How to Avoid Hangovers

How to Avoid Hangovers

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  1. Everyone except sociopaths and dictators (who may or may not be sociopaths) enjoys a good party. In my youth, I threw huge shindigs involving hundreds of people, a live band (mine usually, so I wouldn’t have to pay the musicians), clogged toilets (and a trail of litter leading down to the nearby bowling alley once my partygoers finally comprehended the meaning of the signs hung on the bathroom doors reading, “Out of Order”), broken windows, carpets saturated with foul substances not nearly as pleasant smelling as beer, knife fights and, of course, an awful lot of alcohol. I still enjoy a good party, but these days if it involves more than twenty people it defies my definition of “good” and I’m not likely to stick around for long—just long enough to drink whatever is provided.

    Contrarily, everyone hates a hangover. What I find amusing is that several people that I know who are my age—people who dislike hangovers just as much as I do—still seem unable to figure out how to avoid them. The sage said, “With age comes wisdom,” but apparently, these particular friends’ definition of “sage” is restricted to “a spice used in food preparation.”

    Everyone who has ever imbibed knows the primary effects of alcohol: a mild dulling of the senses that, with additional imbibing, becomes nearly anesthetic to the point where stepping on a rusty nail can be a source of hilarity; slight dizziness that increases in correspondence with one’s level of drunkenness until the world becomes a maniacal carousel and the laughter of amused friends becomes cruel calliope music; a full feeling in the gut that no amount of vomiting can relieve; the utter annihilation of inhibition that usually results in behavior we later regret, again to the enjoyment of our friends with the exception of those at whom we exercised our newfound liberation of morals, and, most profoundly and rarely experienced until the following morning, a raging headache that fistfuls of aspirin cannot relieve, which brings me to one of the secondary effects of excessive alcohol consumption.

    Alcohol is a diuretic. In other words, it makes you pee like crazy. And to relieve the dry mouth associated with dehydration, the natural reaction is to have another drink, and another, and another, which only intensifies the dehydration. Dehydration leads to reduced blood volume, as water is drawn from the blood through osmosis into the cells of the body. As blood volume diminishes, the blood vessels constrict to maintain a livable blood pressure; this is called vasoconstriction, which, oddly enough, along with vasodilatation (the expansion of blood vessels), leads to headaches.

    If this makes any sense at all to you, the solution of how to avoid hangovers and especially the associated headaches should be obvious. For those of you who are still scratching your heads and are considering reaching for a bottle of Anacin, I’ll elucidate: Rehydrate, you dope!

    It’s really very simple in concept, though very hard to do in practice, as alcohol also affects our judgment and sometimes our memory as well, so you may want to write this down and have a friend who understands the meaning of “self-control” hang on to it and read it to you the next time you go to a party: When you get to your party, enjoy yourself, have a few drinks, but try to keep levelheaded enough to know when you’re as drunk as you want to be. Then stop drinking booze and switch over to water. Sure, you can drink juice or even soda if you must, but water works best because you can drink more of it without filling up your stomach too much. Coffee is not a good choice for two reasons: one, it’s usually too hot to drink at a rate faster than sipping and two, most coffee is loaded with caffeine, which is also a diuretic, and the last things you want to drink when trying to rehydrate are more diuretics. Which reminds me… if you must drink soda, make sure it isn’t cola (or Mountain Dew), or if it is be sure it’s caffeine-free cola. The same goes for iced tea. While it contains far less caffeine than does coffee or cola (or Mountain Dew), it still has some (unless it’s a caffeine-free tea, of course), and you want to avoid any ingestion of diuretics. Later, if, God forbid, you start to sober prematurely and have a considerable amount of partying left in you, go ahead and have another couple alcoholic drinks, but stop then and switch to water, and make sure you drink at least four tall glasses of the bland stuff. Sure, your friends will make fun of you, but you can harass them all the next morning when they all feel like crap and you’re ready for a big, greasy breakfast.

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