The 7 Day Quest For The Perfect Hangover Cure
The thesis for this article is simple; get drunk seven times and for each hangover, try a different 'cure' and report back on its effectiveness.
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Using science as an excuse to get tanked on booze has always been a dream of ours at the JAGT HQ, which is why writing this article was all the more satisfying. The thesis is simple; get drunk seven times and for each hangover, try a different 'cure' and report back on its effectiveness.
Our subject is a 25 year old male who has experienced some decline in his ability to recover quickly from a hangover. Let's see what Wikipedia says he has to look forward to:
A hangover is associated with a variety of symptoms that may include dehydration, fatigue, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, elevated body temperature, hypersalivation, difficulty concentrating, anxiety, irritability, sensitivity to light and noise, erratic motor functions, and trouble sleeping. Many people will also be repulsed by the thought or taste of alcohol during a hangover. The symptoms vary from person to person, and occasion to occasion, usually beginning several hours after drinking.
Looking at the extensive list of hangover symptoms only makes our relationship with beer all the more bittersweet. Let's get stuck into the experiment and see how our subject got on.
Hangover Cure #1 - The hair of the dog
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The colloquial English phrase "the hair of the dog that bit you" actually suggests alcohol itself as a form of treatment for a hangover. Scientifically, there is evidence that a hangover is not only the body removing toxins but also the body's reaction to withdrawal of alcohol.
"After a heavy night drinking, I wake up with a splitting headache and smelling like Robert Downey Jr. before rehab. The thought of drinking more alcohol is unbearable as the nausea sets in. Grudgingly, I crack open a bottle of Budweiser and sit, shaking, in my underwear as I sip the golden nectar in the interests of science. After 30 minutes I start to feel a lot better. Out comes another bottle and this one goes down a lot smoother than before. It's not even 9am yet and temptation has me craving a third bottle of beer. I resist, and although I feel pretty good now it's only a matter of time before the familiar symptoms creep back to ruin my day."
After trying the hair of the dog, our subject reported that he actually began to feel better. His headache subsided and the feeling of nausea passed. Unfortunately, once he'd finished drinking the symptoms came back just as strongly in the afternoon. By drinking a couple of beers he had merely delayed the inevitable. Now, if he had mixed himself a Bloody Mary, it might have been a different story.
Hangover Cure #2 - A big greasy breakfast
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Here in England, ask anyone what the best hangover cure is and it's very likely that they'll say, "A big greasy fry up." A fry up, also known as a Full English Breakfast is a traditionally cooked meal which is served in the morning and will include most of the following:
* Toast or fried bread
* Fried bacon
* Fried egg
* Fried or tinned tomatoes
* Fried mushrooms
* Baked beans
* Hash browns
* HP brown sauce and/or ketchup
While not exactly good for your heart, it is said that a full English can "soak up the alcohol".
"My head feels like I've been in a train wreck and to say my stomach is a little delicate would be an understatement. I don't really feel like eating but the smell of the fried egg and bacon gets me salivating and my taste buds are on red alert. I apply a liberal amount of HP brown sauce to my bacon, sausage, eggs, baked beans, hash browns and tinned tomatoes and get stuck in like I haven't eaten in weeks! To cap off a fantastic breakfast I wash the food down with a strong cup of tea. Half an hour after the breakfast, my nausea has all but vanished. My head, while still throbbing, doesn't pound anywhere near as much as it did before I ate and any lethargy I felt when waking up has been replaced by a sudden surge of energy."
A pretty good result for this cure. The headache didn't completely disappear but it subsided, along with nausea and laziness! Perhaps the Full English Breakfast really does soak up alcohol after all?
Hangover Cure #3 - Exercise
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There is no denying that a workout makes you feel good. The endorphins are flowing, you clear your mind and your blood pumps through your veins. But is this a good idea after a heavy drinking session? Science states that exercise after a night on the tiles helps the heart pump blood around the body and increases the amount of oxygen in your body too. This, supposedly, flushes the impure toxins of the booze out of your system.
"After arriving at the gym, I spend about ten minutes at the water cooler
trying not to be sick psyching myself up. With plenty of water to hand, I finally get on and start at a light, steady pace. Surprisingly, my stamina is actually better than usual. I'm sweating like a nun in a cucumber patch but enjoying every second of the workout! After 30 minutes of moderate jogging I decide to call it a day. The walk home is borderline euphoric. If only I'd known that working out after a skinful was this rewarding; I would be built like a Greek god by now. A few hours after the gym however, my head is pounding and I feel exhausted and weak. My euphoric high has now been replaced with a depressive low. So much for the gym being the answer to my alcoholic prayers."
Working out seems to be a short term solution to the problem, but is the immense high of working out when you're already dehydrated worth the physical risks and the manic low experienced by our test subject? Our verdict: no.
Hangover Cure #4 - Drinking water
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Although technically a prevention rather than a remedy, drinking water before going to bed is the most common way to prevent a hangover from occurring. The science behind this is simple; excessive drinking leaves your body dehydrated. Replenishing your body by drinking water is the logical way to counteract this. Let's see if it worked.
"After ten pints and a couple of shots, I stumble home in a drunken stupor. I almost head straight for bed before I remember there is something I'm supposed to do. What the hell is it? Oh yes, I need to drink lots and lots of water. I grab my 'Worlds Greatest Lover' pint glass and fill it with water. Somehow a pool of water appears on the floor too. Never mind, the girlfriend will sort that out. I refill three times and force the non-alcoholic liquid down my throat. I feel bloated and sleepy. I burp quickly before heading to bed. The next morning I wake up at 9am and lie there for a moment. No nausea, no lethargy, a very slight headache but nothing I can't handle. 'It's a miracle!' I proclaim as I get out of bed. Oh no....dizziness sets in and I lose my balance and bounce against the wardrobe door. It passes quickly but now the headache is more noticeable. I don't feel terrible, but I don't feel great either."
