NEW YEAR'S DAY Syndrome:
Throbbing, aching head. Dizziness. Nausea. Vomiting. Bad taste. Burning gut. Burning throat. Bad breath. Watery red eyes. The piercing agony of the bright sunlight. And oh, God, that head.
Was it worth it?
Basta! Testimony of a Man:
"I woke up after maybe five, six scotches, some wine, a couple of beers and then, after dinner, about seven or eight Stingers. I felt like the MGM Grand Hotel a couple of weeks ago, complete with helicopters landing on my head . . . and all I could think of, hope for, was that a nurse was going to wheel up an IV unit and hitch one end to my arm and the other to an icewater machine. That was the only thing that would cure it: a 100 percent transfusion of icewater. I moved my head. That was a mistake. Everything was a mistake.I moved my head and the entire universe obeyed Newton's law of equal and opposite reaction, lurching away from me. The Big Blacklash. Everything hurt so bad that the fact that my system was trying to throw up was merely an afterthought.You talk about hair of the dog, I couldn't even get an asprin down, much less some mess compounded of everything I'd been drinking the night before. And even worse than that was the fact that I'd sinned against every known tenet of God and man, that I was a rabid dog and somebody should shoot me . . . even though I couldn't remember anything I'd done wrong, no punches thrown, dresses torn, any of that awful stuff you do when you're young and you haven't learned that fun is spending New Year's Eve watching television and remembering how bad it felt, back in the old days."
This is a dangerous, even revolutionary concept, but there is today some vaguely scientific hint that there may be some slim truth to the hair-of-the-dog theory of hangovers. For one thing, anything that's hung around almost 500 years has got to have some validity to it, don't you think? And besides . . .
But more about that later.
The French have a hangover expression -- gueule de bois -- a vulgarism ne plus ultra with overtones of depravity and likely worse, depending upon the death of cynicism of whatever French person is translating. (Nowadays, they mostly just call it the "g.d.b")
Even in French, hangovers are pretty disgusting: having them, seeing them, nursing your own or (especially) somebody else's.
No greater love hath no greater test.
What are you doing New Year's, New Year's Eve?
Hangovers are caused by too much booze. Simple as that, sports fans, and no matter how much milk, yogurt, vitamins, witches brew you drink beforehand, if you imbibe too much alcohol, you, my friend, are going to have a hangover. And to make it worse, some alcoholic beverages have flavoring agents added which can make you feel even worse than the amount of liquor you consumed might have warranted. (Vodka and gin have no flavoring agents. That is not necessarily a recommendation.)
On the other hand, there is increasing evidence that a daily glass of wine or a single shot of something alcoholic every day is as good as or better than an apple. A small daily drink is apparently good for the heart, good for the blood pressure, good for the temperament, good for the digestion. Remember, though, this is a single drink a day. It takes more to make a hangover.
Alcohol works in the brain and the central nervous system. It interfers with the functions of the complicated nerve networks that affect behavior -- which is why intoxication can lead to making a fool of oneself. Dr. Stan Cohan, of the Georgetown University Medical Center neurology department, notes that alcohol also suppresses the nerve networks that drive the respiratory system and blood pressure. Too much alcohol combined with other drugs appears to intensify the effect of either with potentially disastrous results.It might, for example, seduce the body into forgetting to breathe. This tends to be fatal.
Other (legal) ways to get high:
One: Watch everybody else get high. This is sneaky, but it actually works. Sort of a placebo effect. If everybody else's inhibitions are lessened they won't notice that yours dropped without benefit of booze. If everybody else is making fools of themselves they won't know or care that you're doing it without benefit of booze. As far as I've been able to determine you don't get hangovers from placebo effects. Only highs. And it really is a nice high. Moreover, you are in control.
Two: Well, actually, I can't think of another one right now. Not a legal one . . . Exercise can get the feel-good brain chemicals like endorphins flowing, but who wants to job in black tie or high heels? On the other hand . . .
"The Playboy Party Book," which evidently knows whereof it speaks, defines "hangover" as:
"The wrath of grapes."
Smoking and drinking. Actually, says Dr. Cohan, there don't appear to be any acute immediate effects on people who are both hard drinkers and heavy smokers. (Except the taste in your mouth. Yeccch.) However, in the long run, people who do a lot of both are measurably more susceptible to certain unpleasant conditions such as cancer of the throat, of the nasal passage or of the lung. Also to atrophy of the optic nerve, which causes blindness.
Some Ways to Avoid Waking Up With a Hangover: Don't drink a lot.
Drink orange juice, Tab, virgin marys . . .
"Why," asked the Irish poet, "do people always ask the Irish about drinking?"
Then he said, "but of course, to a professional drinker, New Year's Eve is Ted Mack's Amateur Hour . . . It's disgusting to see all those people who can't drink, drink.
