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Your Hangover, According to Science

"I'm never going to drink again." - the common phrase after a long night of drinking. But, we all know this isn't true. The question is: can abstinence from alcohol can reverse much of the physical damage caused by heavy drinking?

Let's look at the science and talk about exactly how alcohol is absorbed in your body. We spoke with our in-house biochemist Anand Swaroop who breaks the entire process down below:

Alcohol is first absorbed in the mouth through the mucosal membrane. Only about 1~2% of alcohol is absorbed in the mouth and the rest will immediately reach your bloodstream.

The alcohol then reaches the small intestine and gets absorbed there. If you ate a meal before you started drinking, the transport of alcohol is delayed causing slow absorption.

The liver is the main organ which breaks down 80~90% of alcohol. With the help of enzymes, the liver breaks down alcohol into energy (aka calories), water and carbon dioxide. In stage one of alcohol absorption, the liver uses the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH), to break down ethanol into the acetaldehyde.

In stage two, the enzyme aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) breaks down acetaldehyde into acetate. The acetate then enters the normal metabolic cycle and gets converted to water and carbon dioxide.

Varying amounts of alcohol leave the body via skin (1-3%) and breath (7~8%). The kidneys overwork in presence of alcohol and about 10% of ingested alcohol leaves the body via urine.

The average capacity the liver has to break down alcohol is 10 gm / hour (one standard drink). While the liver is slowly processing the ethanol in your system, the remainder or excess alcohol in your blood quickly moves to the brain. This blocks chemical signals between your neurons, leading to the common immediate symptoms of intoxication, including impulsive behavior, slurred speech, poor memory, and slowed reflexes.

After alcohol leaves the system, the brain continues over activating the neurotransmitters, causing painful and potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms that can damage brain cells— aka a hangover. For most people, the brain can heal.

So, long story story, YES, if started in time - abstinence from alcohol can reverse much of the physical damage caused by heavy drinking.

The effects alcohol generates at the brain level include euphoria, depression, disorientation, excitement, confusion, stupor, and in extreme cases coma.