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Smoking makes your hangover worse

Smoking on the same day as drinking alcohol makes it more likely you’ll get a hangover, a new study suggests. It’s also likely to make your hangover worse than if you hadn’t smoked.
By Sara Finlay

BMJ Group News

What do we know already?

woman drinking red wine

Many of us know what it feels like to have a hangover. Headache, queasiness, and tiredness are common the morning after a few too many drinks. And we know that the more you drink, the worse your hangover is likely to be. But surprisingly little is known about what actually happens in our bodies to cause these symptoms. About 1 in 4 people don’t get hangovers. We don’t know why this is, or why some people seem to get hangovers that are much worse than those in other people.

In this study, 113 students kept a hangover diary for eight weeks. Each day they reported how many drinks they had the day before and how many cigarettes they had smoked. They also rated, on a scale of 1 to 7, their hangover symptoms: headache, nausea, tiredness, weakness, and trouble concentrating.

What does the new study say?

Students who had smoked on the same days as drinking had more hangovers than those who had not smoked. They also rated their hangovers as being more intense. This was the case even though both groups of students were drinking roughly the same amount of alcohol. But the difference in hangovers was seen only after a heavy drinking episode, the equivalent of about six cans of beer an hour.

Hangovers did not seem to be linked to how much a student usually smoked. Instead, the severity of the hangover was related to how much a student had smoked on the day of drinking. The more cigarettes they smoked, the worse their hangover was the next day.

How reliable is the research?

Researchers took into account many of the things that might have influenced the results. Rather than simply counting the number of drinks, they calculated the likely blood alcohol level for each student on each day. This meant that differences such as sex and weight, which have an effect on how drunk a person gets and how likely they are to get a hangover, were accounted for.

However, the study was rather small, with only 113 students surveyed. Also, most of the students in the study were smokers. A more reliable study would have an equal number of non-smokers to compare the smokers with. Most of the students in the study were white and an average age of 18, and we can’t automatically assume that the results would be the same for people of other races or for older people.

Researchers also caution that the results could have been caused by smoking having an effect on something else, rather than the smoking itself. For example, smoking a lot in one day could mean you have poorer sleep, which may make a person feel more hungover the next day.

What does this mean for me?

The study suggests that smoking affects how bad your hangover is. Researchers think this might be because of the way that nicotine in cigarettes affects your brain. But more research is needed to understand how this works.

If you are a smoker and are experiencing bad hangovers, this may be another reason to consider giving up smoking. Alternatively, as the results were shown only with heavy drinking, another option is to cut down the amount of alcohol you drink in one night.

Published on December 07, 2012

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