There is no questioning that drinking plenty of water both during, and after, your drinking session will be of great benefit the morning after. Our subject suffered slight dizziness and lack of balance, but after ten pints and a few shots, this is actually quite a good result.
Hangover Cure #5 - Over the counter hangover pills
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Over the counter dietary supplement RU-21 contains the active ingredient succinic acid, an extract of amber. The penis enlargement internet marketers have jumped on the bandwagon and now tout the pill as a miracle cure for alcohol hangovers. Supposedly developed by Soviet scientists for the KGB, this 'wonder drug' apparently metabolizes the alcohol in your body. Urban legend says that it was intended for use by KGB spies to drink heavily with suspected Western spies so that they could remain sober and potentially obtain secrets from their drunken counterparts. When that didn't work, tests showed it could lessen a hangover. Let's see.
"I had decided beforehand that to fully test this pill I'd need to drink more alcohol than I had ever drunk in my life before. Heading to the local watering hole I started gradually with a couple of bottles of Corona and lime. Then I downed two pints of Carling lager before my mate came over and challenged me to pick up the pace. Necking a double vodka and coke I summoned the barman to provide me with two shots of tequila and a beer to wash it down. Amidst this I was popping the odd 'dietary pill' and drawing concerned looks from the locals. Stepping up a gear I drank, in quick succession, a depth charge, two shots of some disgusting apple liquid, an Aftershock and a Southern Comfort and coke. I finished the evening off with a bottle of Bud and a shot of absinthe. (I remember everything I drunk because I wrote it down, thankfully) The next morning I woke up feeling like I'd been hit in the face by a sledgehammer and proceeded to be 'violently ill' in the bathroom. This experiment was an absolute disaster and I would gladly accept death to stop the pain."
Upon further research, it is documented that the pill "is not for binge drinkers". It apparently works best when drinking in moderation. Call us cynical but isn't that the kind of drinking that means you barely even get a hangover, thus ensuring that the drug can never be discounted as a placebo, created by a charlatan to take money from the unsuspecting public?
Hangover Cure #6 - Back To The Future Wake-Up Juice
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In Back To The Future: Part 3, Doc Brown gets smashed on whiskey after losing the love of his life. Mad Dog Tannen is on his way to six-shoot Marty and the Doc to an early grave and the lovable scientist has passed out at the bar. The bar tender Chester puts together an antidote to alcohol called wake-up juice. The BTTF wiki claims this juice includes tabasco sauce, cayenne pepper, chili peppers, onion, and mustard seed. We bought and blended the ingredients to test out on our unsuspecting subject.
"'What's in it?' I ask gingerly as I walk into the kitchen nursing the hangover from hell. My tormentor just smiles and hits level 3 on the blender. My head reacts badly and I wince at the sound of the blades liquidizing the blood-red concoction. After what seems like an eternity I'm handed a half-pint glass of the most disgusting looking drink I have ever seen in my life. I feel like a prisoner of war as I'm instructed to neck the whole thing in one go. I take a deep breath and fling my head back, gulping down the cocktail of god-knows-what. At first I feel nothing. But then, from the bottom of my throat up and into my mouth and my lips, all I feel is heat. I'm burning from the inside with a very distinct bitter taste. I reach for the tap but nothing comes out They cut the taps to ensure the experiment goes as planned! I gag and heave and after what seems like an eternity I prepare myself for the humiliation of vomiting on the kitchen floor, just as the taps come back on and I engulf my head in water, lapping at the faucet like a dog after a long walk. Thirty minutes later and the headache still pounds through my skill, my stomach is more volatile than ever and my lips still tingle with the hint of tabasco sauce. I'm never drinking again."
It seems that with all their millions of dollars, Hollywood can put together some fantastic sets, amazing visual effects and some great guy movies, but they can't create a cure for a hangover.
Hangover Cure #7 - Vomiting
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Another prevention which is supposed to be done prior to sleeping, vomiting has been the hangover prevention of choice for frat boys for decades now. The science says that vomiting is the bodies natural way of getting rid of toxins quickly. Oh, there is also the slight risk of dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. Nevertheless, we sent our intrepid subject out to vomit in the name of science.
"After a marathon drinking session which started at the local pub, I began my quest to have a drink (or two) in each bar leading into town - a mile long stretch in total - before arriving at a nightclub ten pints later for some serious drinking. Cue shots of vodka, whiskey, tequila, ouzo, absinthe and Aftershock - all in the name of science. I don't remember getting home, but what I do remember is being wrapped around the toilet for the better part of the night. I awoke in the morning to find myself sleeping on the floor next to the bed. I ached but my head felt fine. My stomach felt pretty solid and I had a big bacon sandwich and cup of coffee to pick me up. I was feeling great with the only downside being my lack of desire to do anything. I lay in bed playing XBox and nothing short of a natural disaster was going to get me out of my underpants. Of course, I'd rather feel bad than have to clean up the festering mess that still exists in and around the toilet bowl!"
Being sick after a heavy session seems to greatly reduce the effects of a hangover the next morning. It doesn't reduce the lethargy though and the health risks of regularly making yourself sick means that we recommend leaving self-induced vomiting to Nicole Ritchie and the Olsen twins.
The final hangover summary
Of the seven remedies trialled by our resident guinea pig, we asked him to choose the most effective cure for a hangover. His answer: A Full English Breakfast. Now, after all this science mumbo-jumbo we're gonna head off and get a few beers, while eating....a full english breakfast. In the meantime, drop your best hangover remedies in the comments. We can't live without the booze, so we might as well share ways to enjoy all of the positives while reducing the negatives. Cheers.