Originally created 09/01/02

Mourning after



Occasionally, even the most responsible drinkers cross the line.

When that happens, most people have a preferred remedy to get themselves back on their feet.

Jonathan Vick, manager at Last Call on Washington Road and a bartender for about seven years, said his cure is a combination.

"Before I go to bed, I drink a couple of big glasses of water and aspirin," he said. If that doesn't work, Mr. Vick has a little old-fashioned "hair of the dog," which means another drink, the next morning.

"It works," he said. "It might not help the dehydration, but you'll feel better."

Labor Day, which is Monday, is among the top holidays for beer sales, according to AC Nielsen, a worldwide marketing information company. (It ranks third, behind Fourth of July and Memorial Day.)

The late-summer holiday usually entails outdoor cookouts, but if you drink, take even more precaution.

"Sun and heat cause more dehydration," said Fred Merrill, a physician at Family Physicians of Evans. "(Party-goers) get even more dehydrated, so they not only run the risk of not only having the hangover effect, but it increases the risk of having passing-out spells."

Even though Tuesday is a workday, it won't stop many people from imbibing too much on Monday, according to the Alka-Seltzer Morning Relief Survey.

In a study of 900 adults conducted in September 2001, 92 percent said they do not call in sick when they have a hangover, which results in productivity losses of about $148 billion annually, said Allan Leung, brand manager for Alka-Seltzer.

So in the name of productivity, here's a little alcohol primer to keep you from reeling Tuesday morning.

The best way to avoid a hangover is to drink smart.

Dr. Merrill said people should avoid alcohol or use minimal amounts. But if they choose to indulge, they should sip, not gulp.

The liver metabolizes or breaks down about one ounce of alcohol per hour. Pacing your drinks can help you avoid overindulgence, Dr. Merrill said.

"I personally don't drink," he said. "In no way would I want it to look like I was saying if you're going to get drunk, this is the way to do it. More appropriately, people should avoid alcohol or use minimal amounts."

Also, alternate consuming alcoholic drinks with nonalcoholic drinks and food.

"Poor short-term memory, calculations, judgment, poor concentration, poor judgment and depressant effects on the brain ... Those effects are from dehydration, the lack of appropriate nutrition and the other alcohol effects on the body," Dr. Merrill said. Alternating alcohol with food and nonalcoholic drinks will slow the absorption into the body and allow the liver to metabolize alcohol as it passes through.

Sometimes, a hangover can come from as few as one or two drinks, according to the Alka-Seltzer study. On average, it takes three drinks to produce hangover symptoms.

Believe it or not, the color of your drink can make a difference in the way you feel the next day. Darker drinks, such as red wine and dark liquors have different chemicals that can cause harsher hangovers than lighter-colored drinks.

There also is some science behind the warning of mixing types of drinks.

"There are two types of general alcohol: grape-related wine origin and grain alcohols, such as wheat, barley and hops. If you mix grape origin with grain origin alcohol, it works against you and people seem to get worse hangovers," Dr. Merrill said.

HANGOVER HELPERS

If you wake up feeling bad after a big night, it's too late for precaution. Here are some popular hangover cures to get you going again.

SPORTS DRINKS AND JUICES: The liquids rehydrate your body, while the other ingredients replace sugars and essential salts that were lost.

HAIR OF THE DOG: Many people mix a Bloody Mary the next morning to get back on their feet. Dr. Merrill said this is not a good way to combat a hangover.

"It may temporarily make them feel better, but it's actually a sign of withdraw," he said. "It may be a short-term cure, but long term, it's a very big warning sign."

COFFEE: Part of the reason for a hangover headache, may be due to swollen blood vessels. Caffeine acts as a vasoconstrictor, easing the dilated blood vessels.

ASPIRIN AND OTHER OVER-THE-COUNTER PAIN MEDICINES: Matt Widener, bartender at Surrey Tavern, said his hangover cure is two Aleve and lots of water before he goes to sleep. If he still feels bad the next day, he takes another dose of the medicine and spends a couple of hours on the couch.

Dr. Merrill recommends using over-the-counter pain relievers carefully.

"It will help alleviate some of those symptoms. But they can also increase other symptoms. Even without alcohol, they can cause stomach upset and ulcers," Dr. Merrill said.

Bayer Corp. has come up with a combination of the two previous elements for hangover relief called Alka-Seltzer Morning Relief, the first nationally available product marketed for morning headache and fatigue associated with hangover. Each tablet contains 500 milligrams of aspirin and 65 milligrams of caffeine (you take two in 4 ounces of water).

EXERCISE: "Exercise changes your brain chemical, the seratonin, so it actually is one of the treatments for people who are depressed. It really makes you feel better. If you are still dehydrated however, it can be worse for you. They shouldn't exercise heavy, that could be dangerous," Dr. Merrill said.

HONEY: The National Headache Foundation recommends eating honey, which supplies fructose, a sugar that helps the body metabolize the alcohol ingested, and reduces any hangover symptoms. Honey on a cracker or piece of toast, before or after drinking, may prevent a hangover. Tomato juice, another good source of fructose, also helps the body burn alcohol faster.

Reach Lisa M. Lohr at (706) 823-3332 or lisalohr@augustachronicle.com.