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Alcohol and Mental Health

How To Cure a Hangover When You’re At Work

Published:
March 14, 2024
·
21 min read
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Written by
Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
March 14, 2024
·
21 min read
Reframe App LogoReframe App Logo
Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
March 14, 2024
·
21 min read
Reframe App LogoReframe App Logo
Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
March 14, 2024
·
21 min read
Reframe App LogoReframe App Logo
Reframe Content Team
March 14, 2024
·
21 min read

What To Do If You Have To Go To Work With a Hangover

  • A hangover, which often comes with nausea, headaches, or overall malaise, is a nuisance at any time. Going to work while nursing one is extra rough. 

  • There are many ways to ease the discomfort, such as staying hydrated, wearing comfortable clothes, or delegating tasks when necessary.

  • The Reframe app can help you develop healthier drinking habits so you can say bye-bye to hangovers for good.

As Irish comedy actor and writer Arthur Mathews once said, “I never met anyone who gets up out of their bed after a night on the town and says, 'Oh I wish I'd had another drink last night. That would have been a great idea.’” And yet, it happens. We have a bit too much to drink, and the day after begins with the dreaded hangover.

But what if it’s a workday? Many of us have experienced what it’s like to wake up feeling like we’ve been hit by a truck, and it’s even worse when we still have to get dressed, grab our laptop, make a coffee for the commute (if we have the time or the stomach for it), and head out to the office (or, worse, a classroom). What is the best way to deal with a hangover at work? Let’s explore some ways to make the situation a bit easier to manage.

The Brain and Body on Booze

A person working in an office

To understand hangovers — and how to fix them — it helps to first take a brief look at how alcohol affects our brain and body. Soon after the first sip, we start feeling the effects of alcohol.

  • The world feels warm and blurry. That initial warm, fuzzy, and sometimes sociable feeling we get after the first drink or two is the result of a sudden release of dopamine (the reward neurotransmitter) in the brain. Dopamine release is also what makes alcohol addictive over time, as the brain comes to expect this flood of “feel-good” neurochemical as the new normal.
  • The world slows down. Alcohol is a depressant, so after the initial dopamine rush we might feel relaxed or sluggish as it slows down our nervous system and cognitive processes.
  • The world (maybe) starts spinning. The vestibular system (which governs our sense of balance) gets thrown off, so we might lose our balance.
  • The world might even go dark. If we really overdo it, we could pass out or end up blacking out — a state in which we forget what happened while we were drunk. As far as the body is concerned, most major organ systems feel the effects as well.
  • Our stomach hits the pause button. Alcohol tends to slow digestion and can irritate the stomach lining, causing acid reflux.
  • Our liver gets to work. The liver is in charge of metabolizing alcohol, and it puts everything else on hold to get it out of our system pronto. Our body sees alcohol as a poison, so getting rid of it becomes the first order of business.
  • Our kidneys open the floodgates. Alcohol inhibits the secretion of antidiuretic hormone (ADH), also known as vasopressin. This hormone is produced by the brain and helps the kidneys manage the amount of water in the body. When ADH levels drop, the kidneys do not reabsorb as much water. The result? Increased bathroom trips throughout the night, which can leave us dehydrated and depleted of electrolytes. 
  • Our heart might beat faster. Alcohol often causes a temporary spike in heart rate and blood pressure. In some, this can show up as a potentially serious arrhythmia, also known as holiday heart syndrome.

The Next Day: Why We’re Left With a Hangover

The next day, however, we might wake up with a whole new set of symptoms — the notorious hangover. On the physical side, we might feel nauseous, have a headache or muscle aches, stomach pain, vertigo, sensitivity to light and sound, fatigue, weakness, and increased blood pressure. We might also feel more anxious and irritable than usual.

If it happens to be a workday, these symptoms might pose an extra challenge. We’ll look at some possible strategies later on, but first let’s explore the cause of the symptoms in a bit more detail.

