How Long Does A Hangover Last

How Long Does A Hangover Last

You wake up after a long night out. For a second you think you might have dodged a bullet, and that you actually feel fine. Then it starts. Your head starts pounding. Your stomach starts rolling. Even the sunlight coming through the window seems to be painful. You’re awake, and your hangover is waking up too. You eat some leftovers, drink some coffee, and pop an Advil, but nothing seems to help. Before long, all you can think is “how long is this going to last?”.

For most people, the answer will be about 24 hours. A hangover tends to begin a few hours after your last drink as your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) starts to drop, typically peaking as your BAC returns to zero. Unfortunately, once a hangover starts, science has yet to find anything that will make it clear up any faster. You might be able to take the edge off your headache with that advil, rehydrate with some Gatorade, and get your stomach a little calmed down with some ginger ale...but even those solutions are no guarantee of success. Of course, it can be much worse.

If you were drinking for a particularly long time and/or drank a particularly large quantity of alcohol, especially if the alcohol you were drinking was high in congeners (like red wine, whiskey, brandy, and other “dark” liquors), then a day may not be enough. Your hangover can easily extend into a second day, lasting 48 hours or longer in those cases. This is even more likely to be the case as you get older, or if your liver is less efficient at processing alcohol for genetic or medical reasons. You may also experience a longer hangover if your body is already tired or fatigued before you started drinking, or if you haven’t been sleeping properly (which is why hangovers can seem particularly gnarly when you’re on vacation, as poor sleep from jet lag can leave you even more susceptible to a bad hangover). In the worst cases, a hangover can last a full 72 hours! 

While you likely won’t physically feel quite as bad towards the end of your hangover as you did early on, a hangover can be most dangerous towards its end because you don’t immediately recognize its effects. Not only does a hangover make you more fatigued, it greatly reduces your reaction speed. While you may not immediately feel these cognitive effects, they make you much more dangerous behind the wheel of a vehicle and at work. Simple reactions your body would otherwise make without issue, like hitting the brakes when the driver in front of you suddenly comes to a stop, get delayed, making you a risk not just to yourself, but the people around you. No matter how long your hangover lasts, be it a few hours or a few days, if you’re feeling sluggish or a bit slow, taking public transportation or having someone else drive is highly recommended if at all possible.

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