Saturday, March 10, 2007

Hangovers and Headaches...

ADAM WRITES...Say, I was getting crunk this weekend with some friends and they were ordering mixed drinks with Stoli vodka. I told them they were silly - why pay for nice vodka when you're just gonna mix it with a bunch of stuff anyway? They said that higher quality vodka will give you less of a hangover the next morning. I then told them they were extra silly - hangovers are caused by alcohol, not by the other stuff in booze that makes it taste better or worse.

So I want to know - what causes hangovers? And, is a hangover affected by...

1. the type of grain used to make the alcohol?
2. the minerals or other "impurities" that are in cheaper alcohol?
3. the number of girls who shoot down my pickup attempts?

Well Adam, there can be several factors to what causes hangovers which can make the answer to this question very complicated. Hangovers are accompanied by headaches and many things can cause headaches, especially migraines. There is a whole list of foods that can induce headaches in some people and one that is often listed is red wine. So how would you determine if what you drank gave you a headache or a hangover?

That is simple, if you drink one or two glasses of red wine (or certain brand vodka or name the drink) and you get a headache, there is probably something in that drink that you should stay away from. If you drink a glass of red wine and don’t get a headache, but you drink 5 glasses of wine and do get a headache, we can reasonably assume that it is the alcohol.

The single biggest factor of hangovers is the alcohol. Your not going to find too many reputable sources deny that. That being said, there are many who believe that there are "impurities" that can be a factor. Let me show you a quote from Robert West, a Post-Doc\Functional Neuroanatomist at the VA Hospital in Syracuse, NY:

“Some people believe that certain impurities or toxins that can be found in alcoholic drinks, called congeners, can cause hangover. In fact, there is a brand of vodka that used to market itself as so pure that it was hangover free; I believe some governmental agency has since made them stop saying that. In any event, drinks like vodka and gin have fewer congeners, and are supposed to produce less of a hangover, whereas drinks like whisky and red wine, which have lots of non-alcohol ingredients, are supposed to insure a big headache. Along these same lines is the idea that a toxic byproduct of alcohol metabolism (acetaldehyde), builds in the bloodstream and causes hangover.

I suppose I just have a couple of things to say about congeners and acetaldehyde. First, the acetaldehyde hypothesis simply is incorrect; blood levels never really get very high, the levels aren't correlated with hangover symptoms, and it's all gone by the time you actually have the hangover. Regarding the congeners, most of the studies done on hangover used pure alcohol as the drink, so its pretty clear you can get a whopper of a hangover just by drinking alcohol. Second, the scientific studies are all over the map on this point. Some say congeners definitely make a difference, other found no difference whatsoever. It could be that some people are more susceptible than others, or that people get the result they expect to get. Scientifically though, the question hasn't been adequately answered yet in my mind.”

So, the good doctor tells us that there may be some merit to this impurities theory.

Let me ask everyone this question. If it is the “impurities” in the drink that cause the hangover, then shouldn’t the drink with the least amount of hangover be Everclear? That is 95% pure alcohol. Has anyone ever known anyone to mix Everclear with fruit punch or Red Bull? And did they have a hangover free morning the next day? We know it is not the fruit punch or Red Bull that gives us the hangover don’t we?

Furthermore, impurity theory proponents are talking less about one brand vodka vs. another brand vodka, they are talking about different liquors altogether. High on the list of drinks that cause hangovers is bourbon and red wine. Low on the list is vodka and gin.

I’ve heard many people in St, Louis say they won’t drink Budweiser because it gives them headaches. I can’t believe there is much truth to that statement but I have heard it from so many people that I could never call them a liar (I still can’t believe there is much truth to that statement).

I agree with you that if you’re mixing your liquor, you are usually wasting your money by asking for higher priced brands. That is based on the fact that most of the time you can no longer taste the difference in quality. Some drinks are not mixed with much of anything. Martinis are mostly gin and dry martinis are sometimes nothing but gin. If that is the case, you probably can taste the difference. Your mother enjoys cosmopolitans. She always asks for Absolute brand vodka because she says she can taste the difference. Actually she says it is less the taste than it is the bite. She feels the brand vodka is smoother than the bar vodka. Could she tell the difference blindfolded? Maybe, maybe not. It really doesn’t matter, if you think your going to enjoy something better if you make it a certain way, you probably will and I’m all about going with what you enjoy.

When you tell me that you ask for the higher priced liquor because you think the less expensive brand will give you a migraine, again, I’d never argue with you.

If you think you get worse hangovers from drinking less expensive drinks, you have to ask yourself if you drink more when it is less expensive.

Lets face it, the best way to avoid a hangover is to not drink as much. When it comes to true hangovers (as opposed to food allergies), the greatest factor is ALWAYS the alcohol but when it comes to headaches, it is directly proportional to the number of girls that shoot down your pickup attempts.


At 9:21 PM, Blogger John said...

I mix everclear with both fruit punch & red bull together, tastes great. I don't have a hangover the next day, but I have noticed that whenever I drink everclear I have terrible nightmares. Everclear is dangerous stuff because you can easily over-do it, but I have an extremely high tolerance to alcohol so I can handle it. The worst hangovers I've had tend to be when I mix types of liquor. For example, a couple rum based drinks followed by vodka based drinks followed by beer. I have also found the best way to avoid a hangover is to prevent it, have a glass of water for each alcoholic drink you have and take a multivitamin.

At 1:04 PM, Blogger Brandon said...

I am getting a headache / crappy feeling from drinking even really small quantities of Seagrams vodka, like 1 oz. or even 1/2 oz. This is clearly not due to the alcohol alone. I don't have much experience with vodka, I've generally been a beer drinker. So, I think there is merit to a theory of impurities, and that I am particularly sensitive to something in this vodka. I will try some other brand.

At 9:38 PM, Blogger Alex said...

Hangovers , vary considrably from person to person . One thery on the severity of a hangover is your blood type , type O is said to have the lowest hangovers , while type A is said to have the more severe ones.
Also a new theory is called "Kindling" meaning that threw time your hangover symtoms will get worse.

Example being that after binge drinking on your weekends for years , will cause you to experience more severe withdral symptoms (Hangover) each time you quit drinking.

But as said before , its alcohol it self that generaly causes discomfort once you stop drinking.

Some remidys to hangovers is , lots of rest , lots of water , Eggs , Bannanas ,multi vitamins.

In severe "hangover" withdrawl situations medications such as Valium , or similair Benzodiazepines can calm the withdrawl process ,but should only be used with consultation of a physicain


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