Drinking Can Slow Down Your Brain, Even Once You’re No Longer Drunk
Hangovers don’t just make you feel physically like the walking dead — according to a new study, they also impair your ability to think long after your body clears the alcohol from your bloodstream.
Published in the journal Addiction, researchers found impaired attention, memory and psychomotor skills like speed and coordination are some of the next-day effects following an episode of heavy drinking. These negative effects, they found, linger even when little to no alcohol is is in the body. This means that hangovers may impact everyday activities such as driving, even when a person is no longer under the influence.
What constituted “heavy drinking” was not standardized, as studies included in this meta-analysis focused on blood alcohol content of participants the day after their consumption. However, the US’s National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines an episode of binge drinking as roughly four drinks for women, or five drinks for men, consumed in a two-hour period.
“In our review of 19 studies we found that hangover impaired psychomotor speed, short and long term memory and sustained attention. Impaired performance in these abilities reflects poorer concentration and focus, decreased memory and reduced reaction times the day after an evening of heavy drinking. Our review also indicated limited and inconsistent research on alcohol hangover and the need for future studies in the field,” says lead author Craig Gunn, of the department of psychology at the University of Bath.
Gunn’s team is calling for greater awareness about the cognitive effects of binge drinking, especially among those whose work requires vigilance. They’re also calling for more research on the subject; most alcohol-related studies tend to concentrate on the health effects of drinking, or the immediate effects while alcohol is in present in the body, rather than analyze alcohol’s impact on thinking and functioning even after the body has cleared the substance.
Between this, and the news that there’s no level of alcohol consumption safe for good health, happy hours just got a whole lot more depressing.