With the number of different pain killers out there, how can we be certain what works and what does not? Advil, Aspirin, Tylenol, Ibuprofen, there’s so many brands out there, and they all have somewhat different effects, so in this list, we’re going to break down the components in these and other popular pain killers to see what is safe, and what you should avoid during a hangover.
Now, we briefly covered Advil before, but lets go into a little more depth. Advil is brand of Ibuprofen, which is a “non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug” or NSAID. These are typically used for the treatment of acute or chronic conditions “where pain and inflammation are present.” When you wake up with a hangover, Advil or other NSAIDs, such as Ibuprofen, can help reduce the headache.
On the other hand, you do need to be careful when taking NSAIDs regularly, as they have been associated with adverse gastrointestinal effects, including nausea, gastric bleeding, diarrhea, and indigestion.
If you choose to use advil, ibuprofen, or other NSAIDs for your hangover, we recommend using the lowest effective dose, just to be safe.
While Aspirin is also classified as an NSAID, its manner is somewhat different than the rest of the group. NSAIDs work by inhibiting the enzyme cyclooxygenase (COX). Now, without getting too scientific on here, COX is an enzyme that is responsible for the mediation of inflammatory reactions and vasoconstriction. By inhibiting this enzyme, the NSAID effectively masks minor aches and pains caused by inflammation. Unfortunately, Aspirin inhibits this enzyme in an irreversible manner.
In most cases, Aspirin is considered inferior to ibuprofen, because it is more likely to cause gastrointestinal bleeding. It is generally ineffective for pains caused by muscle cramps, though it is recognized as being effective for both tension headaches and migraines.
Unlike other NSAIDs, we recommend avoiding the use of Aspirin for a hangover due to its adverse effects on the stomach lining. According to most sources, the risk of stomach bleeding is further increased when combined with alcohol.
Unlike the other drugs on this list, Tylenol is not considered to be an NSAID because it only exhibits weak anti-inflammatory activity. The active ingredient in Tylenol is acetaminophen (also known as paracetamol), which is commonly used for the relief of headaches. It can also be used in the management of severe pain such as post-surgical pain.
Tylenol is generally safe at higher doses (up to 1,000 mg per single dose for an adult), but even the smallest overdoses can cause fatal liver damage, which is heightened by chronic alcohol abuse. Now, we aren’t condemning any of you to be alcoholics, but this sounds dangerous to us, so please be careful.
Although Tylenol does not help reduce inflammation, it does have fewer adverse gastrointestinal effects. But don’t celebrate just yet, as paracetamol toxicity is the foremost cause of acute liver failure in the Western world, and accounts for most drug overdoses in the US.
Just to wrap things up nicely, if you’re going to be using any pain reliever to handle your hangover, please do so in moderation. These drugs, when used excessively, all have very negative effects on the body, which are vastly amplified when combined with alcohol. We have plenty of other hangover cure suggestions, so feel free to browse around and find what works for you. Above all, have a good time, and be safe!