And, mind you, I don't like to get drunk at all, because I don't enjoy it much, and suffer hell afterwards.

Henry Lawson, 1903

Mr. North opened his bloodshot eyes, rubbing his forehead with hands that trembled... he saw the empty brandy bottle.. and remembered what had passed. With shaking hands he dashed water over his aching head... the debauch of the previous night had left the usual effects behind it. His brain seemed on fire, his hands were hot and dry, his tongue clove to the roof of his mouth.

For the Term of His Natural Life, 1867

For a significant number of Australian males to have a crashing hangover is to be respected, to be able to drink vast quantities well beyond the call of thirst is commendable, to 'chunder' this unnecessary liquid is hilarious, and to collapse paralytic on the floor from intoxication is magnificent. If conditions allow a fight then the ultimate plane has been reached. It is all part of the ocker syndrome and heavy drinking is much more important than sexual prowess. 

Jonathan King, Waltzing Materalism, 1976

Can you see why he will feel better in the morning?

Every drinker of beer knows the experience. 

You wake up - you dare not move. Your eye lids are stuck to your eyes. You smack your parched lips together.  You groan, ever so slowly, becoming aware of a throbbing pain in your head. 

You have a hangover. 

Your eyes open and quickly shut again in the face of the light. You want to die.

Eventually you lift your head above the bed. Your head explodes. You put it back down. 

But you need to go to the toilet. You force yourself to stand. Now you really want to die. You begin to walk. Step by painful step, towards your goal.  

You make it, and, after your business, you move into the bathroom.  At the sight of water you bend over and swallow a few merciful mouthfuls.  You feel the cool, refreshing water flowing throughout your body and ending up in your brain. It isn't enough. You still want to die. 

You shuffle slowly back to your room. You collapse back into the bed.  Your day has just begun. Welcome to the hangover. 

Now, AustralianBeers.com is as concerned as any corporate citizen is when it comes to hangovers. We don't like suffering through them, and we don't like our readers suffering through them either.  So what the bloody hell can we do about it?

A severe intoxication... may produce ... numerous "hangover" effects: nausea, headache, gastritis, thirst because of the shift of water from cellular to extracellular spaces, and a generalized residual malaise and physical and mental incompetence that may last as long as 24 hours after all the alcohol consumed has been metabolized. Some drinkers are satisfied to suffer the mild and even the severer after effects of occasional intoxication for the sake of the temporary dissociation, euphoria, or socialization that the drinking allows.

Encylopedia Britannica

The first thing we can do is try and work out what can be done to avoid hangovers altogether, or at least to minimise them. 

Preventative Measures

After a combined 50 man-years of research at the coal-face, we can recommend the following preventative steps.

1.  Don't drink at all. A favourite with wowsers, to be granted, but sometimes it is a valid choice for the rest of us as well.  For example, you may have to work the next day, or participate in some form of sporting event.  In these sad, sad, circumstances, heavy drinking just isn't a responsible option.  This can be very difficult in an Australian cultural context, given the shout ethic and the anti-piking pressure.  In fact, better advice is not to go out at all. If you can't play the game, don't even bother. 

2.   Drink less than you ordinarily would. This is obviously a more palatable approach, and can be as simple as sitting on your drink, or purchasing drinks that take longer to drink. For example, in the author's opinion a James Squire is an excellent choice to slow you down.  It is such an interesting beer - one to be savoured, not guzzled.  You will find yourself sitting on it, enjoying it.  And the lower your consumption rate, the less you consume in the end and the happier you will be the next day.  You may also be able to sit out of shouts, as your complex beer is more expensive and 'it just wouldn't be right' to expect others to fork out for it. 

And of course, you may not be faced with the obligation to drink in vast quantities. Australians more and more are moving away from the culture of the 6 o'clock swill, and are starting to enjoy just one or two beers, perhaps with a meal. If this is the case, then you will be as right as rain. What we are really talking about here is coping with the alcohol consumption resulting from what essentially amounts to binges.  Binges are not something we recommend, but we recognise that they are strongly entrenched in the Australian culture

3.   Move on to mid-strength or light beers as the evening progresses.  In our experience, after X beers (X depending on many factors), it doesn't really matter what you are drinking. Or to put it another way, you wish to continue drinking, but you have really had enough alcohol. This is an excellent time to switch over to low or mid strength beers, possibly alternating occasionally with a 'real' beer. This can make all the difference the day after, and to be honest, at that time of night you can't really tell that aren't drinking the real thing. 

4.  Eat before or during your drinking session. Food slows the absorption of alcohol in the body, and can really be a godsend. Anticdotal evidence suggests that most 'absolute shockers' occur when the drinker has missed a meal and has been drinking on an empty stomach. A sure fire way of getting drunk to quickly and often embarrassingly: especially for women

4.  Drink water before and during the night. 

5.  Drink water before and during the night. 

6.  Drink water before and during the night. As you can see, we take drinking water before and during the night very seriously. In fact, we believe that this is the single most important thing that can be done to prevent hangovers.  Once you wake up it is too late (see discussion below). You need to concurrently consume the golden H20 to get the full benefits. 

