Hangover? Not this New Year

Hangover 'Cures' to stop the ringing of the new year

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

Toasting the New Year with friends and family is an ageless tradition, unfortunately waking up on New Year's Day with a terrible headache and queasy stomach, is too.
There's nothing worse than starting the New Year with a hangover. Although there seem to be nearly as many methods for "curing" a hangover as there are drinks in a bartender's bible, not a single one has been scientifically proven to work, notes James C. Garbutt, M.D., professor of psychiatry with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine who specializes in alcoholism treatment and research.

"The most important message I would emphasize is that people shouldn't drink too much in the first place," says Garbutt. "[A] hangover is one negative consequence of excess alcohol consumption, but there are many others, including accidents, which can be serious, loss of control over emotions, such as anger or sadness, and bad decision-making, exemplified by the classic office party gone wrong."

If you plan to imbibe to welcome in 2015, you can take steps to enjoy a few drinks responsibly and prevent a hangover.

Eat before you drink. "Eating food is an important element in reducing drinking and the risk of intoxication," Garbutt says. Eat a meal before you take your first sip of alcohol, he advises, and continue to take in food as the night wears on. Food--especially fats--helps slow down the body's absorption of alcohol.

To truly be effective, though, the food must be in your stomach first. If you wait until you feel buzzed or tipsy to start eating, you're too late.

No binging. Another good way to stave off a hangover is to pace yourself: After you finish an alcoholic drink, drink a glass of water before your next round. Alternating alcohol beverages and water can both dilute the concentration of alcohol in your blood and help prevent dehydration, Garbutt explains.

If you ignore this advice and end up with a hangover anyway, you do have a few options that won't necessarily cure your hangover but will aid your recovery from it.

Take two and repeat in the morning. Taking two ibuprofen just before you go to bed after the party and then again when you wake up can help reduce headache pain. Avoid aspirin in your search for a hangover-induced headache because the alcohol in your system combined with the aspirin can increase your risk for serious tummy trouble. Says Garbutt, "Put the two together and there might be increased risk of gastrointestinal bleeding."

Not only should you avoid aspirin, but you should also avoid acetaminophen (Tylenol). For some people, taking this drug with alcohol in their system can cause serious liver damage.

Drink up. Sorry, but the hair of the dog that bit you--partaking of the same alcohol that led to your misery--will not rid you of a hangover the following morning. Opt instead for a sports drink such as Gatorade, which can both rehydrate you and replace salt and other electrolytes lost through the increased urination caused by drinking alcohol.

As for those hangover "cures" floating around, such as drinking coffee or eating a big, greasy bacon and egg breakfast or any other legendary 'morning after' meal, they don't help. A heavy meal could make your nausea worse, and too much coffee could exacerbate your headache. As for the hair of the dog, all it does is delay the start of your recovery.

It's important to remember that drinking too much in one night can result in fatal alcohol poisoning: Yes, you can literally drink yourself to death. If someone at a party passes out after heavy drinking, then he or she is having a serious medical emergency and should be taken to the hospital right away.

Review Date: 
December 27, 2010