The Hangover: Why you Get it the Morning After Drinking


shutterstock_392719927Scientific experts don’t know exactly why people get hangovers, but they are in the early stages of research to determine prevention techniques and treatment options. We do know the effects of a hangover vary from person to person in intensity and length, and we’ll explore common symptoms and possible causes.



People experiencing hangovers will generally feel sick, sometimes with a number of ailments. Specific symptoms can include:


  • anxiety
  • depression
  • decreased sleep
  • decreased attention
  • headache
  • increased pulse
  • irritability
  • muscle aches
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • thirst
  • sweating
  • sensitivity to light and sound
  • weakness
  • vertigo
  • increased blood pressure
  • stomach pain


Since some people experience certain side effects and others don’t, it is difficult to determine the exact cause of hangovers. Scientific experts have narrowed it down to three possibilities:


  1. direct effects of alcohol on the body
  2. after effects of alcohol on the body
  3. the combined direct and after effects of alcohol on the body


There are many other possible causes that lead to symptoms of a hangover. These include:


Acetaldehyde, which is a byproduct of alcohol metabolism. Experts believe if this builds up in the body it can become toxic, and its effects are similar to those experienced during a hangover. Because some people are unable to metabolize acetaldehyde as quickly as others, they will experience more intense symptoms after consuming alcohol.


Alcohol, being a diuretic, causes increased urination, leading to dehydration and electrolyte imbalance in the body.


Hypoglycemia can be a cause of hangover symptoms, as metabolizing and processing alcohol can limit glucose production, leading to low blood sugar in the body.


Genetics can play a role in hangover symptoms, as alcoholism in the family could lead to an increased risk of hangover symptoms.


Methanol, a compound created during the fermentation process of alcohol can contribute to hangover effects. For prevention, stick to lighter alcohol; the darker it is, the more ethanol. This means brandy, red wine, rum, and whiskey could possibly cause worse hangovers than vodka, gin, and other clear alcohol.


There is some evidence of psychological traits, including anger, neuroticism, and defensiveness can increase risk of hangover symptoms. People who have a higher personality risk for the development of alcoholism may be more subject to hangover side effects as well.
Again, the exact cause is unknown, but we do know that in general, the more alcohol you drink, the more you put yourself at risk to having a hangover. If you or someone you know is having trouble with alcoholism, there is an abundance of help available. Contact LEAD Recovery’s staff of experts for answers to any addiction questions. Call today at 800-380-0012.