NEW YORK (MainStreet) Show me a dozen different drinkers and I'll show you as many ways to kill a hangover. People have been trying to chase off the side effects of booze since the Mesopotamians poured that first mug of beer.
Mostly, and heartbreakingly, that's because there's no such thing as curing a hangover. As the BMJ Group wrote in a study on the subject, "[n]o compelling evidence exists to suggest that any conventional or complementary intervention is effective for preventing or treating alcohol hangover. The most effective way to avoid the symptoms of alcohol induced hangover is to practise [sic] abstinence or moderation."
Or, as my friend Scott likes to say, we'd know if a cure for hangovers existed because they'd be putting it in the water.
That hasn't stopped anyone from looking (or most of us from drinking in the first place), and for good reason. Alcohol is the cornerstone of human civilization, and any chance to get back Sunday morning is well worth trying. So, for everyone out there living in fear of New Year's Day, November 1 and March 18, here are a few suggestions.
Hair of the Dog
"Don't be swindled into believing there's any cure for a hangover. I've tried them all: iced tomatoes, hot clam juice, brandy peaches. Like the common cold it defies solution. Time alone can say it. The hair of the dog? That way lies folly. It's as logical as trying to put out a fire with applications of kerosene." Actress Tallulah Bankhead.
Frankly drinking hot clam juice sounds worse than living with a hangover. Keep your juiced shellfish; I'll take my chances with tequila.
That doesn't mean Bankhead's wrong; chasing booze with more booze only ends badly. It's a classic case of delaying the symptoms. A good morning drink will make you feel better for a little while, but sober up and you'll be right back where you started.
A much better idea than the hair of the dog (a saying born from the old Irish practice of treating a dog bite with hairs from the offending animal).
Some of the many possible symptoms of a hangover include fatigue, headache, lethargy and generally just feeling like crap. Given how much a hangover sounds like an average Monday morning, it should be no surprise that the prescription is the same: a strong cup of coffee. Maybe two or three.
Caffeine does help. It can ease headaches and chase out some of the cobwebs, especially good for mornings that force you out into the world. If you have the luxury of staying in bed, though, keep away from the Red Bull. Nothing helps like a bit more sleep.
Aspirin, Tylenol, Advil, Aleve -- take your pick. Mornings after a long night out leave most of us reaching for the pill bottle.
Like caffeine, painkillers work not by treating your hangover but by helping with a few of the common symptoms. While a handful can help you feel better, it's because they're good at treating headaches. As long as your head hurts, this will help. Dizziness, nausea, bone-deep shame? You're pretty much on your own.
Hangover Cure Pills
Here's a fun fact for you: a quick search on Google for hangover cures turns up no fewer than 353 individual results in pill form. The latest addition to the market is Blowfish, an Alka-Seltzer like pill that bubbles up in glasses of water.
The hangover pill is a staple of the almost-medical world. Who wouldn't want a St. Patrick's Day vaccination? Unfortunately, as you might remember from the beginning of the article, this remains the hope of fantasists and dreamers. For those who don't remember, I'll recap: "No compelling evidence exists to suggest that any conventional or complementary intervention is effective for preventing or treating alcohol hangover."
Most hangover pills tend to be a cocktail of caffeine and painkillers, possibly useful depending on how you feel. As for an all purpose cure, that Nobel Prize is still on the shelf.
Research be damned, exercise works. Personally I choose a two-mile run, when I can move, but anything that breaks a good sweat should do.
I won't mince words: they'll be just about the two worst miles of your life. Running hungover, stumbling down the street with a rolling stomach and pounding skull, is a practice in true self-loathing. By the end of the run, though, your blood has gotten moving again and chased away the sickness and toxins. I can't explain the reasons why but will take the prerogative to make this entry entirely anecdotal.
It hurts like hell, but you get your day back.
Greasy, Heavy Food
Food helps. According to doctors, substantive food of any kind the next day can replace electrolytes and nutrition lost to alcohol the night before. (Especially for those who may have misplaced their dinner at the end of the night.) Specifically what you eat the morning after matters less than just making it substantive, assuming you can keep it down.
Heavy, greasy food particularly may help the night before drinking. Some doctors argue that the fat lines your stomach and helps slow down the rate at which it absorbs alcohol. It isn't a cure, but you'll probably notice a difference the next morning.
The moral of the story? Screw the diet. When your friends suggest a pizza before heading to the bar, tag along.
Sure it works, but at what cost?
--Written for MainStreet by Eric Reed, a freelance journalist who writes frequently on the subjects of career and travel. You can read more of his work at his website www.wanderinglawyer.com.