How to treat and prevent hangovers

The after effects of drinking too much liquor are felt throughout the body. Because alcohol is a diuretic (increasing urination), every cell is thirsty. Your mouth is dry, your muscles weak, stomach irritated, head throbbing. Alcohol’s toxins, still in your brain, have upset the brain’s chemical balance. You can’t think clearly; you feel anxious and depressed.

All this is easier to prevent than to treat. If you drink at all, limit yourself to one or two drinks well diluted with water or soda; this helps avoid dehydration and stomach irritation. Before going to bed, drink a pint of water.

A certain amount of morning-after discomfort can be blamed on additives called congeners that give liquor its characteristic flavor or color. Red wine, brandy, and bourbon contain the most punishing amounts; gin and vodka the least. Individual tolerances vary, both for specific congeners and for alcohol in general. To determine what does or does not affect you, keep tabs on the kind and number of drinks you have and your reactions to them.

The morning after

If you have overimbibed, take two aspirin or acetaminophen and two full glasses of water upon awakening. For breakfast eat bland food: poached eggs, a slice of toast, or farina cereal. The caffeine in tea-or coffee, if your stomach can take it-will make you feel more alert. Then take it easy until your body recovers.

Finally, don’t succumb to the idea that the “hair of the dog that bit you” will help overcome a hangover. Reliance on an early-morning drink is a sign of alcoholism.