How do the effects of alcohol on the brain and body translate into these unpleasant symptoms? There are a few different reasons, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

  • Dehydration. One of the main culprits behind hangovers is dehydration caused by the suppression of vasopressin — a hormone that tells the kidneys to retain fluids — when we drink. 
  • Inflammation. Alcohol triggers an inflammatory response from the immune system. This inflammation can affect our appetite, concentration, and memory, bringing on the overall “blah” feeling and fatigue of hangovers.
  • Acetaldehyde effects. Acetaldehyde — the toxic compound released during alcohol metabolism — adds fuel to the fire by contributing to inflammation.
  • Stomach irritation. The nausea associated with a hangover is caused by alcohol irritating the stomach lining.
  • Disrupted sleep. While alcohol might make us initially sleepy, it actually robs us of the most restorative phase of sleep (REM) and tends to disrupt our night with frequent awakenings and trips to the bathroom. Needless to say, all of this adds to the grogginess of the hangover we end up with the next morning.

Hangover Timeline

When we’re smack-dab in the middle of a hangover, it can feel like it will never end. But rest assured, it will! A typical hangover lasts around 24 hours. It peaks when the blood alcohol concentration returns to zero and starts to get better soon after. 

Curing a Hangover At Work

Bouncing back from a hangover is all about replenishing our body’s resources. However, there’s an important mental and emotional component to it as well. And, if we’re talking about curing a hangover at work, there are also important social aspects to consider.

Best Way To Deal With a Hangover at Work

Best Way To Deal With a Hangover At Work: Preparation

As you get ready to head out the door, make sure to take care of a few key steps first. (You’ll thank yourself later!)

  • Hydrate. Replenishing the water and electrolytes lost the night before is key, so drinking plenty of water before heading to work can be a game-changer. Even better — stir in an electrolyte powder mix (such as Liquid IV) for an extra boost. 
  • Don’t skip breakfast. While you might not feel like it, eating a nutritious meal with protein, carbs, and healthy fats can make a huge difference. Pick easy-to-digest foods such as toast with avocado, cereal, or a fruit and yogurt smoothie. And stay away from leftover pizza or sugary pop tarts (at least for now) to avoid sugar spikes or stomach irritation.
  • Dress comfortably. Sure, fashion has its place. However, opt for something comfortable that won’t make the nausea or stomach discomfort worse, such as a sweater dress or loose-fitting pants. Those “everyday” yoga pants or any other athletic clothing that looks like regular streetwear (but isn’t so gross to sweat in) could be a great pick.
  • Fresh air can clear your head. If time (and weather) permits, opt for a lunchtime walk or consider walking all or part of your normal commute. Gentle exercise has been known to work wonders for a hangover. A recent Journal of Clinical Medicine study investigated the impact of a hangover on the physical endurance of middle-aged adults walking the Samaria Gorge in Greece and found that while the hangover didn’t significantly affect performance, it did boost the perceived exhaustion of those who’d had a few too many the night before. So save your energy — you’ll need it!

Hungover at Work: Workload Management

Okay, you’ve made it safe and are in the building, heading for your desk. Now what? It’s time to consider what’s on the schedule for the day. 

  • Prioritize tasks. When you look over your schedule, pick three most urgent tasks and focus on those — anything that is due today or will delay other projects in the pipeline unless you get your part done. Leave other work for tomorrow, when you’re more rested and feeling better.  
  • Take breaks. A few short, frequent breaks can work wonders for improving concentration and reducing fatigue. In fact, a recent PLoS study found that frequent micro-breaks led to a statistically significant increase in performance in tasks that weren’t cognitively taxing. It also found that slightly longer breaks had a similar effect on more demanding tasks.
  • Know when to call it a day (or stay home). While sometimes going to work and getting through the day with a hangover might be doable, there are times when it’s just not the best idea. If you know it’s going to be more than you can handle, there’s nothing wrong with spending part of your day (or the whole day) working from home or even taking a day off if you need to. In the end, it may be doing more harm than good to try to go in when you’re just not physically (or mentally) up for it.

Should You Tell Others You’re Hungover At Work?

