People who smoke usually light up when they have a drink. If they have a lot of drinks, it could be the recipe for a nasty hangover.
Researchers writing in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs were puzzled by an old observation. Some people can drink heavily deep into the night and feel fine the next day. Others who drink the same amount may suffer from headache, nausea and fatigue -- in other words, a hangover.
While many factors can determine whether someone is more prone to a hangover than others, the researchers say their findings suggest smoking may be one of the factors that makes a hangover more likely. Researchers found that college students were more likely to report hangover symptoms after a heavy drinking episode if they smoked more heavily on the day they drank. And it wasn't simply because they smoked more when they drank more.
"At the same number of drinks, people who smoke more that day are more likely to have a hangover and have more intense hangovers," said researcher Damaris J. Rohsenow, Ph.D., of the Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies at Brown University.
Her team identified some other factors as well, such as whether students reported drug use in the past year. And smoking, itself, was linked to an increased risk of hangover compared with not smoking at all.
That raises the likelihood that there is some direct effect of tobacco smoking on hangovers, Rohsenow said. But how and why aren't exactly clear.
Rhosenow points to other research that shows nicotine receptors in the brain are involved in our subjective response to drinking. For example, smoking and drinking at the same time boosts the release of dopamine, a "feel-good" brain chemical.
So the fact that nicotine and alcohol are connected in the brain may explain why smoking is tied to hangover.
The best way to avoid a hangover, of course, is to consume alcohol in moderation or not at all. This time of year there are a lot of holiday parties where cocktails flow freely and the threat of hangovers is greater.
For best results health experts suggest limiting yourself when it comes to beer, wine and spirits and make sure you eat some food at any gathering where alcohol is served.