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December 24, 2015

Hangovers and Drinking & Driving

The holiday season will soon be upon us bringing plenty of opportunities to celebrate and raise your glass. Does the thought of festive get-togethers spark bad memories of past hangovers? Would you like to better understand this notorious condition in order to prevent it? Just read on for the answers to your questions.You want to have fun, of course, but also avoid the perils of a few too many cocktails. By knowing your own limits, you can prevent a hangover and, more importantly, stay safe on the road.

The hangover, a.k.a veisalgia

The medical term for a hangover, veisalgia, comes from the Greek word for “pain” (algia) and the Norwegian word for “uneasiness following debauchery” (kveis).

While it may result from a relatively moderate consumption of alcohol, the condition causes symptoms similar to those experienced by alcoholics undergoing detoxification:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Trembling
  • Fatigue

Other symptoms can also occur:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Drop in blood pressure when standing
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Diminished visual-spatial skills

Why do hangovers happen?

During digestion, alcohol is broken down into various chemicals that can cause hangover symptoms when the body has had too much of it. It can then take up to 24 hours for your system to convert these substances into other, less damaging by-products.

In fact, your body needs about 1 hour to eliminate 35 ml of ethyl alcohol – the equivalent of one beer, one glass of wine or 50 ml of vodka.

Moderation is actually the only effective way to prevent a hangover. Drinking no more than one alcoholic drink per hour followed by a tall glass of water will keep you well hydrated without overloading your liver.

Additional tips

If you want to reduce your chances of waking up with a hangover or lessen your hangover symptoms, in addition to drinking only in moderation and keeping yourself well hydrated, you should follow these tips.

  • Before you start to drink, eat fatty foods; (they slow down the absorption of alcohol and protect your digestive tract from inflammation resulting from the acid produced when alcohol is being processed).
  • Avoid combining different types of alcohol.
  • Stay away from salty foods, since they increase thirst.
  • Pass up the bubbly drinks (sparkling beverages or cocktails with soda water), since they increase the effects of alcohol!

TRUE OR FALSE

Tomato juice helps cure a hangover.
TRUE. The symptoms of a hangover are caused by a loss of fluids and mineral salts, among other things. Tomato juice both hydrates the body and replenishes its supply of mineral salts, as do sports drinks.

Taking a tablespoon of olive oil before drinking alcohol will reduce the likelihood of a hangover.
FALSE. The protective effect of olive oil on the stomach is very short-lived. Once it dissipates, you are once again vulnerable to the impact of the alcohol and its unwanted side effects.

Dark alcoholic spirits, like red wine and whisky, are more likely to cause a hangover.
TRUE. Because they contain more congeners – substances responsible for taste and colour – than their lighter counterparts, dark alcoholic beverages are more likely to contribute to the symptoms of a hangover.

A glass of beer (340 ml/12 oz, 5% alcohol) has the same amount of alcohol as a glass of wine (140 ml/5 oz, 12% alcohol).
TRUE. There is the same amount of alcohol in one glass of beer, one glass of wine, one glass of fortified wine (85 ml/3 oz, 20% alcohol) and one shot of spirits (45 ml/1.5 oz, 40% alcohol).*
*The alcohol content and drink sizes correspond to a standard drink, as defined on the educalcool.qc.ca/en/ Website. 

The only way to know if you are over the legal alcohol limit is to take a breathalyser.
FALSE.
The educalcool.qc.ca/en/ Website features a blood alcohol calculator you can use to estimate your blood alcohol level and determine whether you are fit to drive. The calculator is also available as an application for your smartphone. The results are for information only and have no legal value.

You should eat before drinking alcohol to reduce your blood alcohol content.
FALSE.
If your stomach is empty, the alcohol in a standard drink will be absorbed in 20 to 30 minutes, and you will feel the effects very quickly. Eating first will only slow the rate at which your body absorbs the alcohol; it will not affect your blood alcohol content.

If you find yourself in need of safe transportation, contact one of the chauffeuring organizations, such as Operation Red Nose.

Your family pharmacist wishes you happy holidays and safe driving!
 

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To learn more on the health risks and contraindications of alcohol, just ask your family pharmacist !

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