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Cut back on the cigarettes to get a break on tomorrow's hangover

December 07, 2012|By Melissa Healy, Los Angeles Times | For the Booster Shots Blog
  • A new study finds that when heavy smoking accompanies heavy drinking -- a famously common pair of fellow travelers -- more vicious hangovers are likely.
A new study finds that when heavy smoking accompanies heavy drinking --… (Stephen Chernin / AFP/Getty…)

If you're one of the 1 in 5 American adults who still smokes, here's another reason to quit -- or at least scale back on days that are likely to end with several drinks: A new study finds that the likelihood of experiencing a hangover after a bout of heavy drinking is greater for those who smoke heavily on the day of their alcohol consumption. Worse still, the new research found that when a day of heavy cigarette smoking leads to a night of heavy drinking, the misery of the resulting hangover is intensified.

The Dutch authors of the latest study believe they have captured something more than a commonly observed social coincidence: that heavy drinkers tend also to be smokers. Instead, they suggest that nicotine or other smoke constituents which accumulate in a smoker's nervous system may interact with alcohol to produce a particularly punishing next-day experience.

The study came out this week in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

The intensifying effect of tobacco smoke on hangovers was unmistakable when the bout of drinking was especially heavy: when subjects attained a blood alcohol level of more than 110 mg/dl (or .11%), which would be legally intoxicated in any U.S. state. To do so, a 140-pound person would have to consume more than six bottles of beer in two hours.

In a eight-week study period, the 113 Dutch students who participated in the research managed to produce 1,272 such occasions, which were typically followed the next day by "the unpleasant residual effects of very heavy drinking" -- headache, weakness, nausea, trouble concentrating. When researchers checked the presence and severity of such symptoms against the subjects' logs of how many cigarettes they had smoked the previous day, they found that drinkers who smoked seven or more cigarettes on the day of their bout suffered the most vicious symptoms the next day.

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