Chemistry behind hangover

Sree Amertharaj during the webinar

A webinar titled “Chemistry behind hangover” was conducted on 25 October 2021 via Zoom and Facebook Live in conjunction with e-KLESF 2021. Speaking at the webinar was Centre for Foundation Studies of Kampar Campus lecturer R. Sree Amertharaj. The webinar was held to understand the chemistry behind hangovers and to educate participants on the side effect of consuming excessive alcohol.

In the webinar, Sree Amertharaj spoke about drinking and driving as one of the major contributions to fatalities that arise from vehicle accidents. While it is prohibited for an individual to drink and drive, the cases are high among teenagers and young adults. Participants were exposed to the knowledge of chemistry behind the making of booze and hangover as well as the do’s and don’ts that individuals should adhere to if they are under the influence of alcohol.

He said, “Alcoholic beverages are comprised of a large group of beverages that contain varying amounts of alcohol (ethanol). Alcoholic beverages produced on an industrial scale include beer, wine, and China rice wine as well as distilled spirits such as brandy, whisky, rum, gin, cognac, vodka, tequila, pisco and China distilled spirit. The major constituents usually consist of ethanol and water. The minor or trace constituents are fusel alcohols, organic acids, carbonyl compounds, esters, aldehydes, lactone, sulphur compounds, sugar, preservatives and colourants.”

“Alcoholic hangover occurs because of drinking too many alcoholic beverages a day before. The typical symptoms include fatigue, weakness, thirst, headache, muscle aches, nausea, stomach pain, vertigo, sensitivity to light and sound, anxiety, irritability, sweating and increased blood pressure. All these symptoms vary from one person to another. According to the World Health Organisation, Malaysians on average consume 3.1 litres of alcohol per capita of population. Male consumers are more than half of the female consumers,” added Sree Amertharaj.

The real causes of alcoholic hangover are dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, gastrointestinal imbalance, low blood sugar, disruption of sleep, headache, effect of alcoholic metabolites and other biological rhythms. Generally, the liver breaks down ethanol to acetaldehyde and subsequently convert it to acetate. Acetate can be further broken down into carbon dioxide and water. On average, the liver can break down eight grams or 10 millilitres of pure alcohol within an hour.

He concluded, “Alcohol hangover is caused by excessive intake of alcohol which leads to several severe symptoms. To avoid untoward incidents such as drunk and drive related accidents, one should consume alcohol responsibly. Two main factors that contribute to a hangover are dehydration and the poisoning effects of alcohol on the body’s systems. Dehydration is reversible and its symptoms can be relieved with water or sports drinks that replace electrolytes. However, only time can reverse the toxic effects of alcohol on the central nervous system and the gastrointestinal systems.”

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