Science & Research

Study finds smoking worsens hangovers

Research from addiction study center could not determine cause behind behaviors’ linkage

By
Contributing Writer
Friday, January 25, 2013

On your next night at the Whiskey Republic, leave the cigarettes at home — smoking could lead to a worse hangover, according to a new study from Brown’s Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies. The research was published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs earlier this month.

To conduct their study, researchers including Damaris Rohsenow, a research professor of behavioral and social sciences, analyzed daily reports from students at an unidentified Midwestern university about how many drinks they consumed, how much they smoked and how they felt the next day.

The researchers focused on drinking episodes when students had an estimated blood alcohol level above .11, slightly over the legal limit of .08. On those nights, students who smoked were more than twice as likely to have a hangover than students who did not. Additionally, students who smoked more cigarettes reported having more intense hangovers the next day.

Hangovers are “not one of the common negatives” reported by students during alcohol counseling, said Frances Mantak, director of health education, so it is difficult to tell whether Brown students have similar experiences. There is a large gap between perceived and actual smoking on campus, with less than 5 percent of students falling into the heavy smoker category, she noted.

The researchers found a correlation between smoking and hangovers but could not explain the relationship. Due to poor understanding of hangover mechanisms in general, explaining that link is difficult, Rohsenow said.

One possible explanation could be that alcohol affects nicotine receptors, Rohsenow said. Smoking has also been linked to poorer sleep quality, which is known to worsen hangovers, she said. Because the students keeping the diaries did not record how much and how well they slept and because the study did not include biological measures, the authors were unable to test these explanations.

Roland Moore, a senior research scientist at the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, wrote in an email to The Herald that he finds the study “persuasive.” Moore drew a parallel between the chemicals in dark liquors like bourbon and rum to those in tobacco smoke. Past research has found that dark liquors lead to worse hangovers, he wrote. “I can speculate that the numerous toxic byproducts of tobacco smoke … could similarly contribute to the experience of hangover,” he added.

Previous research has shown detrimental changes in the brain structures of alcoholics, which are even more pronounced in those who smoke, Rohsenow said.

She said she hopes college students will see her study as yet another reason to quit smoking, as the research demonstrates that even minor use of tobacco with alcohol can have negative effects.