WEDNESDAY, Dec. 5 (HealthDay News) -- If you feel especially
hung over after a night of drinking, you may have to blame more
than the booze: New research suggests that smoking while drinking
may worsen hangovers.
The findings, published online Dec. 5 in the
Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, don't confirm that
smoking makes hangovers more intolerable. And even if it does, it's
not clear why that might happen or what might counteract the
effect, other than not lighting up in the first place.
Still, it's important to understand how hangovers work because
they can affect workplace safety and academic performance, said
study co-author Damaris Rohsenow, an associate director at Brown
University's Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies.
Overall, she said, the study provides "another reason why heavy
drinkers may want to quit smoking, both to reduce the discomfort of
a hangover and reduce the brain dysfunction that happens when heavy
Hangovers may not be a popular topic in the world of scientific
research, but they're certainly discussed in society at large. The
research that has been conducted suggests that hangovers kick in
for more than half of people after their blood alcohol level
reaches about 0.11, she said. That's slightly above the legal limit
for driving in the United States.
However, she said, about 20 percent to 25 percent of those who
drink enough to get a hangover actually don't experience them.
In the new study, researchers used online surveys to track 113
students from an unidentified American university for two months.
The students recorded happenings like drinking, smoking and
After adjusting their statistics so they wouldn't be thrown off
by other factors -- like tobacco-using students drinking more
overall -- the researchers found that students who smoked on the
same days that they drank were more likely to suffer from hangovers
and to have worse ones when they did.
The design of the study didn't allow the researchers to pinpoint
exactly how much worse they were, but Rohsenow said the hangovers
remained in the mild range even among the smokers. "It's not a
whopping effect," she noted.
There's no proof of a cause-and-effect relationship between
smoking and worse hangovers. It's possible that something other
than smoking -- like, say, the diets of smokers -- could explain
the difference, she said.
If smoking while drinking does worsen subsequent hangovers, it
may have something to do with the parts of the brain that process
both tobacco and alcohol, she said. Or smoking could add to the
sleep-depriving effects of drinking too much.
Other research has shown that smoking and drinking together
worsen the effects on the brain of alcohol alone, she said.
What should you do if you have a hangover?
According to Rohsenow, doctors recommend drinking plenty of
water, taking something to calm your stomach and taking a
painkiller such as aspirin or ibuprofen -- but not acetaminophen
(Tylenol) -- for a headache. Alcohol may raise the risk of liver
damage from acetaminophen.
As for the "hair of the dog" -- downing more booze -- Rohsenow
said that hasn't been officially studied. But common sense suggests
it's a good idea to stay away from bottles -- not to mention
cigarettes -- the day after a night of heavy drinking.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has
details on hangover treatments.
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