Headache, sensitivity to light, nausea and fatigue are a few physiological symptoms people commonly associate with hangovers. The morning after a long night of drinking, however, partygoers do not always consider that emotional symptoms, such as depression and anxiety, may also occur.
“The emotional hangover lasts longer than the physical hangover,” Cal Poly counselor Mary Peracca said. “Oftentimes, people get in a big fight with their roommate or cheat on their boyfriend or girlfriend, and as a result wake up the next morning feeling dissatisfied with themselves.”
Peracca works in Counseling Services with students who either voluntarily come in to reduce or stop alcohol and drug intake or are mandated to after committing a felony. She also facilitates a substance abuse process group called New Directions, which explores the impact of alcohol and drug use on personal and academic functioning.
“Regret can be heavy the next morning after drinking,” Peracca said. “The issue is that some students deal with their emotional hangovers by drinking more and then get in a pattern of going out to temporarily fix their problems.”
Dean of Students Jean DeCosta said students are much less motivated the day after drinking and this is in part because alcohol is a depressant. As the alcohol leaves the body, it physically makes one feel more depressed.
“Fluids, rest and sleep are the only ways for a hangover to pass, and this requires time and nourishment,” DeCosta said. “The body needs to recuperate, and things like coffee and aspirin will only mask the problems.”
Karen Hord, a staff physician at the Health Center, said that biologically, there is no cure for a hangover. There are enzymes in your body that break down the poison in the alcohol consumed, and for a hangover to pass, the enzymes have to complete breaking down all the poison.
“Vitamin C is a theoretical cure, but I am sorry to say that there is not any magic,” Hord said. “I recommend high salt and water intake.”
Alcohol is a diuretic, so staying hydrated and trying to pace drinking alcohol to one glass an hour can prevent people from feeling sick or having medical consequences the next day, according to Hord.
“Vomiting and hangovers are your body’s way of telling you that it was too much alcohol and you shouldn’t do it,” Peracca said.
Peracca said some students do not feel the physiological consequences of alcohol if high tolerance of alcohol runs in their family. This causes them to feel no ramifications and that could lead to decide to continue to drink.
However, even those who do not feel nausea or dizziness after a night of heavy drinking should consider that they may unintentionally injure themselves when under the influence of alcohol.
“I see a lot of students come in with injuries after being in fights while they were drunk the night before,” Hord said. “Also, people can get severe sunburns if they’re drinking out in the sun all day and neglect to put on sunscreen.”
Peracca said she finds as students go along in their Cal Poly career, they tend to realize they prefer smaller parties where they know everyone. In these sorts of settings, students are less likely to drink as much as they would at a big party with mostly strangers.
“Students need to know their limits and honor them,” DeCosta said. “Alcohol can make you forget your goals and that is why it is important to know how much your body can comfortably handle.”
Academically, hangovers can have their consequences as well. Drinking on weeknights, especially, can cause students to either not feel up to studying or cause them to lose motivation to study, DeCosta said.
“When students are drinking, and even when they have hangovers, they are not cognitively fully there,” Peracca said. “And if they’re drinking until 2 or 3 a.m. and have an 8 a.m. class the next morning, they could still be intoxicated.”
Peracca said students who spend a whole day studying for an exam and then decide to reward themselves by going out at night will not retain the information well because alcohol causes memory impairment.
If a student is unable to control alcohol intake, this is a sign of an alcohol problem. If a student is drinking to cope with depression, this is an unhealthy outlet and he or she should seek help from Counseling Services to fix the underlying problem, according to counselors.