This question is a delicate one sometimes: what do you tell your colleagues or (yikes!) your boss? Do you have to tell them what’s going on and why you’re feeling unwell?

  • Be as honest as possible, but don’t feel like you have to overshare. While every situation is different, it’s probably best to be honest that you’re not feeling like your normal self, especially if you know the quality of your work today may not be up to your usual standards. That said, there’s no pressure to disclose the details of the revelries from the night before. It's more professional to keep the explanation general, focusing on not feeling well rather than the cause.
  • Instead of just stating the problem, suggest solutions. If you know you won’t be able to perform at your usual level, suggest possible ways to manage your workload effectively for the day. Tell your team you might have to work from home for part of the day, and, if you know you’ll need a bit of extra time to complete a project, tell people sooner rather than later.
  • Apologize if you need to. If you being unwell will have an impact on others, a simple apology can go a long way in maintaining good workplace relationships.
  • Don’t make it a habit. It's important to ensure this is a rare occurrence. If you keep showing up to work in a less-than-ideal state, your professional reputation might take a hit.

How To Cure a Hangover Fast At Work: Dealing With Symptoms

Now that you’re settled in and your day is off to a (hopefully) decent start, what can you do to keep hangover symptoms at bay until it’s time to go home? While there’s no “cure” for a hangover (except time), there are things that can help.

  • Stay hydrated. Keep drinking water throughout the day. The more quickly you rehydrate, the better you’ll feel.
  • Snack smart. Your desk drawer might be stocked with M&Ms, but for today consider some healthier options, (such as yogurt or raw nuts) to help maintain energy levels.
  • Take something for your headache. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve) can help as long as you take them with food to avoid stomach irritation. (Note of caution: stay away from acetaminophen (Tylenol) if you've been drinking heavily or frequently as it also stresses the liver and can compound the alcohol’s negative effects).
  • Avoid strong smells or loud environments. If you’re sensitive, stay away from the break room if someone is microwaving their strong-smelling leftovers. Likewise, don’t go to that burger place known for blasting loud music all day.
  • Limit caffeine. Too much coffee might worsen symptoms by upsetting your stomach or making you more jittery, so go easy on the espressos and opt for herbal tea, especially ginger to soothe nausea.

Preventing a Hangover At Work

Of course, one thing that’s better than curing a hangover at work is preventing it in the first place! Here are some tips:

  • Avoid alcohol with congeners. Congeners are natural byproducts of the production process of  some types of alcohol, such as bourbon and red wine. According to a Current Drug Abuse Reviews study, high congener intake can lead to particularly bad hangovers.
  • Be careful with happy hours. To make sure you don’t end up in the same situation again, watch your alcohol intake at work-related events that involve booze. If you know you might be tempted, opt out — or, if you can, go for non-alcoholic options.

  • Watch your intake. Most importantly, it’s always a good idea to step back and reassess your drinking patterns in general, especially if you find yourself in this situation often. Try tracking your drinking for a few weeks and see if any trends show up. (Reframe can help you do that with our daily drink tracker!)

Many Paths To Choose From

As you look at your relationship with alcohol, consider taking a break to see how your life might change as a result. If you do decide to set alcohol aside or reduce your intake, approach it with a spirit of curiosity, not deprivation. Only good things await!

As Irish comedy actor and writer Arthur Mathews once said, “I never met anyone who gets up out of their bed after a night on the town and says, 'Oh I wish I'd had another drink last night. That would have been a great idea.’” And yet, it happens. We have a bit too much to drink, and the day after begins with the dreaded hangover.

But what if it’s a workday? Many of us have experienced what it’s like to wake up feeling like we’ve been hit by a truck, and it’s even worse when we still have to get dressed, grab our laptop, make a coffee for the commute (if we have the time or the stomach for it), and head out to the office (or, worse, a classroom). What is the best way to deal with a hangover at work? Let’s explore some ways to make the situation a bit easier to manage.

