What is a Hangover and What Should You Know About It?

Medically Reviewed By Kayla Loibl | Last Edited : JUNE 05, 
| 3 Sources

A hangover is a personal experience and can be the result of many factors such as how much alcohol was consumed, when it was consumed, a person’s regular drinking habits, food intake before drinking, and one's genetic make-up.

 Some people may never have a hangover while others may suffer from them often. If you are experiencing chronic headaches or nausea after drinking alcohol then you could be an alcoholic in need of help.

Alcoholics Anonymous is an organization that provides support for those struggling with alcoholism by providing information on recovery options including treatment centers and 12 step programs.  

Another option to consider if you find yourself suffering from regular hangovers would be to cut back your consumption of alcohol or try different beverages like wine which has less congeners than beer or mixed drinks.

Nonetheless, here are some helpful facts about hangovers to help you manage it effectively.

What is a Hangover?

A hangover is the feeling of being tired and unwell after drinking too much alcohol. Alcohol can affect your body in different ways, depending on how much you drink and what kind of alcohol it is.

The effects are usually worse when there's a lot of food in your stomach or if you're dehydrated. Some people might feel sick to their stomach, lightheaded, dizzy, have a headache or just not feel like themselves at all!

It is important to note that a hangover is quite different than alcohol withdrawal. Hangovers tend to occur on smaller scales of drinking such as one night of heavy drinking, whereas alcohol withdrawal occurs when a person’s body becomes dependent on alcohol after a long period of drinking.

Alcohol withdrawal has more serious concerns, such as seizures and death, when compared to a hangover.

The Effects of Alcohol on the Body

Alcohol is commonly abused drug, partially because drinking is usually viewed as socially acceptable behavior. Alcohol can be found in many different forms, from wine and beer to hard liquor. Alcohol is a depressant that slows down brain activity as well as other bodily functions.

Alcohol affects the brain in a negative manner. Alcohol depresses nerve cells and slows down communication between them, which leads to confusion, dizziness and impaired judgement. This can lead to an increased risk of accidents due to lack of coordination.

The consumption of alcohol also increases your chances for depression because it changes the levels of neurotransmitters like serotonin in the brain that regulate mood and emotions.

One study found that people who reported more than four drinks per day had five times as many depressive symptoms compared with those who drank less or abstained from drinking altogether.

What Causes a Hangover?

Drinking too much alcohol leads to the accumulation of acetaldehyde in your system. Acetaldehyde is an intermediate product that helps produce ethanol - which is what makes you feel drunk after drinking.

If there's too much, it becomes toxic and can affect how well your body functions. A hangover happens when acetaldehyde builds up faster than your liver can process it out of the bloodstream.

The headache and feeling tired are caused by this buildup affecting neurotransmitters in the brain- they're responsible for regulating moods and feelings like sleepiness or alertness!

HangoverPhoto by thom masat

The Symptoms of a Hangover

If you're reading this, chances are that you've experienced a hangover and the symptoms it brings. Hangovers happen when your liver can't process all of the alcohol consumed. This is because too much alcohol is being introduced to your system at once, which overwhelms its already-limited abilities.

Alcohol makes up for about 80% of what causes a hangover, but there are other factors as well including dehydration from drinking lots of water or alcoholic beverages and lack of sleep.

The list of symptoms from alcohol consumption is long and varied, but some common ones include:

  • headache; 
  • sensitivity to light; 
  • nausea or vomiting; 
  • increased heart rate and blood pressure.

All these things happen because the liver can't process all of that alcohol in one go.

How to Prevent a Hangover

It might seem like a good idea to drink too much alcohol on the weekends, but in reality it is not. You can avoid hangovers by drinking plenty of water before you go out and during your night out.

If you feel that you are getting drunk, have some soda or juice with some carbohydrates to help absorb the alcohol faster.

The most important thing is not to drink too much alcohol in one sitting. That can be difficult on some occasions, but if you drink more slowly throughout the night (no chugging!), your chances of getting a hangover will decrease dramatically.

We also recommend eating food before drinking and avoiding carbonated drinks because they will make you feel worse when morning comes around!

Consequences of Getting Drunk and Not Being Able to Function Properly the Next Day 

It's a Saturday night and you've had way too much to drink. You wake up the next morning with a hangover, feeling like death warmed over. You know there are consequences for your actions but what are they?

There is more to it than just being hungover or not being able to function properly that day.

The consequences of getting drunk can be more than just feeling hungover the next day. There are a variety of other issues that could come with drinking too much alcohol and not being able to function properly because you drank so much that your body couldn't take it anymore.

One issue is blackouts, which means that someone may wake up without any idea of what had happened the night before when they were intoxicated if they have been drinking to excess. This is one extreme consequence but there are others such as an increase in risky behavior or even how their mood might change for the worse.

It's important to always remember this information every time you go out partying because these things happen more often than people think!

How Long Does It Take to Recover from a Hangover

The hangover is the worst. It's the morning after that 2-3 night binge, and you're feeling like a monster. You have a headache, your mouth tastes gross, and all you want to do is sleep for three days straight.

Whether it was from too much beer or too many mixed drinks with friends, chances are you've had at least one hangover in your life.

So what is the answer? Well, it depends on a few different factors. For starters, how much alcohol did you drink in total and over how long of a period? Remember that hangovers are caused by an imbalance of chemicals and dehydration from drinking too many liquids.

The more booze consumed (especially if mixed with energy drinks or soda), as well as the duration over which this was done will all have an effect on your recovery time. Some people may be able to enjoy just one beer at noon without consequence while others might need to keep their consumption limited to five beers throughout each day for fear of waking up feeling like they were hit by a truck tomorrow morning.


If you're looking for a way to cure your hangover, the best thing that will work is time. The symptoms of a hangover are just like those of an illness and it takes about as long to recover from them too.

There isn't any medication or pill that can help speed up this process either so take care not to drink more if you know you have another big evening ahead. A common myth is that drinking water while drunk will only make someone feel worse because alcohol dehydrates the body- but in fact, drinking water can actually reverse dehydration!

It's important to stay hydrated when consuming alcoholic beverages regardless how old one may be. 

Prevent Alcoholism Today!

Drinking a few sips here and there may not lead to alcoholism, but if you are already drinking more than you should, it’s time to seek help. Contact a dedicated alcoholism treatment provider today.

Lead Writer/Reviewer : Kayla Loibl

Licensed Medical Health Professional 


I am a Mental Health Counselor who is licensed in both New York (LMHC) and North Carolina (LCMHC). I have been working in the Mental Health field since 2015. I have worked in a residential setting, an outpatient program and an inpatient addictions program. I began working in Long Island, NY and then in Guelph, Ontario after moving to Canada. Read More

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