How long a hangover lasts can vary. Hangovers begin when a person’s blood alcohol level drops several hours after they stop drinking. A hangover may last 24 hours or longer.

A hangover is a feeling of illness that occurs after alcohol consumption. The more a person drinks, the greater their chance of experiencing a hangover.

Each individual is different. This means it is difficult to predict the number of drinks or the amount of alcohol that will cause a hangover. However, generally, if a person drinks enough to feel intoxicated, they have a greater chance of experiencing a hangover.

Various factors influence the intensity of hangover symptoms. They include body weight, sex, alcohol type, and a person’s drinking speed.

In this article, read about hangover duration, remedies, prevention, and when to consult a doctor.

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A hangover begins when a person’s blood alcohol level begins to drop. Some experts state that the symptoms of a hangover peak when a person’s blood alcohol level reaches 0.

A person’s hangover symptoms can last for 24 hours or more. The length and severity of a hangover can vary from person to person. Age can play a role in the duration of a hangover, as the liver can slow as a person ages.

Read about the effects of alcohol.

There is no particular way to increase the speed at which a person detoxes from alcohol and recovers from a hangover.

A hangover is over when the body finishes the following:

  • clearing away alcohol’s toxic metabolism byproducts
  • rehydrating
  • healing tissue that is irritated
  • restoring typical brain and immune activity

Some people rehydrate using sports drinks containing electrolytes to ease hangover symptoms. However, research has not found a connection between electrolyte disruption and hangover symptom severity.

A popular myth about hangover remedies suggests having an alcoholic drink the day after drinking. This may briefly ease symptoms, but it prolongs the detoxification process and the hangover.

While there is no cure for a hangover other than time, it may be possible to reduce the severity of some symptoms.

Strategies to manage symptoms may include:

  • drinking water to reduce dehydration symptoms, such as headaches
  • eating breakfast the morning after drinking to stabilize blood sugar levels
  • drinking coffee or tea to promote feelings of alertness
  • taking a cold shower

A 2020 study found evidence to suggest that red ginseng may reduce hangover symptom severity by reducing the ethanol concentration in the blood. Ethanol is the intoxicating compound in alcohol.

Ethanol can cross the blood-brain barrier, where it produces much of its hangover effects, but acetaldehyde cannot. So, the faster the body converts ethanol to acetaldehyde, the less severe a person’s hangover symptoms will be.

In the study, participants using red ginseng had lower concentrations of ethanol and increased acetaldehyde levels compared with placebo. This suggests that the red ginseng increased the speed of ethanol’s conversion to acetaldehyde.

Read more about remedies for a hangover.

There are two ways a person can prevent a hangover:

  • avoiding alcohol use completely
  • keeping alcohol intake to a minimum

A person may be able to reduce hangover effects by:

  • eating before consuming alcohol and drinking slowly
  • drinking a glass of water between alcoholic drinks to help decrease dehydration and consumption of alcohol

Pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) filter through the liver the same way alcohol does. Healthcare professionals caution using this type of medication regularly along with alcohol as it can increase the risk of liver damage.

Learn more about mixing acetaminophen and alcohol.

During a hangover, a person may still experience impairments in:

  • attention
  • muscle coordination
  • decision making

For this reason, they should not drive or perform other tasks requiring optimal cognition.

The following are some questions people frequently ask about hangovers.

What is ‘hangxiety’?

Hangxiety” is anxiety that can occur after drinking. It can linger for several hours even after a person no longer has an elevated blood alcohol level.

A 2017 study found that 22.6% of participants listed anxiety among their hangover symptoms.

Hangover symptoms such as anxiety can last for 24 hours or longer depending on factors such as the amount of alcohol a person consumes, their body size, and their liver health.

When is a hangover serious?

Hangover symptoms that last longer than a day or so may require medical attention.

For people living with heart disease, hangover symptoms such as rapid heart rate and high blood pressure can be dangerous.

Alcohol poisoning is a serious result of drinking too much too quickly. It is life threatening and requires immediate medical intervention.

Alcohol poisoning signs include:

A hangover is the feeling of illness that follows alcohol consumption. It begins as a person’s blood alcohol levels decrease after they stop drinking, and it can last for 24 hours or more.

A person can avoid a hangover if they drink a very small amount or if they abstain from alcohol use.

Time without alcohol use is the only true remedy for a hangover. Popular strategies such as cold showers and coffee drinking can briefly increase alertness. However, they do not speed up the detoxification process. If a person experiences a hangover, it is best to drink plenty of fluids to rehydrate the body.