Headache, nausea, vomiting, dehydration - these are just some of the symptoms of a hangover that many of us would rather forget. But for people with a family history of alcoholism, this might be easier said than done.
Study leader Dr. Richard Stephens, a psychologist at Keele University in the United Kingdom, and his team recently reported their findings in the journal Psychopharmacology.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, studies have shown that alcohol use disorders can run in families, with genetics accounting for around 50 percent of the risk of alcoholism.
With this in mind, Dr. Stephens and colleagues set out to investigate whether a family history of drinking problems might also influence a person's risk of hangovers.
Exploiting hangover memories could reduce heavy drinking
The researchers conducted two studies. The first study involved 142 adults aged between 18 and 29 years, of whom 24 had a family history of alcoholism.
Participants were asked to complete an online survey that assessed their alcohol intake and hangover frequency over the past 12 months.
Compared with subjects without a family history of alcoholism, adults with a family history of drinking problems reported remembering more frequent hangover symptoms.
"This occurred despite more relevant measures of alcohol consumption - estimated blood alcohol following the largest amount consumed over the past month and drinking frequency - being taken into account," note the authors.
The second study involved 49 adults aged between 18 and 23 years. Of these, 17 had a family history of drinking problems.
For this study, subjects were interviewed the night after engaging in heavy drinking. Their blood alcohol concentrations were measured, and any hangover symptoms were reported.
The team identified no difference in reported hangover symptoms between adults with and without a family history of drinking problems.
"Taken together with findings from prior research it appears that people who are predisposed to develop problem drinking are no more susceptible to developing a hangover after a night of alcohol than people who are not predisposed. However, we found that such people appear to remember their hangovers more lucidly."
Dr. Richard Stephens
Dr. Stephens says that exploiting this lucid memory could be one way to reduce heavy drinking among individuals with a family history of alcoholism.
"Reminding problem drinkers of the negative consequences of incapacitating hangover, for example, letting down family members due to abandoned plans, may help them to manage their alcohol consumption," he adds.