It is that time of the year again when it starts to get colder, the days grow shorter, and people become more excited by the day. It is the festive season and during this time people tend to eat and drink more, the reason for the season.
However, some people get tipsy after a tiny amount of alcohol, but others seem fine despite knocking back the drinks.
Alcohol is a mood altering substance. It affects the nerves that pass messages around the body by slowing them down, and the more you drink the greater the effect.
A Lagos doctor, Sunday Olalekan, the reason people often get livelier when they have had a drink is that alcohol affects parts of the brain responsible for self-control.
“Some people who abuse alcohol have tried to find ways to get drunk without drinking the calories, feeling a hangover, or other side effects. A hangover however, is the experience of various unpleasant physiological and psychological effects following the consumption of alcohol, such as wine, beer and distilled spirits.
“A hangover can leave you struggling to concentrate, feeling irritable and sensitive to light not a good combination if you were planning to make the most of the day and not spend it in bed.” According to a study, hangovers can last for several hours or for more than 24 hours.
Speaking further, he said: “Though many possible remedies and folk cures have been suggested, there is no compelling evidence to suggest that any are effective for preventing or treating alcohol hangover. Avoiding alcohol or drinking in moderation is the most effective ways to avoid a hangover.
“The socioeconomic consequences and health risks of alcohol hangover include workplace absenteeism, impaired job performance, reduced productivity and poor academic achievement. A hangover may also compromise potentially dangerous daily activities such as driving a car or operating heavy machinery.”
He said: “A hangover is a group of unpleasant signs and symptoms that can develop after drinking too much alcohol. As if feeling awful were not bad enough, frequent hangovers are also associated with poor performance and conflicts at work.
“As a general rule, the more alcohol you drink, the more likely you are to have a hangover the next day. But there is no magic formula to tell you how much you can safely drink and still avoid a hangover.”
According to an expert, however unpleasant, most hangovers go away on their own, though they can last up to 24 hours. If you choose to drink alcohol, doing so responsibly can help you avoid future hangovers, particularly during the festive season.
Typical symptoms of a hangover may include; headache, drowsiness, concentration problems, dry mouth, dizziness, fatigue, gastrointestinal distress (e.g, vomiting), absences of hunger, depression, sweating, nausea, hyper-excitability and anxiety.
Hangover symptoms typically begin when your blood alcohol content drops significantly and is at zero. They are usually in full effect the morning after a night of heavy drinking.
Depending on what and how much you drank, you may notice; fatigue and weakness, excessive thirst and dry mouth, headaches and muscle aches as well as nausea, vomiting or stomach pain. Others may include; poor or decreased sleep, increased sensitivity to light and sound, dizziness or a sense of the room spinning, shakiness, decreased ability to concentrate and mood disturbances, such as depression, anxiety and irritability.
Explaining further, Olalekan said, hangovers after a single night’s drinking go away on its own. “Talk with your doctor if you are concerned that frequent, heavy drinking may lead to serious alcohol withdrawal, or when regular hangovers affect your quality of life, including your personal relationships or your performance at work.”
“More-severe signs and symptoms that accompany heavy drinking may indicate alcohol poisoning a life-threatening emergency.
“It is important to attend to a person who has been drinking and shows signs of: confusion, vomiting, seizures, slow breathing (less than eight breaths a minute), and irregular breathing (a gap of more than 10 seconds between breaths). Also, blue-tinged skin or pale skin, low body temperature (hypothermia) and difficulty remaining conscious are signs to be attended to,” he noted.
Hangovers are caused by drinking too much alcohol. A single alcoholic drink is enough to trigger a hangover for some people, while others may drink heavily and escape a hangover entirely.
Various factors may contribute to a hangover. For example: Alcohol causes your body to produce more urine. In turn, urinating more than usual can lead to dehydration often indicated by thirst, dizziness and lightheadedness. Alcohol triggers an inflammatory response from your immune system. Your immune system may trigger certain agents that commonly produce physical symptoms, such as an inability to concentrate, memory problems, decreased appetite and loss of interest in usual activities.
“Alcohol irritates the lining of your stomach and increases the production of stomach acid and delays stomach emptying. Any of these factors can cause abdominal pain, nausea or vomiting.
“It can cause your blood sugar to fall. If your blood sugar dips too low, you may experience fatigue, weakness, shakiness, mood disturbances and even seizures.
“Alcohol causes your blood vessels to expand, which can lead to headaches. It can make you sleepy, but it prevents deeper stages of sleep and often causes awakening in the middle of the night. This may leave you groggy and tired,” he warned.
Alcoholic beverages contain ingredients called congeners, which give many types of alcoholic beverages their flavor and can contribute to hangovers. Congeners are found in larger amounts in dark liquors, such as brandy and bourbon, than in clear liquors, such as vodka and gin.
Congeners are more likely to produce a hangover or increase the severity of a hangover. But drinking too much alcohol of any colour can still make you feel bad the next morning.
According to experts, anyone who drinks alcohol can experience a hangover, but some people are more susceptible to hangovers than others are. A genetic variation that affects the way alcohol is metabolized may make some people flush, sweat or become ill after drinking even a small amount of alcohol.
Factors that may make a hangover more likely or severe include: drinking on an empty stomach; having no food in your stomach speeds the body’s absorption of alcohol.
A study states that using other drugs, such as nicotine, along with alcohol. Smoking combined with drinking appears to increase the likelihood of next-day misery.
Not sleeping well or long enough after drinking: Some researchers believe that some hangover symptoms are often due, at least in part, to the poor-quality and short sleep cycle that typically follows a night of drinking.
Having a family history of alcoholism: having close relatives with a history of alcoholism may suggest an inherited problem with the way your body processes alcohol.
Drinking darker coloured alcoholic beverages: Darker coloured drinks often contain a high volume of congeners and may be more likely to produce a hangover.
“The main cause of a hangover is ethanol the alcohol in your drinks. It is a toxic chemical that works in the body as a diuretic, which means it makes you pee more and you can become dehydrated as a result. Dehydration is one of the main causes of your hangover symptoms,” Olalekan added.
When you have a hangover, you are likely to experience problems with; memory, concentration and dexterity.
Not surprisingly, this temporary dulling of your abilities increases your risk of a number of problems at work, such as: absenteeism, trouble completing tasks, conflict with others, falling asleep at school or on the job and workplace injuries.
Studies have shown that despite various over-the-counter pills and tablets that claim to prevent hangovers, the only guaranteed way to prevent a hangover is to avoid alcohol.
If you choose to drink, do so in moderation. “The less alcohol you drink, the less likely you are to have a hangover.
“Choose carefully. Beverages with fewer congeners are slightly less likely to cause hangovers than beverages with more congeners, but remember that all types of alcohol can result in a hangover.
“Sip water between drinks. Drinking a full glass of water after each alcoholic drink will help you stay hydrated. It will also help you drink less alcohol. Also, know your limits and only drink in moderation.
Decide ahead of time how many drinks you will have and stick to it. Don’t feel pressured to drink.
“Some people take over-the-counter pain relievers, such as aspirin or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others), to prevent hangover symptoms.
“But ask your doctor if this is safe for you and what dosage is best for you. These medications may interact with other medications, and acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) may cause liver damage if too much alcohol is consumed,” Olalekan admonished.