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Sex, Drugs, And Rock And Roll

Interventions for preventing or treating alcohol hangover: systematic review of randomised controlled trials

BMJ 2005; 331 doi: (Published 22 December 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;331:1515
  1. Max H Pittler, research fellow (M.H.Pittler{at},
  2. Joris C Verster, research fellow2,
  3. Edzard Ernst, director1
  1. 1 Complementary Medicine, Peninsula Medical School, Universities of Exeter and Plymouth, Exeter EX2 4NT
  2. 2 Utrecht Institute for Pharmaceutical Sciences, Department of Psychopharmacology, University of Utrecht, Utrecht, Netherlands.
  1. Correspondence to: M H Pittler
  • Accepted 27 May 2005


Objective To assess the clinical evidence on the effectiveness of any medical intervention for preventing or treating alcohol hangover.

Data sources Systematic searches on Medline, Embase, Amed, Cochrane Central, the National Research Register (UK), and (USA); hand searches of conference proceedings and bibliographies; contact with experts and manufacturers of commercial preparations. Language of publication was not restricted.

Study selection and data extraction All randomised controlled trials of any medical intervention for preventing or treating alcohol hangover were included. Trials were considered if they were placebo controlled or controlled against a comparator intervention. Titles and abstracts of identified articles were read and hard copies were obtained. The selection of studies, data extraction, and validation were done independently by two reviewers. The Jadad score was used to evaluate methodological quality.

Results Fifteen potentially relevant trials were identified. Seven publications failed to meet all inclusion criteria. Eight randomised controlled trials assessing eight different interventions were reviewed. The agents tested were propranolol, tropisetron, tolfenamic acid, fructose or glucose, and the dietary supplements Borago officinalis (borage), Cynara scolymus (artichoke), Opuntia ficus-indica (prickly pear), and a yeast based preparation. All studies were double blind. Significant intergroup differences for overall symptom scores and individual symptoms were reported only for tolfenamic acid, γ linolenic acid from B officinalis, and a yeast based preparation.

Conclusion No compelling evidence exists to suggest that any conventional or complementary intervention is effective for preventing or treating alcohol hangover. The most effective way to avoid the symptoms of alcohol induced hangover is to practise abstinence or moderation.


  • Contributors MHP conceived and designed the study. All authors contributed to analysing and interpreting the data. MHP and JCV drafted the article, and all authors critically revised it for important intellectual content and approved it for publication. EE is the guarantor.

  • Funding None.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethical approval Not needed.

  • Accepted 27 May 2005
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