EP 142: Reader Question – Why do I feel better the day after drinking?

Most people feel miserable and hungover the day after drinking. Why do some people have the opposite effect? I feel full of energy and great! Annie explains why this does happen and why alcohol is sometimes referred to as the ‘dirty drug’.

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Why Do I Feel Better After Drinking?

I feel down and stuck before I drink, and then I drink to unstick myself and I feel better, not only while I’m drinking, but also the next day I feel energized. Then as the days go on, the decline starts to happen again and by the fourth or fifth day, I feel like I need to drink to unstick myself again. Why is this?”

Anxiety

This is such a good question because there are so many facets to alcohol, and the more research I do the more interesting the alcohol puzzle becomes. But first of all, let’s talk about the anxiety the day after drinking. In a nutshell what that is, is that when you drink alcohol your body releases counter chemicals to deal with the alcohol, things like adrenaline and cortisol. When you have your blood alcohol content rising, for about a half an hour for one drink, it falls for two to three hours from that one drink. The rising feels euphoric, those are the nice feelings and the falling feels quite bad because your body is counteracted the alcohol with all sorts of stress hormones in order to counteract what the alcohol is doing in your brain. Your brain is adaptive, that means that it just continues to adapt.

Roller Coaster

When you feel the next day, bad, it’s because that blood alcohol is falling and things are falling down. This is if you have a few drinks, right, on occasion. You’re going to feel up and then down. The kicker is, you feel your blood alcohol rising and you try to keep it rising, keep it rising, keep it rising, so you might be able to keep it rising for two or three drinks, but then it’s going to fall. Most of the time when your blood alcohol level is falling, we’re asleep, so you don’t notice these nasty feelings. Then sometimes, obviously waking up, the hangover the next day you don’t feel good.

Dirty Drug

Alcohol is a dirty drug and that’s because so many different things happen inside your brain when you drink alcohol. Your brain is just trying to claw back normalcy or homeostasis, trying to protect itself, and so it develops tolerance, and all sorts of things.

Hormonal

What happens with you feeling better the next day is that over time you have told your brain … your brain will naturally, when you feel anxiety, when you feel stress, it will release counter chemicals for that like GABA, for instance. That’s a chemical that makes you calm, it makes you feel better. Alcohol provides GABA artificially. If we take the GABA example, and if you can imagine this happens for all sorts of neurochemicals inside your brain. The GABA example, alcohol’s been providing it artificially for lots, and lots, and lots of time, so your brain doesn’t provide it itself. It actually puts the brakes on it, and so it will counteract it.

Where alcohol used to be, where your brain used to naturally calm down stressful situations, stressful hormones, anxiety, alcohol has been doing that for you for a very, very long time.

Your brain no longer is putting the brakes. When you stop drinking, it’s like taking your foot off the brake and your brain has to naturally adapt back to normal.

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Special music thank you to the Kevin MacLeod Funkorama (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
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