A “Hang-over”: Described and Explained

By Cecil Willis

Alcohol consumption probably is at an all-time high. The last figures that I have immediately available show that Americans consume yearly an average of 28 gallons of beer per man, woman, and child. The whiskey, rum, and brandy upon which taxes are paid amount to four gallons per year per man, woman, and child in the United States. No doubt considerable additional amounts of alcoholic beverages are made, but upon which payment of taxes by one means or another is avoided. The reports in most reference books are about two years old, and I do not even have before me at this moment the latest reference sources. But in 1969 the stupendous sum of 985,000,000 gallons of whiskey, rum, or brandy were consumed in this country. Also in 1969, 122,657,000 barrels of beer were consumed. About $12,000,000,000.00 (that is 12,000 million! !)are spent yearly in this country on alcohol.

Reports show that 80,000,000 Americans are “fairly regular drinkers.” By the time you eliminate the small children from our 200,000,000 people, that leaves a large percentage of Americans as “fairly regular drinkers.” In -fact, statistics show that 69% of all men in America are “fairly regular drinkers.” The women are not far behind in this statistic; 54% of all women are “fairly regular drinkers.” Perhaps the most shocking statistic is the one which shows that the heaviest drinkers are those between 18 and 24 years of age. Though judging from the young people I know personally, the following statistics seem impossible to be correct, nevertheless it remains a fact that studies show that 71 % of all college students are “fairly regular drinkers,” and 67% of all High School students fall into this ignoble category.

Our affluent nation has the dubious distinction of having more alcoholics than any other nation in the world. There are at least 25,000,000 alcoholics in the world, and one fourth of all these live in our fair land. America is followed by France, and Sweden in number of alcoholics. The figures also show that one person out of twelve who drinks becomes an alcoholic.

There are some in the church who join nearly the whole of society in an effort to justify social drinking. It would be very interesting to know just what percentage of people who are members of the church do some drinking of alcoholic beverages. Many in the church who would categorically condemn drinking whiskey or brandy would still try to justify just an occasional beer. Quite a few brethren can see nothing wrong in drinking a glass of wine now and then. I have even known of an elder in the church who served champagne at his son’s wedding supper. Several brethren whom I have known have sold various forms of alcoholic beverages in their business establishments. One leading and very active member in my home congregation, when I was a boy, was County Distributor for the Falstaff Beer Company. He stayed in this business until retirement age, and retired in the good graces of both the Falstaff Beer Company and the brethren. I feel quite sure, in the light of what he has said, that he did not live or retire in the good graces of the Lord.

What some brethren seem to forget is that a man can get enough alcohol to make him drunk by any of several different means. In fact, it has been stated that the “average drink” of the various kinds of alcoholic beverages contains approximately the same amount of alcohol. A report from the International Narcotic Research Foundation states: “The average `drink’ of beer, wine, or whiskey contains about the same quantity of alcohol (by weight) although the amounts of liquid differ. So the drinker can get practically the same effect from a 10 ounce bottle of 4 1/2 % beer, or 2 1/2 ounce glass of 20% wine, or a 1 ounce glass of whiskey.” And the same report adds, “And if he drives, the pedestrian he hits will be just as dead.”

Many sociologists and many preachers do not wish to come out plainly and to state that drinking is sinful. They seek to give those who drink a defense, so they state that the alcoholic is simply sick, and cannot help himself. Thus he should not be blamed if he gets drunk, and should not be severely punished if he causes a serious automobile accident, or kills a man in his alcoholic fury. Somewhere, several years ago, I picked up the following good points to reply to those sentimental tear-jerkers who want to apologize for the beer guzzlers, or wineos, or alcoholics. One writer said, if alcoholism is a disease:

1. It is the only disease that is contracted by an act of the will.

2. It is the only disease that requires a license to propagate it.

3. It is the only disease that is bottled and sold.

4. It is the only disease that requires a half-million outlets to spread it.

5. It is the only disease that provides a revenue for the government.

6. It is the only disease that provokes crime.

7. It is the only disease that is spread by advertising.

8. It is the only disease that is habit forming.


    1. It is the only disease without a germ or virus cause, and for which there is no corrective medicine.


10. It is the only disease that bars the patient from heaven.

The Bible is replete with teaching against the usage of alcoholic beverages. Though this article is not intended to prove the point, I think it can be shown from Scripture that what man today would consider to be a mild alcoholic drink would be under the Biblical condemnation as “strong drink.” The sage of the Old Testament, Solomon, stated that in his quest to find out “what it was good for the sons of men that they .should do under heaven all the days of their life” (Ecclesiastes 2:4), he discovered when he tried wine that it “is a mocker, strong drink a brawler; And whosoever erreth thereby is not wise” (Prov. 20:1).

