The Chemistry of a Hangover

Nicole Zukowski, Life, Arts and Entertainment Editor

Waking up the morning after a night out with friends can be tough.

Your head is pounding, your stomach is in knots and you feel like you just  rode a rollercoaster nonstop for an hour. There are bags under your eyes that look like they are ready to go backpacking across Europe even though your dry throat makes you feel like you were just lost in the Sierra dessert.

Experiencing a hangover is extremely common after a night of drinking.

The hangover the next morning is the thing that makes people wonder why they were out the night before.

It is stated in an article, in The California Report published on State of Health that men who consume five to seven alcoholic beverages report having a hangover the next morning. On the other hand, women who consume three to five alcoholic beverage reported having a hangover the next morning. Quite a striking difference in the amount each sex consumes.

The type of alcohol an individual consumes also affects the severity of the hangover the next morning,

A hangover is commonly the results of three effects that happen to you body from a night of drinking.

The effect that causes most of your pain is dehydration.

“Dehydration decreases blood flow in the brain,” Associate Professor of Psychology Ed Schicatano said. “This slows down neural processing.”

A particular example of what dehydration does to the body is a decrease level of vasopressin in the brain. When this hormone is released into the bloodstream the body is prevented from excreting water in urine.

This is why people have to urinate multiple times when drinking alcohol.

Other effects Schicatano explained were “cognitive deficits like lack of concentration, struggles with short term memory and even basic perceptual processing disruptions.”

Along with dehydration, the brain is affected another way from alcohol.

“Alcohol acts like an abundant inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain – called GABA.” Schicatano said.

GABA is a chemical messenger that is widely distributed in the brain.

“As a result, alcohol inhibits a lot of different areas of the brain.  One of these areas in the brain is important for wakefulness,” Schicatano said.

This is the cause of fatigue and even tremors, anxiety and restlessness the day after drinking.

Schicatano went on to say “It also modulates the release of other neurotransmitters in the brain.”

Depending on what type of alcohol is consumed matters too. Different alcohol produces more impurities, called congeners.

After drinking clear, bubbly alcohol a headache is the result.

This is caused from the carbonation which increases your blood alcohol absorption.

Dark liquors,such as tequila, wine and whiskey  can increase the frequency and severity of hangover.

Mixing different types of alcohol could be very dangerous because of the different congeners affecting the body.

When it comes to consuming alcohol it is important to drink responsibly.

The effects on the body can be serious.

“In the long run, seizures are possible,” Schicatano said. “Death from dehydration is not from brain damage, but from organ failure involving other organs.”