Have you ever woken up in the morning (or afternoon) in a cloud of worry after having a few drinks the night before?
As this holiday season comes to an end — after weeks of Christmas festivities, holiday parties and New Year celebrations — many of you may be nursing some hangover anxiety, or “hangxiety,” after getting just a little too merry.
As a neuroscientist researching how food and drink affect brain function, let me explain how drinking alcohol can trigger hangxiety the next day.
From tequila to endorphins and dopamine
Alcoholic beverages — beer, wine or spirits — disrupt the delicate balance of chemicals in the brain, called neurotransmitters. Alcohol exerts a cocktail of effects on brain function that can be enjoyable at the time, but much less fun the next day.
Good feelings also come from alcohol increases the release of dopamine by activating the brain’s reward system — the mesolimbic pathway. Dopamine release reinforces behaviours — making it more likely for us to do whatever caused the dopamine surge again.
So, we quickly learn that the shot of tequila or glass of wine made us feel good, making us want more.