Every Hangover Cure Is a Lie

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A perennial fixture in the science-and-health journalism genre is the “how to cure a hangover” article. I am about to tell you a secret about every version of this article ever written: None of them contains an actual “hangover cure,” because there is as of yet no such thing as an actual “hangover cure.”

Take a Digg piece published this week, which is headlined “The Best Way to Deal With A Hangover,” and offers some useful if tired advice (Eat something! Drink more water!) before arriving at the same line these stories always seem to arrive at, eventually: “Hands down, the best way to prevent a hangover is to drink less or not at all.”

There are many studies that say, essentially, that very same thing; consider a study that got some press last year. In it, 826 Dutch college students were asked to rate their hangover symptoms before and after they tried some classic remedies: eating after drinking but before going to bed, having a greasy breakfast the morning after, or drinking lots of water before they went to sleep. “Those who took food or water showed a slight statistical improvement in how they felt over those who didn’t, but this didn’t really translate into a meaningful difference,” Joris Verster, the lead study author, said in a statement. “From what we know from the surveys so far, the only practical way to avoid a hangover is to drink less alcohol.”

Some intrepid researchers at the forefront of hangover science are experimenting with the chemistry of booze, which one day may yield a real hangover treatment in a handy pill form. But for now, prevention — and I’m very sorry to tell you this on a Friday afternoon — is truly the only cure.