Overview of Hangovers

It’s that time of year again: Cold, flu, and hangover season.

One of those, of course, is self-induced. A hangover is a result of drinking too much alcohol, which is a common mistake during any holiday season. At Pacific Medical Care, we encourage not only responsible drinking, but healthy drinking. And, remember, alcohol has calories and contributes to obesity, heart illness, various cancers, and general deterioration of many-body systems. Alcohol gets into your blood and goes everywhere your blood goes, so nothing escapes alcohol’s wrath if you overdo it. Now with that warning out of the way, what about hangovers?

 

What is a hangover:

 

There is an old expression, “Those who dance must pay the fiddler.” That expression was designed to explain hangovers.

 

When you drink too much – and the level varies for different people – you might have a good time, but your body will pay the price. That price comes around the next morning with a few symptoms that together feel like you’ve turned yourself into a punching bag. Here are the symptoms:

 

Headache, sometimes severe

Dehydration

Headache, sometimes severe

Nausea and vomiting

Exhaustion

Dizziness

Blurred vision or sensitivity to light

Feeling weak and shaky

Rapid heartbeat

Anxiety,

Flu-like symptoms

Thirst

Loss of motor control – clumsiness

When is a hangover an emergency?

Most people know that hangovers go away by themselves without specific medical intervention, although the responses that target symptoms vary from over-the-counter pain relievers to anti-nausea medication. Replenishing fluids is also helpful.

 

However, an emergency situation can certainly arise from drinking too much alcohol – generally from drinking alcohol at such a fast pace that your body cannot keep up with processing the chemicals. Call for an ambulance or get someone to drive you to an emergency room if the patient is experiencing:

 

Seizures

Vomiting

Disorientation

Markedly reduced rate of breathing (slower than eight breaths per minute)

Pale skin

Cold skin, including someone turning blue

Chills

Inability to stay awake or conscious – passing out

 

These symptoms are extremely dangerous when experienced while someone is actively drinking. In contrast, a hangover defines the symptoms of recovery from drinking too much when someone wakes up the next morning feeling miserable.

 

Social Issues

 

Hangovers interfere with someone’s ability to drive, to perform well at work, and to enjoy social interactions. The price people pay from drinking too much is very seldom limited to only having yourself feel bad. Others either have to cover for you at work or at home, and repeated hangovers create feelings of regret, depression, isolation, anger, shame, and frustration.

 

Help for alcohol problems

 

Alcohol has been around for thousands of years, and people in modern times have developed many styles of effective interventions for dealing with alcohol-related problems and alcoholism. Physicians are certainly a good starting point for a discussion on what remedies you might deploy to help you reduce or eliminate your alcohol consumption.

Look in the phone book, online, or ask your physician what choices you have for dealing with alcohol problems. There are therapists, support groups, rehabilitation clinics, in-patient, and out-patient services, and other options. There are pharmaceutical interventions you could discuss with your doctor.

 

Yes, we advocate drinking responsibly, but for many, the safest option is to curtail or stop drinking altogether. If you want a non-judgmental starting point, discuss the issue with your physician at Pacific Medical Care.

 

Seeking Help

 

If you have a drinking problem or are experiencing frequent or severe hangovers, make an appointment today at Pacific Medical Care by calling our San Diego offices at 619-333-8114.

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