by Alex Hudson/ Drug Information Center Coordinator

Q: Hey DIC, what’s the best way to cure a hangover?

Ah yes, one of the nightlife’s eternal questions. Humankind has been grappling with this since we discovered fermentation. Here’s the thing— there is no “cure” for the common hangover. There are some tips to take the edge off, but there is no sure-fire one hundred percent miracle to make you bright eyed and bushy tailed. Except, of course, not getting trashed, but let’s save that lecture for another time.
It’s the morning after and you have a pounding headache, rollercoaster-ride stomach, cotton factory of a mouth, exhaustion, and the general world hatred and promises to “never drink again.” Why? Obviously bad guy number one in the hangover is the booze but dehydration is also a big player. Alcohol causes your body to dump water out of your system and takes vitamins and minerals with it, resulting in dehydration and the above symptoms.
This brings us to the ultimate question: how are you going to kick this hangover to the curb? First, drink water. Not too much; excess water at one time can make you feel sick and you might throw up, which really sucks. Ginger ale is a wonderful stomach soother, but higher in sodium so pair it with water. Pedialyte, the drinks for little kids, has all the goods you need to rebound from your infant-like state. If you are feeling creative, you might want to try some orange juice (the vitamin C helps) or one of the athletic drinks to put the missing vitamins/minerals/electrolytes back into the system and helps things rebalance.
Water before bed helps for sure, but lay off the over the counter pain medicines (aspirin, Tylenol, ibuprofen, etc). Your liver has enough to deal with right now and won’t process it effectively anyway. Besides, you’ll be asleep most of the time it would be working. People swear by it, but what’s working is the pre-sleep water. Ibuprofen and aspirin in the morning aren’t a smart choice, since they can irritate the lining of your stomach. Tylenol is less severe on the stomach, but a little harder on the liver, so take it easy. If you are drinking a lot of alcohol fairly frequently, stick with the other two since your liver is already working hard enough.
Putting some food in that belly will help but stick to the lighter fare. (If you’re still in party mode, eating now will save you some pain in the morning. Aim for protein, which stays in the stomach a bit longer than carbohydrates and default to high fat foods.) For that “morning after” war in the stomach some light fruits or simple carbohydrates (toast, crackers) are probably your best bet. They’re not too taxing on your digestive system and will replace some of those missing vitamins.
Coffee helps wake you up, but since it’s a stimulant (and a diuretic) it isn’t doing anything to get you re-hydrated. Drinking alcohol in the morning (the “hair of the dog”) is also not a great idea. You’re delaying the inevitable and giving your stomach and liver more work. And don’t even bother with all those stop hangover pills on the market, they’re expensive and require that you drink them with a lot of water, which is what stops to hangover anyway.
Remember the initial comment about stopping hangovers by not getting trashed? Prevention in this case really is the best medicine. Eat before you drink, alternate boozy and non-alcohol drinks, take your time, and watch how much you’re downing. Take it down a couple of notches next time and you’ll thank yourself in the morning.

Got questions about drugs and alcohol? Email Alex at as.rop.druginfo@wwu.edu to get the information you crave, include in the email if it’s OK that your question gets considered for the Weekly Buzz.