Scientists Have Finally Turned Their Attention To Studying Hangovers

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Strong oaths accompanied by statements such as “I’m never drinking again” don’t result in a change of drinking behaviour.

A new study into hangovers, an area where there has been little scientific investigation, shows they have minimal influence over the next drink.

“If hangovers motivate hair of the dog drinking to alleviate hangover symptoms, perhaps they play a direct role in the escalation of problematic drinking,” said Thomas M. Piasecki, a professor in the department of psychological Sciences at the University of Missouri.

“On the other hand, if hangovers punish or discourage drinking, why wouldn’t we find that the people at highest risk of problem drinking are those who actually experience the fewest hangovers?”

To find out, Professor Piasecki and his colleagues recruited 386 (196 males, 190 females) frequent drinkers, many of them smokers, to carry electronic diaries for 21 days.

The volunteers reported a combined 2,276 drinking episodes, including 463 followed by hangovers.

The researchers found drinkers who reported being relatively insensitive to the intoxicating effects of alcohol were actually more likely than their lightweight peers to report having one or more hangovers.

This is consistent with other research suggesting that being less sensitive to alcohol promotes heavy drinking.

“Our main finding is that hangovers appear to have a very modest effect on subsequent drinking,” said Professor Piasecki.

“On average, the time between drinking episodes was extended by only a few hours after a hangover.

“We looked to see whether there were particular subgroups of drinkers who might show distinctive patterns like hair of the dog use, but we didn’t find clear evidence for that.

“Even when the drinkers were acutely suffering a hangover, it didn’t seem to affect their conscious drinking intentions.”

The future of the hangover?

Professor Piasecki said:

“I hope this kind of work will attract more research attention to alcohol hangover. It has been sort of a neglected topic in alcohol research.”

The research paper, “Does Hangover Influence the Time to Next Drink? An Investigation Using Ecological Momentary Assessment”, was published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, the official journal of the Research Society on Alcoholism and the International Society for Biomedical Research on Alcoholism.

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