Intended for healthcare professionals



BMJ 1997; 314 doi: (Published 04 January 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;314:2

This article has a correction. Please see:

Not the ethanol–perhaps the methanol

  1. Ian Calder, Consultant anaesthetista
  1. a Department of Neuroanaesthesia, National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, Queen Square, London WC1N 3BG

    “Wine is only sweet to happy men,” wrote an unhappy John Keats to his sweetheart.1 His observation seems to have been vindicated. Harburg et al found that psychosocial factors such as guilt about drinking, a neurotic personality, becoming angry or depressed while drinking, and having suffered “negative life events” in the past 12 months are better predictors of symptoms of hangover than the amount of ethanol drunk.2

    In fact, ethanol itself may play only a minor part in producing the thirst, headache, fatigue, nausea, sweating, tremor, remorse, and anxiety that hangover sufferers report. Hangover symptoms are worst at a time when almost all ethanol and its metabolite acetaldehyde have been cleared from the blood, and …

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