Published May 27, 2011
Hangovers are like a Long Island Iced Tea—a phenomenon made from equal parts headache, stomach pains, fuzzy mental function, and a sour mix of regret and self-hatred. As heinous as they are, though, hangovers force us to confront truly tough questions (read: I hooked up with who?).
A hangover serves true enjoyment like death serves life: it makes it worthwhile, gives it value. Hangovers don't punish us for wanting to have fun, they simply tweak the definition of fun to include such modifiers as “dumb decision” and “never-do-that-again,” de facto warnings we'll forget in earnest the next time around.
So let us pause and raise a toast to 5 things you didn't know about hangovers.
1. Ancient hangovers were treated with bird beaks and tree sap
The first thing you didn't know about hangovers is that when you have one, it is not a good time to try to figure out how to cure one. We're not at the top of our mental game; we're too desperate, we'll try anything.
Take those ancient Assyrians throwing ragers along the Tigris in Mesopotamia. They thought they could manage or treat their post-party blues with a concoction featuring myrrh and the ground-up beaks of birds. Like every other human effort on the market, the research just doesn't support this one.
2. The longest recorded hangover lasted four weeks
In September 2007, The Lancet, among the most prestigious peer-reviewed medical journals in the world, published a case report by three doctors in Glasgow about a man who made his way to the hospital's ER, complaining of "blurred vision and a persistent dull headache" which he'd had for four weeks. Following a patient history and an exam, the doctors had no clue why he was so miserable.
Then he mentioned that it all kind of started following a domestic squabble, which sent him on a 4-day, 60-pint bender. The beer had so dehydrated him that he developed cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (in other words, he drank himself into having a stroke).
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3. The ATF shut down a vodka maker’s “hangover-free” ad campaign
In 1992, Tom Vanderbilt, writing in the sorely missed critical journal The Baffler, took issue with newly introduced SKYY Vodka, which ran an ad campaign pitching their vodka as being hangover-free, a spirit promising all the fun of getting hammered without the messiness of the morning after. Vanderbilt, who referred to hangovers as "the drinker's spiritual pilgrimage back to good health," reviled the ads as appealing to our base desire to want something for nothing.
He wasn't the only one to take offense to this attractive offer: the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) didn't like it either, and forced SKYY to stop openly making the claim.
4. Rabbit droppings were used as a hangover cure in the Old West
Think Billy the Kid and Doc Holiday were badass just because of their skills with a firearm? Think again. Not only did these guys rule over a scary lawless land, they drank tea made from rabbit droppings in order to alleviate their hangovers. On the other hand, how much respect this new piece of information instills in these legendary mavericks remains questionable.
5. Rich people have milder hangovers
The last thing you didn't know about hangovers is that they do discriminate—cheapskates opting for the bar's well tequila over the top-shelf stuff could be in for a meaner hangover.
An exhaustive study of hangovers published by the National Institutes of Health indicated that some congeners—compounds added to alcohol for color and flavor—may "contribute to a beverage’s intoxicating effects and to a subsequent hangover." Pricey liquors are distilled with higher purity, and they have fewer such congeners, including a potentially lethal one: methanol.
The body metabolizes high concentrations of methanol into things likes of formaldehyde and methanoic acid (found in bee venom), which can lead to "blindness or death."