The Brain and Body on Booze

A person working in an office

To understand hangovers — and how to fix them — it helps to first take a brief look at how alcohol affects our brain and body. Soon after the first sip, we start feeling the effects of alcohol.

  • The world feels warm and blurry. That initial warm, fuzzy, and sometimes sociable feeling we get after the first drink or two is the result of a sudden release of dopamine (the reward neurotransmitter) in the brain. Dopamine release is also what makes alcohol addictive over time, as the brain comes to expect this flood of “feel-good” neurochemical as the new normal.
  • The world slows down. Alcohol is a depressant, so after the initial dopamine rush we might feel relaxed or sluggish as it slows down our nervous system and cognitive processes.
  • The world (maybe) starts spinning. The vestibular system (which governs our sense of balance) gets thrown off, so we might lose our balance.
  • The world might even go dark. If we really overdo it, we could pass out or end up blacking out — a state in which we forget what happened while we were drunk. As far as the body is concerned, most major organ systems feel the effects as well.
  • Our stomach hits the pause button. Alcohol tends to slow digestion and can irritate the stomach lining, causing acid reflux.
  • Our liver gets to work. The liver is in charge of metabolizing alcohol, and it puts everything else on hold to get it out of our system pronto. Our body sees alcohol as a poison, so getting rid of it becomes the first order of business.
  • Our kidneys open the floodgates. Alcohol inhibits the secretion of antidiuretic hormone (ADH), also known as vasopressin. This hormone is produced by the brain and helps the kidneys manage the amount of water in the body. When ADH levels drop, the kidneys do not reabsorb as much water. The result? Increased bathroom trips throughout the night, which can leave us dehydrated and depleted of electrolytes. 
  • Our heart might beat faster. Alcohol often causes a temporary spike in heart rate and blood pressure. In some, this can show up as a potentially serious arrhythmia, also known as holiday heart syndrome.

The Next Day: Why We’re Left With a Hangover

The next day, however, we might wake up with a whole new set of symptoms — the notorious hangover. On the physical side, we might feel nauseous, have a headache or muscle aches, stomach pain, vertigo, sensitivity to light and sound, fatigue, weakness, and increased blood pressure. We might also feel more anxious and irritable than usual.

If it happens to be a workday, these symptoms might pose an extra challenge. We’ll look at some possible strategies later on, but first let’s explore the cause of the symptoms in a bit more detail.

How do the effects of alcohol on the brain and body translate into these unpleasant symptoms? There are a few different reasons, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

  • Dehydration. One of the main culprits behind hangovers is dehydration caused by the suppression of vasopressin — a hormone that tells the kidneys to retain fluids — when we drink. 
  • Inflammation. Alcohol triggers an inflammatory response from the immune system. This inflammation can affect our appetite, concentration, and memory, bringing on the overall “blah” feeling and fatigue of hangovers.
  • Acetaldehyde effects. Acetaldehyde — the toxic compound released during alcohol metabolism — adds fuel to the fire by contributing to inflammation.
  • Stomach irritation. The nausea associated with a hangover is caused by alcohol irritating the stomach lining.
  • Disrupted sleep. While alcohol might make us initially sleepy, it actually robs us of the most restorative phase of sleep (REM) and tends to disrupt our night with frequent awakenings and trips to the bathroom. Needless to say, all of this adds to the grogginess of the hangover we end up with the next morning.

Hangover Timeline

When we’re smack-dab in the middle of a hangover, it can feel like it will never end. But rest assured, it will! A typical hangover lasts around 24 hours. It peaks when the blood alcohol concentration returns to zero and starts to get better soon after. 

Curing a Hangover At Work

Bouncing back from a hangover is all about replenishing our body’s resources. However, there’s an important mental and emotional component to it as well. And, if we’re talking about curing a hangover at work, there are also important social aspects to consider.

Best Way To Deal With a Hangover at Work

Best Way To Deal With a Hangover At Work: Preparation

As you get ready to head out the door, make sure to take care of a few key steps first. (You’ll thank yourself later!)

