The question: Anyone who's ever indulged in a few stiff drinks and a cigarette can attest that pairing the two vices makes you feel pretty good. But that simple pleasure can cost you the next morning, at least according to researchers from Brown University, who set out to discover whether drinkers who smoke suffer harsher hangovers.
How it was tested: The Brown team enlisted 113 college students and had them detail their smoking and drinking habits — hangovers and all — over an eight-week period.
The outcome: Students who were the heaviest drinkers — consuming six beers an hour, per researchers — but who also smoked were two times more likely to wake up with a nasty hangover than any of the other revelers. The classic symptoms of a hangover, including headache and nausea, were exacerbated if these heavy drinkers smoked a cigarette that same morning.
Potential explanations: This study merely identifies a connection between smoking and more severe hangovers without examining any causal relationship. One possible factor: Both cigarettes and alcohol flood the brain with dopamine, which might lead to a "double crash" once the effects wear off. Or perhaps it's that both alcohol and nicotine hamper sleep, intensifying the hangover with fatigue. Or, says Alexandra Sifferlin at TIME, it could be that nicotine triggers a rush of cytokines, which are typically released in the event of a brain injury but can also cause blood vessel inflammation that leads to headaches and nausea. Whatever the explanation, the problem is certainly common. "In general, people smoke more when they drink because [nicotine] counteracts some of the sedative effects of alcohol," says researcher Damaris J. Rohsenow, a professor at the Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies at Brown.
The lesson: If you have something important to do the next morning, consider staying inside the bar while your friends go out to smoke. Or you could clear out your schedule and spend half a day nursing yourself with one of these weird remedies.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Here's the schedule very successful people follow every day
- A gay Mormon's complicated journey
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- Why you should really take a nap this afternoon, according to science
- The biggest lesson Obama failed to learn from Bush
- Why you shouldn't eat dog. Not even once.
- 7 things the world's happiest people do every day
- How social conservatives became a minority in need of protection
- This Indian meal service is so efficient it's the envy of FedEx
- How to flirt, according to science
Subscribe to the Week