"And whoever decided it was a good thing to start the new year with a hangover? It makes about as much sense to set off a firecracker in your hand to celebrate the independence of a nation . . ." o
Leo Rosten, in "The Joys of Yiddish," tells this story to account in some small part for the historical legend that there are no drunks among Jews, although even Rosten concedes this may no longer be as true as it once may have been:
"In the lounge of a Catskill resort, an hour before the dinner hour, Mrs. Meckler asked Mrs. Smelkin, 'How about a cocktail before dinner?'
"'No thanks, I never drink.'
"'No? Why not?'
"'Well, in front of my children, I don't believe in taking a drink. And when I'm away from my children, who needs it?'"
On the other hand: "Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink." -- Isaiah V, II.
Some famour hangover cures. Offered with no promise whatsoever that they have any value whatsoever.
1. H. Allen Smith: "Lie face down in a snow drift." It's "the only known cure." (Dr. Cohan thinks there may be more truth than poetry here.)
2. Toots Shor's "Bull Shot": beef bouillon, two teaspoons Worcestershire sauce, two teaspoons ketchup, dash pepper, two dashes of vinegar and the yolk of a raw egg. Drink in one gulp.
3. Vitamins. Especially B-complex. Don't do much for hangovers. Certainly won't prevent them, but a shortage of B-vitamins can adversely affect your liver, which is needed to process out the alcohol you processed in. Then again, Dr. Cohan notes that vitamins are not necessarily a protection against the ravages of alcohol abuse.
4. Oxygen. If you have some pure oxygen, available, it might not hurt. There's no real evidence that it helps, though. And it's expensive and not easily come by. And I haven't found anyone to say how it should be used.
5. Coffee. Coffee will wake you up, but it won't make you feel better. It won't even help sober you up when you're drunk. As People's pharmacist Joe Graedon puts it, "You'll just be an awake drunk." Dr. Cohan adds that the alcohol impairment of judgment and coordination is not affected by any amount of caffeine. "You just won't feel sleepy," he said.
6. Vitamin C. Well, it may not help the hangover, but you use up a lot of Vitamin C when you drink and a little extra would not hurt. A couple of remedies that might work:
1. Water. And lots of other non-alcoholic liquids. Alcohol, Dr. Cohan points out, is not only a dehydrator but a diuretic. So after a bout of heavy drinking you need to resupply your body with liquids.
2. Time and rest. The only thing that all authorities can agaree on is that a hangover will go away. Eventually. It takes, say the experts, a certain length of time for your overburdened liver to cleanse the ethanol from your self-tortured body. You may also feel light-headed because you may have caused contraction of the body's total blood volume. You're sick. Stay in bed. Nobody wants you around anyway.
Some other recipes for short and only briefly happy lives:
Mix alcohol with:
Other central nervous system depressants like barbiturates, sleeping pills, sedatives, "downers," narcotic pain killers. Deadly.
Antihistamines as found in cold medicines. A knockout. Literally.
Aspirin. Alcohol makes the stomach more easily irritated and aspirin is an irritant. If you have an ulcer, you're in ba-a-ad trouble.
Tranquilizers. Too depressing.
Anti-depressant drugs. These can kill when mixed with booze. At the least, they make you drunker and sicker, faster.
In fact, alcohol doesn't mix well with any other drugs, including antibiotics.
And of course, the last one, the most deadly, the most antisocial, the most inexcusable mixture still has to be alcohol and . . . driving.
There weren't any cars, Japanese or otherwise, so it was okay, and considering the state of medicine, probably true for founding-father Ben Franklin to say way back when that "there are more old drunkards than old doctors."
Personally, I'll stick with Ralph Waldo Emerson almost a century later: "There is much to be said in favor of drinking, that it takes the drunkard first out of society, then out of the world."
Now about that hair-of-the-dog:
First, there's "The Proverbes" of John Heywood, the earliest known collection of Englis colloquial sayings. (Heywood is responsible for all the English cliches that Shakespeare didn't write and probably most people think he did.) Here's how Heywood put it in 1546:
"I pray thee let me and my fellow have "A Haire of the dog that bit us last night."
Well, as it turns out, sometimes, some of the agony of hangover is caused by irritable tumtum. Alcohol can soothe in small quantities. In comparatively minuscule doses, like maybe a tablespoon or two, it might serve to soothe, at lest temporarily, some of the spasms that are doubling you over. According to Carol Ann Rinzler's "Dictionary of Medical Folklore," this has been, more or less, medically documented.
In that limited sense, then, the old wives may have won another one.
It seems a thin one to count on. And Dr. Cohan is frankly skeptical.
But, then, it's your head.
Happy New Year.