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Science

"Hair of the dog" proves that hangovers are more than dehydration. Here's why.

Debunking one of the most widely shared misconceptions about alcohol's next-day effects.

Brooks Powell

November 22, 2021

KEY TAKEAWAYS

Debunking one of the most widely shared misconceptions about alcohol’s next-day effects.

To our knowledge, Cheers is the most successful alcohol-related health company in the United States. By “alcohol-related health,” we mean products that exist at the intersection of alcohol and health.

In total, we have sold over 16 million doses of our products, have over 8,000 4 & 5-star Amazon reviews, and generate over half of our revenue from repeat customers.

On Facebook/Instagram alone, our ads have been seen by 50m Americans an average of 10x each — a total of 500m times (and growing). If someone hasn’t yet heard of Cheers, it’s only a matter of time before they do.

We’ve seen thousands of misconceptions about hangovers come through our social media comments. A lot of them go a little something like this:

“Hangovers are caused by dehydration. Just drink water.”

The reality is that it’s never as cut and dry as this blanket statement. While it’s important to drink water during and after consuming alcohol, drinking water will not prevent your hangover.

Dehydration isn’t actually the primary cause of hangovers. It’s not even the secondary cause. Dehydration is the tertiary cause of hangovers. So, what actually causes hangovers? 🤔


Hangovers are a complex phenomenon

Like much government literature written for a mass audience, the department omitted citations in their explanations, but the science supported by this section, in particular, is sound.

According to the US government’s National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) page on alcohol hangovers, they recognize six causes of hangovers — each of which has a different effect.

It’s these six things that, when combined, culminate in the total experience of a hangover.

However, one weakness in NIAAA’s model is that it does not split up the primary causes from secondary causes. For example, if inflammation is actually caused by acetaldehyde exposure, then why not list inflammation, malaise, and pain as secondary causes underneath the primary cause (acetaldehyde exposure)?

When you look at it this way, a hangover can be simplified to its primary causes: alcohol withdrawal, acetaldehyde exposure, and, finally, dehydration.


Of these three causes, “mini-withdrawal” or “alcohol withdrawal,” as we typically call it, is the most significant contributor to hangover symptoms.

Primary cause of hangovers: Alcohol withdrawal

Most people intuitively know that alcohol withdrawal is the main culprit behind hangovers. If you’ve ever had a big night of drinking and wake up feeling like you got ran over — nausea, sensitivity to light and sounds, both headaches and body aches, and anxiety — what is the easiest way to start immediately feeling better? It’s the “hair of the dog” — drinking more alcohol the following day as a way to quell this withdrawal.

This method is so widespread and well-known that there is a drink for it typically consumed in the morning — the Bloody Mary.

It’s true: drinking more alcohol the following day works wonders. All of a sudden, the symptoms start to dull, and you begin to feel better.

This is all great — until you start withdrawing from that alcohol (and drinking for the rest of your life is a terrible strategy). So, in the end, there’s no escaping the withdrawal — you’re simply delaying it.


Ultimately, your hangover is relative to the amount of alcohol you drank (BAC%) and how long you had it in your system (length of time). Some people might not consciously feel the withdrawal from 1–2 drinks, but it’s there — even if it manifests as general fatigue.

As you drink more, it’s much easier to see the effects of this withdrawal. 4–5 drinks will start making most people toss and turn while sleeping. By the time you get to a weekend of binge drinking, you’ll start to feel what it’s like to undergo withdrawal. Soon you realize that dehydration symptoms are a small part of the overall pain!

Secondary cause of hangovers: Acetaldehyde exposure

Acetaldehyde is roughly 20x more toxic than alcohol itself. However, in order for your body to properly metabolize alcohol, your body must convert alcohol into acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde eventually converts into acetate and then can safely clear it through your system.

Unfortunately, the liver can only turn acetaldehyde into acetate so fast. On average, your body can process up to 1 drink’s worth of acetaldehyde per hour.

So, if you’ve had 3 drinks in one night, you’re going to have acetaldehyde in your body for about 3 hours. If you’ve had 5 drinks, that’s 5 hours.

During this time, this toxic compound circulates throughout your bloodstream and comes into contact with the cells in your body. So it’s no wonder that alcohol causes so much inflammation and makes everything in your body hurt the next day.

Putting it all together


Mild dehydration caused by alcohol leads to dehydration symptoms — such as thirst and a mild headache — but not the gong-ringing, shut the blinds, put me in a cold, dark room pain that comes from alcohol withdrawal, nor the inflammation and aches that come from acetaldehyde exposure.

This variety of symptoms is proof that one single thing does not cause hangovers. Instead, it is a culmination of multiple causes that sum up to the totality of a hangover.

So, if you prevent dehydration, then you prevent dehydration symptoms — and that’s it.

Educating our customers on the science behind hangovers is important to us. To learn more about how we think about feeling better from alcohol consumption, check out our website. If you haven’t heard about our products yet, we’re being seen by millions of new people every year, so the chances are that you will soon!

Sláinte! 🍻 (“Cheers” in Irish ☘️ — translates literally as “to health”)

Brooks Powell (Founder/CEO)


References

About Cheers

Cheers is the leading alcohol-related health brand focused on developing products that support your liver and help you feel great the next day. As a student at Princeton, Cheers’ founder Brooks Powell discovered the potential advantage of incorporating the natural plant extract Dihydromyricetin (DHM) into an after-alcohol consumption regimen and began working with his professors to make products that addressed the unique challenges of alcohol-related health. . Since its official launch in 2017, Cheers has sold more than 13 million doses  to over 300 thousand customers. The research-backed line of products includes three versions of supplemental pills and powders – Restore, Hydrate and Protect. Cheers is now releasing read-to-drink versions of their products—starting with Cheers Restore. Each product is equipped to meet different health needs such as rehydration, liver support, and acetaldehyde exposure. Cheers places an equal emphasis on the responsibility and health aspects of its mission and vision. The brand’s mission is bringing people together by promoting fun, responsible, and health-conscious alcohol consumption. The vision is a world where everyone can enjoy alcohol throughout a long, healthy, and happy lifetime. For more information, visit cheershealth.com or join the social conversation at @cheershealth.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.