Hangover: Advice and Innovation

I’m always interested in people finding new and imaginative ways to deliver healthcare. Even if it’s not in places you would usually think to find it. Here are some hangover prevention tips and some innovative physician-created recovery solutions. Seems pretty timely since it’s New Year’s Eve.

“Here’s to alcohol: the cause of, and answer to, all of life’s problems.”

Matt Groening

Everyone knows that the best way prevent a hangover is not to drink in the first place. For the sake of this discussion, let’s assume that advice was not heeded.  Now it’s New Year’s Day (or maybe afternoon) and you are waking up wondering why the guy with the jackhammer in your head hates you so much.

Make It Stop Before It Starts

I’m going out for the night and I’m pretty confident that abstinence from alcohol is not going to last too long. Please tell me what the secret is to preventing a hangover so I don’t wake up in post-intoxication purgatory.

Well, the short answer is there is nothing proven to ward off the evil in those spirits. There are a few things that just might make your morning more tolerable however.

Hydration

Alcohol acts as a diuretic. In other words, for every ounce of alcohol you consume, more than one ounce of fluid leaves the body. Here is a nice article on the mechanisms of alcohol’s diuretic effect. Stay hydrated when drinking. Between cocktails, drink a non-alcoholic beverage (i.e. water).  This has two effects. First it will help you stay adequately hydrated. Second, it will slow the pace of alcohol consumption and give your liver a fighting chance to metabolize the booze and keep up with the continued punishment you insist it endure.

Electrolytes

When you make that all too frequent trip to the bathroom to dispose of your processed ale, you are not just getting rid of water. Electrolytes like sodium and potassium go along with the water. Drinking an electrolyte containing beverage like any sports drink (think Gatorade, or Powerade) can help replace lost fluid as well as electrolytes. If you can keep your wits about you long enough, drinking one of these before going to bed may get you headed in the right direction.

Eat Like Your Doctor Told You Not Too

Eating a high fat meal before a booze binge can help slow the absorption of alcohol. Being well fed may also ward off symptoms of nausea the next morning and provide electrolyte replacement for all the urine you’re soon to make. As with everything in life, timing is everything. Eat early. Waiting until you’ve approached the point of no return will simply add more stuff to regurgitate if your digestive system decides to go into full reverse.

“Alcohol may be man’s worst enemy, but the bible says love your enemy.”

Frank Sinatra

You Skipped Part I: Now Just Make It Stop!

Start with hydration. That appears to be that key to coming back to life. Sports drinks to rehydrate and replenish those electrolytes as well as adding a sugar boost can help. NSAIDs (think ibuprofen) can diminish the headache. Having another drink, a little hair of the dog, can mask the symptoms, but isn’t advised since your liver will just need to process that booze also. By the way, at this point you and your liver are not currently on speaking terms.

What if you need serious recovery, seriously fast. There’s a guy (or gal) for that…

Physicians’ Life recently posted an article called “Post-Party Recovery” discussing a boutique industry cropping up to help people who had a bit too much fun last night. Created by various physicians that saw an opportunity to fill a societal “need”, the hangover clinic is now a reality. For instance at Hangover Heaven in Las Vegas, you can chose from a variety of remedies for your self-inflicted misery. Did you and all your buddies get into the same predicament after that bachelor party?  No worries. You can just call for the hangover bus to head out to the hotel and revive your crew.

Las Vegas isn’t the only place you can find salvation from your plight. There are a clinics in New York, Chicago, New Orleans and many other places. The IV Doc in New York offers treatments claiming to help not just hangovers, but also jet lag, the flu and even migraines.

The each clinic has its own line up of secret sauces to resuscitate your half dead human form. They all seem to be a proprietary IV blend of saline and vitamins mixed with anti-nausea and anti-inflammatory medications. There is no real science behind these remedies. What I mean is that there are no double-blind studies comparing these concoctions to simple IV saline. That being said, there certainly appears to be nothing overtly harmful in the mixes. I am not promoting these clinics as a solution to irresponsibility, but I definitely admire the innovative efforts that led to their creation.

Common Sense

Obviously you should drink responsibly should you choose to drink. By all means, never drink and drive. We are all human, however, and every now and again good judgement will get inadvertently detoured down the trail of bad judgement by the simple but powerful phrase…”I’ll have just one more.”

Cheers – Doc W

One Response to “Hangover: Advice and Innovation

  • Yea, IV clinics are popping up all over the place now. It’s been really exciting to watch and be a part of! The trend overall seems to headed towards onsite and concierge medical care, which is something I really believe our culture could benefit from. It’s not like you can call your PCP at 2am because you drank a few too many, you know?

    You guys raise a really good point too: preparing for parties before hand, and knowing what your options are afterwards can avoid expensive ambulance rides. As a paramedic we get calls all of the time from folks who are not used to being out in the Las Vegas desert, or they think they’re Superman and really go overboard.

    Awesome article, thanks for posting!

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