This is because the single biggest killer in hangovers is dehydration. Alcohol will catch you out every time. 

It acts on the brain's pituitary gland and blocks production of the hormone vasopressin, which directs the kidneys to reabsorb water that would otherwise end up in the bladder. Once this hormonal hydrostat is switched off, the usual trickle of urine turns into a flood.

Newscientist, Desperate remedies, October 1999

And of course, as we are 80% water, getting dehydrated hurts:

The body quickly compensates for water loss by borrowing water from other organs, such as the brain. This causes the brain to shrink away from the skull. Although the brain has no pain sensation, it has a covering called the dura that is connected to the skull by pain-sensitive filaments. If the brain shrinks during dehydration, the dura can become disformed, causing headaches...

Stanford Daily, Aches, pains and dehydration: the science of a hangover, 25 November 1998

Before you go to bed (although this is getting to be too late) drink as much water as you reasonably can. And then fill up a big glass and put it within arm's reach of your bed. You will thank us in the middle of the night. And if you are forced to wake up during the night to go to the toilet, then repeat the whole procedure.  This may lead to a cycle of getting up, going to the toilet, and drinking more water. Good. You will be better off in the long run because of it. 

8.  Finally, as distasteful as this may sound, some irresponsible drinkers find themselves in the unfortunate position of, shall we say, driving the porcelain bus home at the end of the evening. Our advice: don't fight it - your body is telling you that you have gone way too far, and is getting rid of what it sees as poison. Work with your body on this one - it may save your life. 

Of course sometimes you will ignore all of our advice.  And you will wake up with an absolute killer.  What should be done now is anyone's guess. And here's ours. 

Post brain-shrink strategies

The first thing to do, no matter what else you do, and that is to drink more water when you wake up.  

What you do after that is a matter of contention. We can suggest a few cures though. 

Greasy Food

Some people have reported to us that they feel a 100% improvement after having consumed some greasy food for breakfast.  This may of course come in many forms. A meat-pie is an old favourite. McDonald's also appears to be quite popular with the morning after crowd. 

Caffinated Soft drink

Now, this isn't something that you would see recommended by a medically trained person as it could lead to further dehydration. However, some of our readers have also claimed that, for whatever reason, a diet coke or the like makes all the difference.  

Hair of the dog

The old hair-of-the-dog is something we have tended to read more about than actually experience or view first hand.  To us, the thought of having another beer after you wake up wondering if your head actually has split open is not something that could ever be realistically contemplated. Although, we are fairly confident that the concept of having another beer or ten later on that day is not completely foreign to some of our readers. 

So, in order to stop the DTs, drinkers regularly leave some grog for when they get up in the morning. This measure allegedly also stops hang-over symptoms. Some assure me they do eat after that first 'shot' but binge drinkers go without food for up to 3 days. "They come back hungry, ask for food, and some get locked up hungry in order to obtain food .... they fight their wives, mothers".

Too much sorry business, The Report of the Aboriginal Issues Unit of NT, 1990

It is an attractive technique: you ward off the hangover by having another drink.  The name dates back to an ancient Scottish practice of placing hairs from the dog that bit you in any wound inflicted by such dog - the idea being that it will help the wound heal faster. Sounds dodgy? Well, it may actually be that applying the practice to alcohol (first suggested in 479 BC) may not be as crazy as it appears at first glance.  

Recently some propeller heads have claimed that congeners are the real cause of hangovers. These are toxins formed during the fermentation process, and the worst form is methanol. When the liver has to deal with the nasties injected so lovingly the night before, it first deals with ethanol, and then moves on big brother methanol. The problem with the methanol processing is that one of the break-down products is formic acid. 

So what, you say?

Well, the idea is that ingestion of more ethanol delays the processing of the methanol, and hence the pain.  However, surely you are just delaying the inevitable - everyone knows that if you stay pissed you don't get hung over till you stop drinking. But eventually you do stop. So we don't really see the point. 

Pain Killers

Take one substance to undo the effects of another? Sounds great, but be warned: according to the US Food and Drug Administration paracetamol amplifies alcohol's damaging effect on the liver. So it may be best to avoid that style of pain killer, or preferably the hangover in the first place. 

Silver Bullet?

Recently, New Scientist claimed that N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC), an amino acid sold in health food stores, had a remarkable effect on hangovers - virtually eliminating them in some instances. One product we tried that seem to offer some relief for us (but of course we haven't tested it in any clinical or scientific way) is ALCODOL. You take it before and during drinking and it seems to take the edge off the hangover. It is said to contain the exact amino acids that your body uses up to metabolise alcohol.

You can pick it up in some chemists.

Final Word

Hangovers are an ugly part of a drinker's life. Even if most of the time you are content savouring one or two of your favourite beers, there will be occasions when you overindulge. So be aware of the consequences, and do what you can to avoid being placed in situations you, and your body, are going to regret the next day.



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