  • Hydrate. Replenishing the water and electrolytes lost the night before is key, so drinking plenty of water before heading to work can be a game-changer. Even better — stir in an electrolyte powder mix (such as Liquid IV) for an extra boost. 
  • Don’t skip breakfast. While you might not feel like it, eating a nutritious meal with protein, carbs, and healthy fats can make a huge difference. Pick easy-to-digest foods such as toast with avocado, cereal, or a fruit and yogurt smoothie. And stay away from leftover pizza or sugary pop tarts (at least for now) to avoid sugar spikes or stomach irritation.
  • Dress comfortably. Sure, fashion has its place. However, opt for something comfortable that won’t make the nausea or stomach discomfort worse, such as a sweater dress or loose-fitting pants. Those “everyday” yoga pants or any other athletic clothing that looks like regular streetwear (but isn’t so gross to sweat in) could be a great pick.
  • Fresh air can clear your head. If time (and weather) permits, opt for a lunchtime walk or consider walking all or part of your normal commute. Gentle exercise has been known to work wonders for a hangover. A recent Journal of Clinical Medicine study investigated the impact of a hangover on the physical endurance of middle-aged adults walking the Samaria Gorge in Greece and found that while the hangover didn’t significantly affect performance, it did boost the perceived exhaustion of those who’d had a few too many the night before. So save your energy — you’ll need it!

Hungover at Work: Workload Management

Okay, you’ve made it safe and are in the building, heading for your desk. Now what? It’s time to consider what’s on the schedule for the day. 

  • Prioritize tasks. When you look over your schedule, pick three most urgent tasks and focus on those — anything that is due today or will delay other projects in the pipeline unless you get your part done. Leave other work for tomorrow, when you’re more rested and feeling better.  
  • Take breaks. A few short, frequent breaks can work wonders for improving concentration and reducing fatigue. In fact, a recent PLoS study found that frequent micro-breaks led to a statistically significant increase in performance in tasks that weren’t cognitively taxing. It also found that slightly longer breaks had a similar effect on more demanding tasks.
  • Know when to call it a day (or stay home). While sometimes going to work and getting through the day with a hangover might be doable, there are times when it’s just not the best idea. If you know it’s going to be more than you can handle, there’s nothing wrong with spending part of your day (or the whole day) working from home or even taking a day off if you need to. In the end, it may be doing more harm than good to try to go in when you’re just not physically (or mentally) up for it.

Should You Tell Others You’re Hungover At Work?

This question is a delicate one sometimes: what do you tell your colleagues or (yikes!) your boss? Do you have to tell them what’s going on and why you’re feeling unwell?

  • Be as honest as possible, but don’t feel like you have to overshare. While every situation is different, it’s probably best to be honest that you’re not feeling like your normal self, especially if you know the quality of your work today may not be up to your usual standards. That said, there’s no pressure to disclose the details of the revelries from the night before. It's more professional to keep the explanation general, focusing on not feeling well rather than the cause.
  • Instead of just stating the problem, suggest solutions. If you know you won’t be able to perform at your usual level, suggest possible ways to manage your workload effectively for the day. Tell your team you might have to work from home for part of the day, and, if you know you’ll need a bit of extra time to complete a project, tell people sooner rather than later.
  • Apologize if you need to. If you being unwell will have an impact on others, a simple apology can go a long way in maintaining good workplace relationships.
  • Don’t make it a habit. It's important to ensure this is a rare occurrence. If you keep showing up to work in a less-than-ideal state, your professional reputation might take a hit.

How To Cure a Hangover Fast At Work: Dealing With Symptoms

Now that you’re settled in and your day is off to a (hopefully) decent start, what can you do to keep hangover symptoms at bay until it’s time to go home? While there’s no “cure” for a hangover (except time), there are things that can help.

