The Grapevine

Effects Of Being Drunk May Linger Even After Alcohol Leaves Your System

Most of us are aware of the effects of being drunk — reduced speed and coordination, poorer attention and memory, feeling thrown off balance, and more. But researchers at the University of Bath, England, reveal how these symptoms actually overstay their welcome, lingering even after the alcohol is out of our system.

The findings of their review titled "A Systematic Review of the Next ‐ Day Effects of Heavy Alcohol Consumption on Cognitive Performance" was published in the journal  Addiction on Aug. 25.

Now, we know the morning after a night of heavy drinking is generally characterized by a pounding headache and tiredness. Nothing else too significant right?

Well, not quite. It seems some of the cognitive impairments you experience when drunk are still around while you push through your hangover. Study author Sally Adams explained how most people "wait to drive or attend work when they believe that all the alcohol has left their system."

"Our research suggests that even when alcohol has left your system you may still be impaired in cognitive processes required for everyday activities such as working and driving," said Adams, who is a lecturer in health psychology at the University of Bath.

While we have the tools to measure blood-alcohol concentration to stop drunk driving, it can be more of a challenge to deal with hungover driving. The impairment of our hand-eye coordination and reflexes can pose a threat to road safety, which means we are much better off calling an Uber.

"When we combined all studies in our review that had investigated psychomotor skills we found that reaction times were reduced during a hangover," the researchers wrote in an online article. "This could contribute to a delay in correcting the swerve of a vehicle, or reacting to other drivers."

While it may be easy to sort out our commute, engaging in what we do for a living is unsurprisingly trickier. Most workplaces have policies to deal with alcohol intoxication, but not many consider the effects of being hungover. The researchers believed employers should revise their guidelines, especially keeping safety in mind. 

In the aforementioned article, the researchers detailed all the various ways our hangovers could affect productivity. They found certain processes, such as our ability to divide attention between tasks, did not decline after a night of drinking.

While recall also seemed unaffected, they did find the learning aspect of memory was impaired during a hangover. This is most relevant for students who might be unable to absorb and retain information during their lectures, even if their recall and exam performance did not suffer significantly.

In their conclusion, the researchers shed light on numerous gaps in scientific literature related to the subject. Given how much hangovers cost the individual and the economy, more studies were highly encouraged.