You go out for “one” drink with friends. You wake up with your shoes on next to half of a bacon-wrapped hot dog. You do this every weekend. Let’s let science explain the whole process….


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Or off down the pub for a quiet pint.

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Flickr: heady / Creative Commons

Or two…or three…

1. When you drink, the alcohol is mostly absorbed through the walls of your small intestine and dispersed around your body by your blood.

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How quickly it’s absorbed depends on how much you’ve had to drink and whether you’ve eaten.

2. Some of the alcohol will reach your brain.

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And affect the neurotransmitters — glutamate and GABA — that your brain cells use to communicate.

3. Communication between your neurons becomes slower. So you notice less of what is going on around you.

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4. Your thoughts are fine-tuned and clarified, thanks to an increase in the neurotransmitter GABA.

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5. So you’re thinking very clearly, about not very much. Which is probably what leads to…

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6. As your blood alcohol concentration increases, you might start slurring your words a little and have trouble with balance, coordination, and attention.

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7. With more alcohol, all of those things get worse. And you’ll end up forgetting your drunken escapades the next day.

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Which may or may not be the for the best.

8. And of course your decision-making skills might not be up to scratch at this point.

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9. But it’s not all bad! Drinking a little before bed has been shown to help you get to sleep faster, and increase deep sleep in the first half of the night.

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10. Though it does mean you sleep more lightly andwake more frequently during the second half of the night.

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11. And the next day? UGH HANGOVER.

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Dehydration, alcohol withdrawal, and the toxins created when your liver breaks down alcohol all play a part in causing you to feel rubbish after a big night out.

12. When you drink, your body gets rid of more fluid than usual, hence the dehydration (and huge bathroom queues in clubs and at festivals).

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13. Alcohol causes your blood vessels to expand. Hello, headaches.

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It also irritates your stomach lining. Yuck.

14. The alcohol you drink is broken down in your liver, making a toxin called acetaldehyde. If you pace your drinking, acetaldehyde is broken down pretty much straight away.

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By two helpful chemicals: acetaldehyde dehydrogenase and glutathione. Yay for them.

15. If you drink too much, your body can’t process all the acetaldehyde, so it builds up. Leading to this.

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Headaches and nausea and vomiting, oh my.

16. The good news is there are some things you can do to ease a hangover. First, make sure you stay hydrated.

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One glass of water per alcoholic drink is a good rule. If you can’t manage that, at least down a glass before bed.

17. Darker drinks like whisky contain more toxins known as congeners, a by-product of fermentation, which will make your hangover worse. Best stick to vodka.

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Science says so.

18. Your blood sugar may be low, so have a decent breakfast the morning after.

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Flickr: jonolist / Creative Commons

19. Better still, eat something before you start drinking.

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Flickr: atmtx / Creative Commons

Fats will help slow the absorption of alcohol.

20. Hair of the dog will alleviate your symptoms for a while, but all you’re really doing is putting off the inevitable.

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Flickr: 26424952@N00 / Creative Commons

And your eventual hangover will likely be worse, because you’re making yourself more dehydrated and giving your liver more work to do.

So if you still have a few too many every once in a while…

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At least now you’ll know exactly why you feel like you do afterward.

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