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Scientists Say The Only Real Way to Prevent a Hangover Is to Drink Less

The sweet relief of a greasy breakfast sandwich, five glasses of water, and a spicy Bloody Mary might only be in our heads.
Hilary Pollack
Los Angeles, US

What's your ritual for overcoming a night of several bottles of wine at dinner, an obscene number of tequila shots, a couple of whiskey sours, and innumerable late-night beers?

Some people swear by a late-night trip through the drive-thru to soak up the poison with onion rings and crispy chicken sandwiches. Others dutifully pound a few glasses of water before hitting the sack in hopes of using the powers of dilution to counteract their self-abuse. And then there are the masses of brain-wounded post-drunkards flocking to brunch tables in the morning, whose medicine comes in the form of butter-smeared biscuits and bacon-and-cheese omelettes, perhaps even a Bloody Mary or mimosa in the name of "hair of the dog."


READ: The 1,000-Year-Old Hangover Cure

As with getting rid of hiccups, there are literally countless means by which we attempt to rid ourselves of hangovers, all of them provable only anecdotally. Hell, we'll try anything. Kale. Spam sandwiches. Pear juice. Extremely bitter digestifs.

But scientists now want to convince us that all of these are for naught. Psychosomatic benefits aside, these so-called experts want to convince us that there is no such thing as a true "hangover cure," other than abstaining from all of those margaritas in the first place.

In a paper presented at this weekend's European College of Neuropsychopharmacology Conference, a team of international researchers presented the results of their study of more than 1,500 Dutch and Canadian college students, which aimed to unlock the secrets of hangovers and possible ways to eliminate them.

The research team surveyed' students drinking patterns and then self-reported incidence of hangovers in hopes of uncovering whether some lucky people are actually immune to the miserable phenomenon (previous research had indicated that up to a quarter of drinkers might not suffer from them).

Wrong! Anyone who drinks enough will feel like total garbage the next day. Of the 789 Canadian students included in the study, the only students who didn't get a hangover were those who drank "too little alcohol to develop a hangover in the first place." And of the more serious boozers, almost no one was immune to the ill fate of Sunday morning suffering.


Nice try, friends. (Maybe 25 percent of people throw shots over their shoulders out of peer pressure and then wake up bright, cheery, and sober the next morning. Scammers abound.)

Of the 826 Dutch students in the study, more than half (about 54 percent) ate particular types of foods—namely, fatty and breakfasty—in efforts to recover quicker from their hangovers. After all, if eggs Benedict and greasy hashbrowns won't sedate you into a state of forgetting your bad choices, what will? Additionally, more than two-thirds of participants made a conscious effort to drink water during and after their partying times, implementing the "dilution method."

In all fairness, there was a measurable but small improvement in how these students felt when compared with their totally dehydrated, grease-and-fat-deprived counterparts. But the severity of their hangovers remained unaffected. In other words, they weren't "back to normal"—just fattened and less parched.

Lead study author Dr. Joris Verster from Utretcht University warns, "Drinking water may help against thirst and a dry mouth, but it will not take away the misery, the headache, and the nausea."

WATCH: How To Make the Ultimate Breakfast Sandwich with Eggslut

Dr. Verster also had some pessimistic news about the future of hangover management: scientists still don't totally understand why heavy drinking makes us feel that particular shade of shitty.

"Research has concluded that it's not simply dehydration—we know the immune system is involved, but before we know what causes it, it's very unlikely we'll find an effective cure."

A reliable solution to hangovers could save governments billions of dollars a year in medical costs and other by-products of drunken idiocy, such as car accidents.

In the meantime, we've got your back. Cook up some of John Ratzenberger's cabbage and bacon, share a spicy breakfast sandwich with that guy who slept on your couch, and wash it down with a garnish-heavy Bloody Mary.

Then lie down and fall half-asleep while watching Alien. We're not doctors, but consider this our prescription.