Smoking while drinking is more likely to cause hangovers, new research has indicated. But it has also suggested that these bouts of headache, nausea and fatigue after intoxication are not likely to change a person’s subsequent drinking behaviour.
The impact of hangovers on subsequent drinking had so far been thought to be ambiguous. Some people have cited hangovers as a reason to limit drinking, but scientists have also speculated that hangovers may escalate alcohol use among people who drink to relieve their symptoms.
A new study by researchers in the US has now shown that a hangover does not significantly influence the gap till the next session of drinking.
The study found that the time between drinking episodes was on average only a few hours longer after a hangover, and that even acute hangovers did not appear to alter drinking intentions. The findings appeared on Monday in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.
“We found only modest, inconsistent effects of hangovers on the time to the next drink,” Thomas Piasecki, professor of psychological sciences at the University of Missouri and a member of the research team, told The Telegraph.
“So it doesn’t seem likely that hangovers play a direct role in escalating drinking,” he said.
Piasecki and his colleagues examined the hangover experiences and drinking behaviour of 196 men and 190 women who were frequent drinkers, collecting data from 2,276 episodes of drinking, including 463 that led to hangovers the next morning.
Their study has also corroborated earlier research that smoking cigarettes while drinking is likely to be followed by a hangover. Two years ago, an independent research team at Brown University in the US had shown that smoking can worsen hangovers after heavy drinking.
Laboratory studies suggest that blood alcohol concentrations need to rise to about 10 per cent to 12 per cent for people to experience hangovers. But scientists say there are individual differences in the susceptibility to hangovers.
Piasecki said earlier research suggested that hangovers might influence future alcohol use. It was thought that in some people hangovers encouraged drinking for relief from the hangovers, while some others viewed them as punishments linked to drinking and were dissuaded.
“The new findings suggest that neither is a strong effect,” Piasecki said. “Which means we’ll need to find other explanations for the observed linkages — hangovers may be markers for other risk processes such as individual differences in sensitivity to alcohol or cravings.”
“The message here for (doctors) is that it is probably a waste of time to discuss hangovers when trying to motivate a problem drinker to drink less or less often,” said Demaris Rohnsenow, a professor of behavioural sciences at Brown University School of Public Health in the US, who was not associated with the study.
“Drinkers do not seem to be bothered by the temporary discomfort of hangover.”