Hangover Headache

By Hannah Waters Hangover Headache Alfred Pasieka / Photo Researchers, Inc The paper C.R. Maxwell et al., “Acetate causes alcohol hangover headache in rats,” PLoS ONE, 5:e15963, 2010. Free F1000 Evaluation The finding While many people get a headache after drinking alcohol, migraineurs have more severe headaches induced by fewer drinks. Using a rat model of migraines, Michael Oshinsky of Thomas Jefferson University and colleagues show that the

Hannah Waters
Apr 30, 2011

Hangover Headache

Alfred Pasieka / Photo Researchers, Inc

The paper
C.R. Maxwell et al., “Acetate causes alcohol hangover headache in rats,” PLoS ONE, 5:e15963, 2010. Free F1000 Evaluation


The finding
While many people get a headache after drinking alcohol, migraineurs have more severe headaches induced by fewer drinks. Using a rat model of migraines, Michael Oshinsky of Thomas Jefferson University and colleagues show that the headache is caused by an alcohol metabolite, acetate, and that the pain can be blocked by caffeine.


The inkling
Researchers long assumed that the alcohol metabolite acetaldehyde caused alcohol-induced headaches, because disulfiram, a drug that blocks the breakdown of acetaldehyde to acetate in the bloodstream, causes headaches after a few drinks. However, acetaldehyde is metabolized quickly enough that it never reaches headache-causing levels without disulfiram, leading Oshinsky to question this hypothesis.


The metabolite
After sensitizing a pain circuit in the rats’ brains, the researchers...


The cure
Acetate can cause pain through the accumulation of one of its metabolites, adenosine. When caffeine, an adenosine receptor antagonist, was administered after alcohol, pain was blocked—but only until the caffeine was broken down. Next up is to see if the same mechanism holds true in nonmigraine alcohol-induced headaches.


F1000 evaluators: K. Hellman & P. Mason (Univ of Chicago)