No hangovers = problem?

Originally Published: March 21, 2008 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: July 18, 2011
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Dear Alice,

I never get hungover yet I am a light female. You guys say that this is a sign of a serious problem, please explain.

— Hangover Free

Dear Hangover Free,

A hangover refers to the unpleasant physical and mental symptoms that are felt after a bout of heavy alcohol drinking (like headache, thirst from dehydration, nausea/vomiting, decreased attention and concentration, decreased sleep and so on). Generally, the greater the amount and duration of alcohol consumption, the more likely a person is to get a hangover and the stronger the hangover symptoms will be. 

Since you are a "light" female (in terms of your body weight), you may begin to feel the effects of alcohol after drinking only a small amount of alcohol. Feeling the effects of alcohol more readily than your larger friends may allow you to drink less alcohol on any given occasion, which could explain your lack of hangovers. In that case, you have nothing to worry about; drinking moderately or lightly is a plausible explanation for not having any hangovers. (In fact, many other readers will probably be jealous; just refer to all the Go Ask Alice! questions about cures for hangovers!)

However, if you are a heavy drinker, then your lack of hangovers could be a sign that your body is addicted to and dependent on alcohol to function normally. (FYI, heavy drinking for a woman is considered 3 or more drinks everyday or a total of 21 or more drinks every week.) In this case, you may feel physical withdrawal symptoms when you discontinue drinking alcohol, but you may not experience hangover symptoms after drinking alcohol.

Alcohol dependence is a common sign of alcohol abuse. No matter how much or how little alcohol you're drinking, if alcohol is causing problems for you (like damaging relationships with family or friends, causing you to have diminished performance in school or at work, etc.), then you may want to consider seeing a counselor to work with you on your relationship with alcohol. If you are a student at Columbia, then you can call Counseling and Psychological Services at x4-2878 to make an appointment.

Simply not having hangovers in general is not a sign of a serious problem. However, if the reason you aren't getting hangovers is because your body is dependent on alcohol, then this dependence could be a problem. Only you will know if alcohol is a problem for you and what the reason for your lack of hangovers is (either drinking within reasonable limits or due to alcohol dependency). Hopefully this clarifies anything that was unclear before. Best of luck!

Alice