for hangover became popular to describe the “after-effect of drinking too much”.

The result is that you become dehydrated. Your body makes up for this dehydration by taking water from where it can, basically your brain. The brain then shrinks and the result is a really bad headache. Dehydration also gives you what is referred to as “cotton mouth”. Many individuals experience nausea and vomiting as a result of all the alcohol and sugar that has now upset the stomach.

Symptoms of a hangover

    Signs of dehydration

    Dry mouth








    Difficulty concentrating

    Light and sound sensitivity

    Difficulty sleeping

The mental signs and symptoms of a hangover usually include one or more of the following:

    • Anxiety (what did I do last night ?),
    • Decreased attention span,
    • Depression (Why of why did I sleep with that guy or girl ? Where has all of my money gone ? Now, I’m really in trouble ? Why can’t I control myself ?),
    • Dizziness,
    • Guilty conscience as a result of the activities that you may have performed or taken part in while under the influence of alcohol,
    • Irritability,
    • Lack of concentration,
    • Loss of short term memory, especially after consuming a great deal of alcohol, and this may lead to a great deal of anxiety, embarrassment, regret, and worry. It may also lead the drinker to ask questions like:

      o How did I get home last night ?
      o What happened between 1 AM and 3 AM ?
      o Where am I ?
      o Where has all of my money gone ?
      o Where is my car ?
      o Who is this weird looking guy / girl next to me in bed ?
      o Why am I in jail ?

    • Mood disturbances,
    • Regret as a result of the activities that you may have performed or taken part in while under the influence of alcohol,
    • Room or bed spinning (especially when you close your eyes),
    • Worried feelings (what on earth happened last night ?),

In addition to the above signs and symptoms, most people will also be repulsed by the thought of drinking more alcohol or by the smell or taste of alcohol while suffering from the effects of a hangover.

Everybody is Different

Two individuals can be at the same party, drinking the same alcoholic beverage, the same number of glasses, over the same amount of time and one will become drunk and have a wicked hangover the next day and the other one won’t. What causes one to have a hangover and not the other?

There are a number of factors that play a role in why one person experiences a hangover after drinking alcohol and another individual won’t. Other than the amount of alcohol consumed and the type of alcohol ingested, how fast you drink it and how many you have in what time frame can also have a role in whether or not you become drunk.

Metabolic Mechanism

There is also the factor of how well your body metabolizes alcohol. Our bodies metabolize the things we drink and eat in different ways. Metabolism depends on what is being consumed and if it being consumed with other things like are we eating at the same time we are drinking alcohol? The body absorbs alcohol faster when we eat food at the same time.

Water has an effect on the impact of alcohol on our bodies too. When we drink lots of water before we start drinking alcohol, during the time we are drinking and after we are finished with our drinking event then the water that we drink can lessen the effect that alcohol has on our system and we become less dehydrated than what we would have become had we not had the water. Alcohol contains ethanol, which is what causes the dehydration.

Alcohol consumption causes chemical reactions within the body including the way the liver has to work to break down the ethanol contained in the alcohol. The reaction in the cells of the liver when it is trying to breakdown the ethanol impairs the liver’s ability to supply glucose to the tissues within the body such as the brain tissue. Glucose in the brain is how the brain gets energy. When the brain does not receive the glucose, we experience fatigue, weakness, moodiness and sometimes it can affect our ability to concentrate.

Congeners are the chemical by-products of the process of alcohol fermentation. These congeners can exaggerate (make worse) the symptoms of a hangover. Dark alcoholic drinks contain more congeners, which is why those who drink dark alcoholic beverages have more intense hangovers than those who drink clear colored alcoholic beverages.

Cheaper alcoholic beverages have more impurities and are thus more likely to cause greater hangover symptoms.

Those who smoke while they drink exacerbate their symptoms because of the nicotine.

There are always the psychosomatic effects of…if you thing you will have a hangover, you likely will think yourself right into one.


• Alcohol can be a very dangerous substance, especially when consumed in large quantities over a short period, or when consumed regularly in large quantities. If you suffer from any serious adverse effects from alcohol consumption and need help to stop this bad habit, then you should consider contacting Alcoholics Anonymous: