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No convincing scientific evidence that hangover cures work

A new systematic review has found only very low-quality evidence that substances claiming to treat or prevent alcohol-induced hangover work.

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Researchers from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King's College London have called for more rigorous scientific exploration into the effectiveness of hangovers remedies to provide practitioners and the public with accurate evidence-based information on which to make their decisions.

Numerous remedies claim to be effective against hangover symptoms; however, up-to-date scientific examination of the literature is lacking. To address this gap, a team of researchers from King’s College London and South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust conducted a systematic review to consolidate and assess the current evidence for hangover treatments.

The study, published in Addiction, assessed 21 placebo-controlled randomised trials of clove extract, red ginseng, Korean pear juice, and other hangover cures. Although some studies showed statistically significant improvements in hangover symptoms, all evidence was of very low quality, usually because of methodological limitations or imprecise measurements. In addition, no two studies reported on the same hangover remedy and no results have been independently replicated.

Of the 21 included studies, eight were conducted exclusively with male participants. The studies were generally limited in their reporting of the nature and timing of alcohol challenge that was used to assess the hangover cures and there were considerable differences in the type of alcohol given and whether it was given alongside food.

Common painkillers such as paracetamol or aspirin have not been evaluated in placebo controlled randomised controlled trials for hangover.

According to the researchers, future studies should be more rigorous in their methods, for example by using validated scales to assess hangover symptoms. There is also a need to improve the participation of women in hangover research.

“Hangover symptoms can cause significant distress and affect people’s employment and academic performance. Given the continuing speculation in the media as to which hangover remedies work or not, the question around the effectiveness of substances that claim to treat or prevent a hangover appears to be one with considerable public interest. Our study has found that evidence on these hangover remedies is of very low quality and there is a need to provide more rigorous assessment. For now, the surest way of preventing hangover symptoms is to abstain from alcohol or drink in moderation.”– Dr. Emmert Roberts, King's IoPPN

The hangover cures assessed in this study included Curcumin, Duolac ProAP4 (probiotics), L-cysteine, N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine (NAC), Rapid Recovery (L-cysteine, thiamine, pyridoxine and ascorbic acid), Loxoprofen (loxoprofen sodium), SJP-001 (naproxen and fexofenadine), Phyllpro (Phyllanthus amarus), Clovinol (extract of clove buds), Hovenia dulcis Thunb. fruit extract (HDE), Polysaccharide rich extract of Acanthopanax (PEA), Red Ginseng, Korean Pear Juice, L-ornithine, Prickly Pear, Artichoke extract, 'Morning-Fit' (dried yeast, thiamine nitrate, pyridoxine hydrochloride, and riboflavin), Propranolol, Tolfenamic acid, Chlormethiazole, and Pyritinol.

The research was part-funded National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Biomedical Research Centre and the NIHR Applied Research Collaboration South London.

‘The efficacy and tolerability of pharmacologically active interventions for alcohol-induced hangover symptomatology: A systematic review of the evidence from randomised placebo-controlled trials’ (DOI10.1111/add.15786)was published in Addiction

For more information, please contact Patrick O'Brien (Senior Media Officer)

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Emmert Roberts

Emmert Roberts

MRC Clinical Research Fellow