I received a great question in the comments of the alcohol and coffee metabolism post . DK asked “So what is the rate of processing for the post-booze poison? Maybe the balance of input/output governs the poison accumulation and thus hangovers”. Short answer, probably not. For a refresher on what he is talking about, a short block quote below. I’ll try to explain in as few paragraphs as possible. If you want to read more or don’t trust me, Scientific American has a good review  of recent hangover cure research. For a refresher on what he is talking about, a short block quote below.
Alcohol undergoes a two-step process in its metabolism (see figure). First, an enzyme (i.e., alcohol dehydrogenase) metabolizes alcohol to an intermediate product, acetaldehyde; then a second enzyme (aldehyde dehydrogenase [ALDH]) metabolizes acetaldehyde to acetate. Acetaldehyde is a chemically reactive substance that binds to proteins and other biologically important compounds. At higher concentrations, it causes toxic effects, such as a rapid pulse, sweating, skin flushing, nausea, and vomiting. In most people, ALDH metabolizes acetaldehyde quickly and efficiently, so that this intermediate metabolite does not accumulate in high concentrations, although small amounts are present in the blood during alcohol intoxication. In some people, however, genetic variants of the ALDH enzyme permit acetaldehyde to accumulate. Those people routinely flush, sweat, and become ill after consuming small amounts of alcohol.
Because of the similarity between the acetaldehyde reaction and a hangover, some investigators have suggested that acetaldehyde causes hangovers. Although free acetaldehyde is not present in the blood after BAC’s reach zero, the toxic effects of acetaldehyde produced during alcohol metabolism may persist into the hangover period. - Source
It sounds promising, maybe if you could supplement your body’s supply of ALDH then you could break down acetaldehyde to acetate faster and acetaldehyde is a poison so maybe that would be good? Turns out biology is a cruel joke because large amounts of acetate can actually cause severe headaches.
You could keep digging deeper, maybe work on the acetate too? But now you would be trying to balance multiple metabolic rates. To make matters worse, alcohol metabolism likely isn’t the only factor in hangovers. Despite being relatively under studied, the review article the quote above comes from found the follow possible contributing factors to hangover:
- Direct effects of alcohol
- Electrolyte imbalance
- Gastrointestinal disturbances
- Low blood sugar
- Sleep and biological rhythm disturbances
- Alcohol withdrawal
- Alcohol metabolism (i.e., acetaldehyde toxicity)
- Nonalcohol effects
- Compounds other than alcohol in beverages, especially methanol
- Use of other drugs, especially nicotine
- Personality type
- Family history for alcoholism
The big block quote above only covers one of those bullets. As an example, a study that I’m really glad someone did titled Intoxication with Bourbon versus Vodka: Effects on Hangover, Sleep and Next-Day Neurocognitive Performance in Young Adults found that “Beverage congeners  in bourbon versus vodka did significantly increase the intensity of hangover that was felt, consistent with results from studies in the 1970’s”. By significantly, they means that hangovers were more than 30% worse from bourbon. This is just one of many studies finding that alcohol is not the only factor in hangovers.
A large part of the challenge is that studies focus on the lowest level of blood alcohol content that reliably can produce hangovers. It would be reckless to get study participants stupidly drunk, so it is hard to look at the type of hangover you are probably worried about. When I was doing research  I would do everything I could to amplify any relevant signal. the electrons didn’t care. I’m starting to appreciate how hard it must be to do research on living creatures .
This is why non-specific hangover “cures” are your best bet in the near term. Anything super targeted to one specific hangover cause is inevitably based on limited research. That isn’t saying that these ideas can’t help. A professor at UCLA trying to create a pill to aid alcohol breakdown sounds like he is working on DK’s idea. Solving even one hangover cause could make a huge difference. Keep your fingers crossed. In the near term, I’ll still be doing everything I can to help my body do its anti-hangover magic which is why I have a monthly subscription for Nuun tablets
I know, I’m just as shocked as you. I thought internet comments were just for rage, hate, and people asking me if I weigh 400 lbs. To answer the 400lbs question guy: no. I don’t… at least not yet ↩
I know, right, I was as surprised as you ↩
Basically, I interpret this as assholes get more hungover. Which makes me think I had better start believing in karma. The article says that “Some evidence exists that increased hangover symptoms occur more often in people possessing certain personality traits, such as neuroticism, anger, and defensiveness.” Tell me I’m interpreting that wrong. I’m not. ↩
Fun sentence from that paper: “Of 122 participants enrolled, 22 failed to complete the study and another 5 failed to reach the minimum BrAC of 0.09 g%” I just… I want to meet the 5 people who failed to reach the minimum BrAC. Did they just keep feeding these fantastic human specimens shots and nothing happened? Why aren’t we studying them? ↩
In short, clear alcohols have fewer congeners, brown alcohols have more. Congeners are technically everything other than alcohol that is produced during fermentation. Wikipedia says that “Congeners are responsible for most of the taste and aroma of distilled alcoholic beverages.” Many of the studies I reviewed seem to lump in flavor influencers like byproducts of barrel aging and really anything having an effect that is not alcohol, so take the definition broadly ↩
Ok, I’m not about to claim that my thesis was the gold standard for science research, but humor me here ↩
But not enough to count biology as a real science. Get outta here with that. Mostly just kidding probably. ↩