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The science of hangovers not completely understood, Oklahoma City doctor says

Many adults will drink alcoholic beverages on New Year's Eve. Dr. Stephen Prescott, president of the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, warns of the impact of a hangover.
BY GREG ELWELL, For The Oklahoman Published: December 30, 2012
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“The myth that you can't get a hangover from drinking vodka is false,” Prescott said. “But it is true that darker alcohols, like rum, red wine and whiskey, are more likely to cause hangovers.”

Different congeners contain different chemicals, including acetone (which is used to dissolve plastics), acetaldehyde (a pollutant in car exhaust) and others.

When the body tries to process the alcohol, it encounters these toxins, which cause a variety of symptoms.

Avoiding a hangover isn't that difficult, Prescott said. Reduce the amount of alcohol and you reduce the body's workload in getting rid of the alcohol.

“Another great idea is to make sure you're hydrated before you start drinking and to continue taking in water as the evening progresses. But avoid caffeinated beverages. Caffeine actually speeds up the process of cells taking in alcohol.”

Eating before drinking also slows the process, which is why drinking on an empty stomach is a bad idea, he said.

Prescott said another vital preparation for a night out drinking is for people either to find a designated driver or program the number of a taxi service into their mobile phones.

“A hangover may feel bad, but an arrest for drunken driving or having a deadly accident is much worse,” he said. “If you're irresponsible enough to drive when you've been drinking alcohol, you're not responsible enough to drink alcohol in the first place.”

For those who do end up with a hangover the next day, there is some relief, he said. A breakfast of water, eggs, bananas and fruit juice can do wonders to counteract the effects of overindulgence.

Not only will you rehydrate your body, you'll add back some of those vital electrolytes and sugars that left you after several trips to the bathroom.

“That doesn't mean an instant end to a hangover,” Prescott said. “But after a night of fun, a speedy recovery sounds like a real New Year's celebration to me.”

Greg Elwell is a public affairs specialist with Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation.


That headache may seem like a nuisance, but the truth is, it's a warning — drink some water or things will get worse. ... Severe dehydration can cause brain damage, seizures and even death.”

Dr. Stephen Prescott,
President of the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation

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