Hangovers that feel like ‘alcohol poisoning’ could have a surprising cause, scientists discover

By Staff 6 Min Read

Researchers have found patients with the condition saw their sensitivity to alcohol go up, leaving them with crippling symptoms the morning after enjoying a few drinks

Terrible hangovers that feel like you’re suffering from alcohol poisoning could be being caused by ‘long Covid’, a new study suggests.

Researchers in the US have found that patients with the condition saw their sensitivity to alcohol go up, leaving them with crippling symptoms the morning after enjoying a few drinks.

The study found that half of the participants said their headaches got much worse after they drank the same amount they would have routinely consumed before the caught Covid. One patient reported their hangovers became so bad they were unable to move the day after consuming alcohol.

Another patient, a 40-year-old woman, said her hangovers had become like “alcohol poisioning” after she had just one drink – when she had previously been able to drink seven mixed drinks in a night with no issues.

“Prior to her initial Covid infection, she had no issues with alcohol tolerance and could easily tolerate about seven mixed drinks containing hard liquor in one night,” said Ella Eastin, of Stanford University.

“After Covid infection, however, she reported feeling like she suffers from ‘alcohol poisoning’ after drinking even small amounts of alcohol and feels ‘terrible’ for several days after consumption. Her tolerance has decreased to the point where one beer would result in a severe ‘hangover’.”

Tens of thousands of Brits are affected by long Covid but the condition remains largely misunderstood. The mysterious illness, which can sometimes cause deadly complications, can occur months or sometimes even years after a patient contracts Covid.

Most people recover from Covid symptoms within 12 weeks after an infection, the NHS defines long Covid, also known as post-Covid-19 syndrome, as symptoms which last longer than this period. Sufferers find their symptoms can fluctuate or relapse over time. Researchers are currently trying to improve our understanding of the condition, hopefully offering medics more options to treat it in future.

Symptoms commonly include extreme tiredness, muscle aches, loss of smell and shortness of breath. Other symptoms can include brain fog – which are problems with memory and concentration as well as difficulty sleeping. Depression, Chest pain or tightness, heart palpitations, joint pain, anxiety, dizziness, pins and needles and tinnitus are all potential signs of the condition as well.

The latest study was looking at how the condition affected alcohol tolerance in four long Covid patients, it was published in Cureus. One participant, a 49-year-old woman who also had type 1 diabetes and coeliac disease, reported suffering from hangovers so bad that she couldn’t move.

Eastin said: “The patient used to consume several drinks per week and drink socially, but reported that she had not consumed alcohol for the last seven months due to decreased tolerance. The patient reported one instance, post-Covid infection, during which she had one glass of wine and had such a bad reaction that she felt she could not move.

“She described her symptoms as similar to a ‘bad hangover’, with a headache, grogginess, and ‘overwhelming’ fatigue the next day. A week later, a single drink led to similar worsening of her symptoms.”

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