Ask Your Pharmacist

December 30, 2021

It’s the holidays and rest assured at one point or another, I will be hurting with a celebration hangover. Are there any hangover remedies that work?


Yes, there is a bullet proof remedy to prevent hangover…. don’t drink alcohol, or at least minimize alcohol intake. Since this strategy isn’t always practical during the holidays, there are a few actions you can take to lessen the chance of a holiday hangover and to manage the symptoms should you experience one.  

A hangover is a set of symptoms that occurs after drinking excessively. Hangover symptoms vary from person to person and may include headache, sensitivity to light and sound, nausea, stomach irritation, thirst, dizziness, irritability, sweating, anxiety, hypertension.

Alcohol is the main chemical responsible for symptoms of hangover. Congeners added during alcohol fermentation and sulfites added as wine preservatives, are also responsible for hangover symptoms. 

Although shelves may be filled at this time of the year with over-the-counter remedies for hangovers, the reality is that few medications have been proven effective. Check with your pharmacist before taking any prescription, natural/herbal, or over-the-counter medications for hangovers to minimize the chance or drug-drug interactions and other medication-related problems. 

Alcohol is a diuretic, and alcohol consumption leads to dehydration. Hangover symptoms can be alleviated by gradually replacing fluid and electrolytes lost during alcohol consumption.  Some electrolyte replacement solutions contain excessive sugar, which can lead to stomach cramps and diarrhea if consumed too quickly. Dilute sugar containing electrolyte drinks to fifty per cent with water to minimize this effect.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) [i.e., aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen] have been used to treat headaches and muscle pain associated with hangovers. The usual adult dose of ibuprofen is 200 to 400 mg up to three times daily. Although ibuprofen may alleviate headache and muscle pains caused by hangover, they also irritate the stomach mucosa and can contribute to worsened nausea, gastritis, and in severe cases may lead to stomach and duodenal ulcers. NSAIDS may also contribute to renal injury in people who are dehydrated and in those taking other medications that act on the kidney.

Acetaminophen is often used to alleviate headache symptoms associated with hangovers. It is important to realize that both alcohol and acetaminophen are filtered by the liver. Keep acetaminophen use well below the total daily maximum of 4 g when treating headache caused by excessive alcohol.

H2 receptor blockers (i.e., ranitidine, famotidine) are available over the counter to treat symptoms of heartburn and mild gastric reflux. These medications have been shown to increase blood alcohol level in people who consume alcohol. Those taking this type of medication while drinking may experience symptoms of alcohol intoxication sooner than if they were not using this medication. Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) (i.e. esomeprazole [Nexium}, pantoprazole, omeprazole, rabeprazole) do not appear to have the same interaction with alcohol as H2 receptor antagonists. Those taking PPIs for their symptoms of gastric reflux should note however, that alcohol may increase the amount of stomach acid secreted, making one’s stomach symptoms worse during a hangover.

If you choose to use a natural product as a hangover remedy, ensure that it has an eight-digit natural product number (NPN) on the package. The presence of this number indicates that the product is approved by Health Canada such that there is a guarantee that what is listed as an active ingredient, is actually contained in the product. It makes no promise about the effectiveness of the product. Nux Vomica is a homeopathic natural product with reported effects against the headache associated with hangovers.

Alcohol depletes water soluble vitamins, minerals and cofactors. Chronic drinking can cause deficiency in thiamine and folic acid. This can have important consequences in terms of coordination and motor skills as well as leading to alcohol related dementia over time. Over the years, a daily multivitamin as well as a vitamin B and C complex have become part of many peoples’ hangover regimen.

This Christmas season, make good choices when it comes to your alcohol consumption. If you choose to drink, do so in moderation. Do not drink and drive, ever. If drinking is having a negative impact on your life, reach out to Alcoholics Anonymous New Brunswick for assistance.

Dr. Kevin Duplisea is a pharmacist at Sharp’s Corner Drugstore in Sussex, New Brunswick. His opinions expressed in this newspaper are published for educational and informational purposes only, and are not intended as a diagnosis, treatment or as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Send your questions to

Sussex pharmacist Kevin Duplisea dispenses information and advice on a wide range of pharmacy questions in a regular column published in several newspapers.

If you have a question you’d like to see answered in his column, you can send it to him at

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