• Viral badge
  • win badge

Here's Why Hangovers Get So Much Worse When You Get Older

You're only as old as you feel? Tell that to tequila.

You, the day after drinking in your early twenties:

You, the day after drinking in your late twenties:

This is not in your head! Your hangovers really, truly do get worse as you get older.

To get to the bottom of this miserable and unfair phenomenon, BuzzFeed Life talked to neurobiologist George Koob, Ph.D., director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). He says there are a few possible reasons for this adult-onset hangover hell.

For starters, sorry to say, but your ~enzymes~ just aren't what they used to be.

Your body fat percentage also plays a role here.

Your brain has also matured, and it just isn’t as into the whole party till the breaka-breaka dawn thing anymore.

"The biggest effect probably has to do what happens to your brain," Koob says. He says that in your early twenties, your brain has a highly developed "reward system," and a not-very-developed "stress system." That means that your young-person brain gives you awesome and positive feedback when you do adventurous and fun things (like, yes, getting DRUNJJJ), but it doesn't punish you (with hangovers and miserable body feels) so much after the fact — that "stress system" hasn't fully developed yet.

But then, sometime in your mid-twenties, your prefrontal cortex finishes developing. With it comes all sorts of buzzkill attributes, like maturity, and the ability to make rational and appropriate decisions. YAWN.

As your brain develops, Koob says, the rewards become less rewarding, and the "everything hurts" part of the stress system begins to kick into high gear. "As you get into your mid-twenties and thirties [...] you lose your reward function and you gain the stress function if you drink too much and overindulge," he says. OK, GREAT.

Now you know. But what can you do about it?

And a final friendly reminder: Drink responsibly.

Or not at all, if that's what it takes. Check out the NIAAA's website Rethinking Drinking to learn what counts as a drink, if your drinking pattern is risky, strategies for cutting down, and more.