How Long Is a Hangover?

Reviewed on 6/13/2022

What Are Hangover Symptoms?

Hungover woman lying across a bed and getting black coffee poured into her cup
Symptoms of a hangover can last 24 hours or longer, but its duration can vary from person to person.

A hangover is a set of symptoms that are a mild form of alcohol withdrawal that occur after drinking too much. 

There is no set number of drinks that will cause a hangover. Everyone is different, but any time a person becomes intoxicated from alcohol, a hangover is possible and symptoms can vary from person to person. 

Symptoms of a hangover can last 24 hours or longer, and may include: 

Dangerous consequences of a hangover may include impairment in:

  • Attention
  • Decision-making
  • Muscle coordination 
  • Ability to perform important tasks, such as driving, operating machinery, or caring for others 

What Is the Treatment for a Hangover?

The only real cure for a hangover is time. 

Many remedies are available that claim to cure a hangover, but there is no scientific evidence any of them work. The body needs time to rehydrate, to clear the toxic byproducts of alcohol metabolism, to restore irritated tissue, and to return the immune system and brain activity to normal.

Even though a hangover takes time to go away, some home remedies may help ease symptoms. These include: 

  • Drinking plenty of fluids
    • Alcohol can be dehydrating so water or sports drinks can help restore fluid balance
  • Drink coffee or tea
    • While these don’t technically help with the hangover, the caffeine may help with grogginess
  • B vitamins and zinc
    • One small study found that people who ate and drank foods and beverages with greater amounts of B vitamins and zinc had less severe hangovers
  • Eat foods with carbohydrates
    • Alcohol can lower blood sugar levels, and the body may be low on energy
    • In addition, many people don’t eat enough when they drink which can lower blood sugar even more
  • Take an over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever 
    • This may help with headache and body aches
    • Avoid acetaminophen (Tylenol) because acetaminophen's toxic effects on the liver may add to any alcohol remaining in the system 
    • Aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve) may be better choices, but they can increase acid production and worsen stomach irritation caused by drinking so use with caution
  • “Hair of the dog”
    • Involves drinking a little more alcohol to ease symptoms of alcohol withdrawal
    • It may work to minimize symptoms for a short time but it really doesn’t allow the body to recover properly
    • The body will still need to rehydrate and clear the toxic byproducts of alcohol metabolism
  • Avoiding darker-colored alcoholic beverages
    • This may help a little more with prevention than recovery
    • Clear liquors, such as gin or vodka, don’t tend to cause hangovers as frequently as dark liquors, such as red wine, whiskey, or tequila

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Reviewed on 6/13/2022
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