Hangovers are never fun. For many people, the morning after drinking too much alcohol delivers feelings of fatigue, nausea and a pounding headache. In addition to these unpleasant feelings, some people experience a sensation that has been coined ‘hangxiety’ – in other words, anxious feelings during a hangover.
Hangxiety – also known as ‘the beer fear’ - is very real. Panicked thoughts of ‘What did I do last night? Did I embarrass myself? Did I lose my favourite jacket?’ can result in intense, physical symptoms of anxiety and an overwhelming panic that can be debilitating and draining. It is reported that 28% of adults in the UK experience hangover anxiety. Of course, one way to stop experiencing hangxiety is to stop drinking. But if you enjoy a night of drinking and socialising and would rather not give it up, there may be ways in which you can reduce feelings of hangxiety without committing to a life of sobriety.
Maybe you’ve considered using a CBD oil. While not a hangover cure, there are ways in which the popular hemp derivative could provide hangover and hangxiety relief. Stick with us as we delve into the science of hangover anxiety and whether CBD offers any practical solutions for those unwelcome feelings the morning after the night before.
What is Hangxiety?
Hangxiety refers to a feeling of intensified anxiety that is experienced following a night of drinking alcohol. During a hangover, your body is in a state of physiological stress (similar to recovering from an injury or illness). Cortisol (the stress hormone) levels are elevated, as are blood pressure and heart rate, as your body attempts to restore biochemical balance.
Brain physiology changes as a result of alcohol intake. Dopamine (a neurotransmitter that plays a part in the regulation of anxiety) is lowered. Furthermore, alcohol significantly lowers sleep quality, and this lack of good quality sleep adds to a decline in cognitive function and mood.
Hangxiety symptoms may include:
- Feelings of anxiety or depression
- Overthinking and overanalysing events from the previous night
- Feeling overwhelmed, embarrassed or paranoid
- Elevated heart rate
- An inability to concentrate
Not everybody suffers from hangover anxiety, and the intensity of the anxiety can vary from person to person.
Glutamate and GABA
GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) is a calming neurotransmitter located within the brain. When we drink alcohol, the GABA receptor is stimulated which calms the brain, resulting in the happy and relaxed mood often associated with being tipsy.
After a few more drinks, glutamate (an excitatory neurotransmitter) becomes inhibited. This results in even less anxiety and is typically the point where you begin to let loose, i.e. you are drunk. While this is going on, levels of your fight-or-flight hormone, noradrenaline, begin to rise.
This chemical reaction in the brain, while making you feel happy, relaxed and wonderful while you are drinking, is setting you up for a mental and physical crash once the party’s over.
You're not getting enough of what you need to thrive, so your body begins to compensate. It senses this new chemical imbalance – higher GABA and reduced glutamate levels, among other things – and goes into overdrive trying to right the situation. When you're intoxicated, your body goes on a mission to bring GABA levels back to normal and replace glutamate. When the drinking stops, your brain chemistry shifts abnormally, with decreased GABA function and an increase in glutamate – a condition that causes anxiety.
Is CBD Good for Hangover Anxiety?
When you are intoxicated with alcohol, your body is desperately trying to restore a sense of balance. This is where CBD can help. CBD (cannabidiol) is a natural substance of the cannabis plant that is extracted and consumed or inhaled to enhance wellbeing. It does this by interacting with the body’s endocannabinoid system and promoting homeostasis (that happy chemical balance that your body aspires to).
CBD may help to:
- Restore normal GABA levels to promote relaxation
- Block glutamate to reduce feelings of anxiety
- Regulate noradrenaline and serotonin activity to improve mood
Simply put, CBD helps your body better adapt to the stress of a hangover. Since CBD is safe, non-intoxicating and provides only a natural boost to your endocannabinoid system, it is highly unlikely that you will experience any hangover-like effects following the use of CBD.
Could CBD Make a Hangover Worse?
It is very unlikely that CBD will make a hangover worse. Cannabidiol is very well tolerated by most people, but if you are new to the cannabinoid or sensitive to its effects, we would recommend beginning with a small dose. Side effects are rare but may include drowsiness and nausea, which could make you feel worse with a hangover. Start small and slowly and observe your reaction and tolerance levels as you build up your CBD use and dosage.
Is it Safe to Use CBD After Drinking Alcohol?
While studies are in the preliminary stages, there is no evidence to show that using CBD after drinking alcohol is unsafe. CBD is a safe, non-addictive and non-intoxicating substance that is tolerated well by many.
There are some reports to suggest that using CBD together with alcohol may amplify the effects. We would recommend using CBD and alcohol together in moderation. While CBD does not intoxicate, it lessens anxiety which could go hand-in-hand with those lowered inhibitions we experience from alcohol intake.
Tips to Beat Hangxiety
Before and during drinking:
- Eat before drinking
- Set a limit – and stick to it!
- Drink water in between alcoholic drinks
- Get plenty of rest
- Talk through your anxious thoughts – either with yourself or with a friend or family member
- Try a CBD-infused oil to restore balance
- Eat a light and healthy meal
- Practise an activity of self-care; this could be yoga, a walk, a bath, meditation or listening to your favourite music
Best CBD Products to Combat Hangxiety
Health store shelves are stocked with a wide variety of CBD-based products lately, including CBD gummies, oils, balms and skin creams. Which are best for hangxiety? Orally-ingested CBD products are most suitable for general symptoms of stress and anxiety. CBD gummies and oils, for instance, release CBD into the bloodstream whereby it can interact with the endocannabinoid system to result in an overall calming effect. Some products are also infused with additional natural substances to help further alleviate anxiety. Check out Mission C’s CBD + Day Oil, for instance, which has added Ginkgo Biloba and Ginseng to reduce anxiety and boost energy levels.