  • Stay hydrated. Keep drinking water throughout the day. The more quickly you rehydrate, the better you’ll feel.
  • Snack smart. Your desk drawer might be stocked with M&Ms, but for today consider some healthier options, (such as yogurt or raw nuts) to help maintain energy levels.
  • Take something for your headache. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve) can help as long as you take them with food to avoid stomach irritation. (Note of caution: stay away from acetaminophen (Tylenol) if you've been drinking heavily or frequently as it also stresses the liver and can compound the alcohol’s negative effects).
  • Avoid strong smells or loud environments. If you’re sensitive, stay away from the break room if someone is microwaving their strong-smelling leftovers. Likewise, don’t go to that burger place known for blasting loud music all day.
  • Limit caffeine. Too much coffee might worsen symptoms by upsetting your stomach or making you more jittery, so go easy on the espressos and opt for herbal tea, especially ginger to soothe nausea.

Preventing a Hangover At Work

Of course, one thing that’s better than curing a hangover at work is preventing it in the first place! Here are some tips:

  • Avoid alcohol with congeners. Congeners are natural byproducts of the production process of  some types of alcohol, such as bourbon and red wine. According to a Current Drug Abuse Reviews study, high congener intake can lead to particularly bad hangovers.
  • Be careful with happy hours. To make sure you don’t end up in the same situation again, watch your alcohol intake at work-related events that involve booze. If you know you might be tempted, opt out — or, if you can, go for non-alcoholic options.

  • Watch your intake. Most importantly, it’s always a good idea to step back and reassess your drinking patterns in general, especially if you find yourself in this situation often. Try tracking your drinking for a few weeks and see if any trends show up. (Reframe can help you do that with our daily drink tracker!)

Many Paths To Choose From

As you look at your relationship with alcohol, consider taking a break to see how your life might change as a result. If you do decide to set alcohol aside or reduce your intake, approach it with a spirit of curiosity, not deprivation. Only good things await!

Summary FAQs

1. What are some immediate steps I can take to cure a hangover before going to work?

Before heading to work, focus on rehydrating by drinking plenty of water, preferably with added electrolytes. Eat a nutritious breakfast with a balance of protein, carbs, and healthy fats. Choose comfortable clothing to ease any discomfort and arrange a safe ride to work. If possible, walk to work for some gentle exercise and fresh air, which can help alleviate hangover symptoms.

2. What are the typical timelines and symptoms of a hangover?

Hangovers usually last around 24 hours. Symptoms start 2-6 hours after the last drink with dehydration and stomach discomfort. From 6-12 hours, symptoms intensify, and the 12-24 hour period is usually the most intense. Most people feel better 24-48 hours after the last drink. Symptoms include nausea, headache, muscle aches, stomach pain, vertigo, sensitivity to light and sound, fatigue, weakness, increased blood pressure, anxiety, and irritability.

3. Should I tell my colleagues or boss that I am hungover at work?

In the end, it’s always up to you. Be honest about not feeling well — especially if your work affects others — but avoid oversharing details about the cause. It's more professional to focus on the impact on your work and suggest ways to manage your workload effectively for the day. 

4. How can I manage my workload while dealing with a hangover?

Prioritize your most urgent tasks and focus on completing them. Take frequent short breaks to improve concentration and reduce fatigue. If necessary, talk to your team or supervisor about adjusting your workload for the day.

5. What are some tips for dealing with hangover symptoms at work?

Stay hydrated throughout the day and choose healthy snacks to maintain energy levels. For headaches, consider taking ibuprofen or naproxen with food, but avoid acetaminophen if you've been drinking heavily. Avoid strong smells or loud environments if sensitive, and limit caffeine intake, as too much coffee might worsen symptoms.

Ready To Say Goodbye to Hangovers? Reframe Can Help!

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually, with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

You’ll meet millions of fellow Reframers in our 24/7 Forum chat and daily Zoom check-in meetings. Receive encouragement from people worldwide who know exactly what you’re going through! You’ll also have the opportunity to connect with our licensed Reframe coaches for more personalized guidance.

Plus, we’re always introducing new features to optimize your in-app experience. We recently launched our in-app chatbot, Melody, powered by the world’s most powerful AI technology. Melody is here to help as you adjust to a life with less (or no) alcohol. 

And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app today! 

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