Hangovers cost over $140 billion every year in the United States, when factoring in missed work and poor work performance. Scientists have found that over 40% of people who regularly drink alcohol report experiencing hangovers the next day. But they don’t know why some hangovers are worse than others.
Some researchers have suggested other drugs, like cannabis, can make alcohol hangovers worse. The psychoactive drug derived from the cannabis plant, also called marijuana, is being legalized at increasing rates around the United States, meaning more Americans are mixing alcohol and cannabis. Scientists have examined the physical effects of alcohol or cannabis on their own, but not how they work together.
Researchers from Arizona State University and the University of Missouri-Kansas City recently evaluated substance use and hangovers in American adolescents. They wanted to test whether using alcohol and cannabis together made for worse hangovers.
The researchers started by compiling data collected by the National Longitudinal Study on Adolescent and Adult Health, which was taken in the 1990s. They assembled survey data from more than 2,000 American high school students between the ages of 14 and 18. Just over 50% of the students surveyed were female, and most were white.
The students responded to the same questions in the survey twice, one year apart, so the researchers could see how their responses changed over time. They found around 40% of the teens who completed the survey reported having at least one hangover in the first year, and around 37% reported having at least one hangover in the second year.
The researchers then compiled data on how often the teens drank heavily, how often they used cannabis, and how often they used these two substances together. They also asked the teens whether they experienced any depression at or around the same time as they were using alcohol or cannabis.
The team found teens who used cannabis drank more. They were also more likely to experience depression and to have worse hangovers. The scientists found more men than women had hangovers when mixing alcohol with cannabis. They interpreted their data as showing people who use alcohol with cannabis together are more likely to experience more frequent hangovers, partially due to heavier drinking.
They found some people also reported experiencing depression from cannabis and alcohol use, which caused them to drink more. The team found teens who used cannabis heavily reported more depression, even if they didn’t also drink heavily. They concluded cannabis use worsens hangovers both by promoting heavier drinking and by increasing risk of depression.
The researchers explained their study is limited by four main factors. First, they only surveyed the teens twice in one year, so could have missed changes in their substance use in between surveys. Second, the team tracked how often the teens had a hangover, but not how bad their hangovers were.
Third, since they were compiling data from a previous survey, the questions about cannabis and alcohol use were more general than they would have liked. Fourth, the lack of diversity in the teens meant they were unable to identify any demographic factors that would affect substance use, hangovers or depression. Regardless, the team suggested a combo of cannabis and alcohol can be the ticket to worse hangovers.