The Frontal Cortex

The Hangover

Joan Acocella has an interesting article on the science of hangovers:

Hangovers also have an emotional component. Kingsley Amis, who was, in his own words, one of the foremost drunks of his time, and who wrote three books on drinking, described this phenomenon as “the metaphysical hangover”: “When that ineffable compound of depression, sadness (these two are not the same), anxiety, self-hatred, sense of failure and fear for the future begins to steal over you, start telling yourself that what you have is a hangover. . . . You have not suffered a minor brain lesion, you are not all that bad at your job, your family and friends are not leagued in a conspiracy of barely maintained silence about what a shit you are, you have not come at last to see life as it really is.” Some people are unable to convince themselves of this. Amis described the opening of Kafka’s “Metamorphosis,” with the hero discovering that he has been changed into a bug, as the best literary representation of a hangover.

My worst hangover occurred during my freshman year. I foolishly took the advice of a friend and ordered a few Red Bulls with vodka. The drink was disconcertingly easy to chug and, thanks to the caffeine in the Red Bull, I felt less drunk than I was. As a result, I kept on drinking. The worst part of the whole night, though, was not being able to sleep. Because I’d just consumed a lot of caffeine, I lay in bed, nauseous and exhausted, unable to pass out. I had the distinct pleasure of feeling a hangover slowly settle in.

Kids: learn from my mistake. Don’t mix stimulants with booze. It confuses the hell out of your GABA receptors.


  1. #1 tincture
    May 21, 2008

    Kids: learn from my mistake. Don’t mix stimulants with booze. It confuses the hell out of your GABA receptors.

    Nonsense! You just need more practice! Like many things in life, practice makes perfect. Don’t let one bad experience turn you off binge drinking, follow your dream!

    I’m only half joking.

  2. #2 Janet Bell
    May 21, 2008

    I am going to pass this info on to my teenage son! Teenage Wasteland!

  3. #3 Adam
    May 22, 2008

    It’s scary how much stimulants with alcohol are becoming more and more popular. Red Bull, Monster energy, and even Budweiser makes a caffeinated beer. Go into any bar near a college campus and you’ll lose count the number of jager bombs are ordered (a shot of jagermeister and red bull).

  4. #4 OftenWrongTed
    May 23, 2008

    And yet far worse consequences are available by moving the scene of the drinking to an aircraft in flight where the relative humidity is 1/4 of a percent, adding dehydration to your list of miseries.

  5. #5 Anibal
    May 24, 2008

    Explosive cocktail Jonah, but even in the worst experience we can learn something.
    I believe people (mis)use legal recreational drugs, illegal or other medical related drugs to know its own limits, to know the workings of his “brain” as much as Huxley did.

  6. #6 Richelle
    July 17, 2011

    Can anyone explain or give insight to my situation?

    When I’m hung over, I’m my true self. I’m no longer the girl who is completely non-accepting of life and trying to force change to no avail. I’m no longer the completely invulnerable girl who hides her emotions and is basically a robot to protect herself. I am myself.

    I write myself letters when I’m hung over to help myself remember the next day when I’m not hungover of how I should be. It’s like I’m writing a letter to my ‘other self’, although that other, day-to-day self, is false.

    I just want to let go and have life be easy like it is when I’m hungover, and be able to love, and be vulnerable and be accepting.

    What I feel in my brain when I am hungover is a numbing in the prefrontal cortex, and I beleive this is what is causing my “normality”… which is to say I have an over-active area in my pre-frontal cortex. Could this be from PTSD? I was raised in a very abusive and abrasive environment since I was in my mom’s belly.

    If anyone can help me… I would greatly appreciate it. I just want to live a normal happy life that I SO know is possible because I see glimpses when hungover, but I don’t know how. I don’t want much. I just want my life.

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