Few things are more repulsive than a drunk person. One of the methods used to try to get some to break the alcohol habit is to make movies of the person while he was drunk, and to let him see after he has sobered how stupid and repulsive he was while drunk. Solomon said that the wine drinker is “not wise.” That is to say, he is a fool. A drunk person will do all kinds of stupid things. One of the best descriptions of a foolish drunk man is that one given by Solomon in Prov. 23:29-35, which reads as follows:

“Who hath woe’ who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath complaining? who hath wounds without cause.” who hath redness of eyes? They that tarry long at the wine; They that go to seek out mixed wine. Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, When it sparkleth in the cup, When it goeth down smoothly: At the last it biteth like a .serpent. And stingeth like an adder. Thine eyes shall behold .strange things, And thy heart shall utter perverse things. Yea, thou shalt be as he that lieth down in the midst of the sea, Or as he that lieth upon the top of a mast. They have sticken me, and I felt it not: When shall I awake? I will seek it yet again.”

A man who would lie down in the midst of the sea, or upon the mast of a ship would be acting crazily, but this is the depiction of a drunk man. Solomon’s description of the wine while “it sparkleth in the cup” sounds as though he had the glamorous, television-alcohol-industry commercials in mind. But after the wine has done its dastardly work, the man or woman suffers the pain and sickness of a hang-over, and wonders when the painful and sickening effects of the hang-over will cease. One would think that one who has gone through the sickness of one hang-over would thereafter avoid drinks that drunken. The saddest words in Solomon’s entire sordid picture are these, AI will seek it yet again.”

Solomon gives some descriptions of the irrational actions of a drunk man, and of the aftermath of a big spree or “night on the town.” A medical doctor recently stated precisely from a medical and chemical point of view what happens physiologically when a person gets drunk. Perhaps you would like to know precisely what occurs within the person who becomes drunk, so I am printing a medical question and answer column that appeared in the Marion, Indiana Chronicle-Tribune, March 28, 1974. in a column entitled “The Doctor Says” written by Dr. Lawrence Lamb.

“Dear Dr. Lamb – I think it would be of interest to many of’ us if you would explain just what happens to a person when he has a hangover.

“What causes those awful eye pains and headache? Is it the alcohol’s reaction on veins or muscles or both? Some people’s hands shake so bad they can’t hold a cup of coffee? Why? How about being thirsty all the time? What organs are affected to cause both vomiting and diarrhea? Are all organs of the body affected by alcohol?

“DEAR READER – Alcohol is a cellular toxin. It seeps directly into any cell it comes in contact with. It coagulates protein, and you know that our cells contain lots of protein vital to their function. Our food and many other substances are transported into the cells through complex chemical processes, but alcohol goes right through.

“In the bloodstream it causes the red blood cells to tend to stick together. In this way they can clump and plug up small arteries. This in turn interferes with getting oxygen to vital cells.

“The headache and the eye ache, which can be a part of a hangover. are caused by the over dilatation of the arteries in the brain region and around the skull. These arteries have small nerve /fibers in their walls. The over-stretched arteries stimulate the tiny nerves too much and set up the pain pattern. Coffee contains caffeine, and this drug causes the arteries to constrict. By this action coffee sometimes helps to relieve the hangover headache.

“The problem with using coffee is that the caffeine also stimulates the stomach to pour out a lot of acid pepsin juice. This is hard on a stomach already irritated by alcohol. The alcohol tends to dissolve away the protective mucus coating over the lining of the stomach, and the cells are exposed directly to the action of alcohol. This leads to inflammation c~/’ the stomach, pain, sometimes nausea and vomiting. A similar action is irritating to the intestines that disturbs their /unction which can lead to diarrhea.

“Alcohol also causes the kidneys to eliminate a lot of water. This is brought about by a complex endocrine reflex mechanism. The end result is that the body loses a lot of water that it needs. That causes the thirst after the drinking episode. The thirst stimulates you to replace the needed body water.

“With each alcoholic episode some brain cells are damaged, possibly from the alcohol action and possibly indirectly because of plugging up the small arteries with clumped red blood cells, decreasing oxygen delivery. In any case the person who drinks a lot loses the normal ability to learn, and after death the damaged areas of the brain can be observed.”

With this divine description and medical explanation of what occurs when a person becomes drunk, one would like to think the time-worn aphorism “A word to the wise is sufficient” would indeed now be sufficient.

Truth Magazine,XVIII:24, p. 3-5
April 18, 1974