Life Wellbeing Can you really die from a hangover? Everything you need to know

Can you really die from a hangover? Everything you need to know

It's estimated that hangovers cost the economy $148 billion annually due to people missing work and poor job performance.
It's estimated that hangovers cost the economy $148 billion annually due to people missing work and poor job performance. Photo: Getty
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It’s safe to say the majority of people have experienced a hangover once in their life.

This isn’t surprising as according to an Australian Bureau of Statistics survey, Australians drink 9.6 litres of pure alcohol a year.

Alcohol effects everyone differently and you may experience a hangover the next day.

This causes headaches, diarrhoea, nausea, dry mouth and eyes, tiredness, increased heart rate, anxiety and trembling.

Can you really die from a hangover?

Professor Steve Allsop of the Curtin University National Drug Research Institute said you won’t “necessarily” die from a hangover but “excessive alcohol can cause an overdose”.

Alcohol is a depressant drug that slows down the messages travelling between the brain and the body.

A hangover can result in reduced respiration, alcohol poisoning and  dehydration. So technically, a hangover can cause death but it may be due to a contributing factor.

What effect does alcohol have on your body?

When a person drinks, the alcohol is absorbed through the stomach and small intestine.

“It absorbs very quickly and effects the brain and co-ordination,” Mr Allsop said.

Long term alcohol exposure can shrink the frontal lobes of a person’s brain and cause hallucinations and slurred speech.

It can lead to cardiovascular disease, throat and mouth cancers, liver damage, lung infections and cause chronic pancreatitis.

Alcohol has a diuretic effect which causes one to urinate more often therefore resulting in dehydration.

It can also result in malnutrition as alcohol prevents minerals and vitamins from absorbing into the body.

Alcohol can cause hallucinations when a person experiences a hangover.
Alcohol can cause hallucinations when a person experiences a hangover. Photo: Getty

What are some prevention methods to a hangover?

Dr Allsop said that there are numerous was to prevent a hangover.

“Make sure you don’t drink on an empty stomach, stay hydrated and have water before you go to sleep.”

Tiredness is a “key contributor” so get as much rest as you can, Dr Allsop said.

“It is also important to avoid things that might upset your stomach like caffeine so eat light nutritionist food. Think before you have that coffee,” he said.

“Essentially a hangover is your bodies way of saying that you drank too much so don’t next time.”

How long does alcohol poisoning last?

A person’s blood alcohol level will continue to rise for 30 minutes after their last drink as the liver is still processing the beverage.

“One standard drink metabolises in an hour … this means 20 standard drinks would take 20 hours to metabolise,” Dr Allsop said.

Why are some people more tolerate to alcohol than others?

There are a number of variances to a low or high tolerance of alcohol. This includes one size, weight, gender and health condition.

“In general men are bigger than women,” Dr Allsop said. “If an average man and an average woman had the same amount of drinks, the woman would have a higher blood alcohol reading.”

Dr Allsop also said that it is “not necessarily a good thing if you don’t get a hangover” as this usually means you “don’t have an off switch”.