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Is It Actually Harder to Get Drunk on the Third Night of a Bender?

The answer is not quite as important as how terrible it is for your body to even try

On the third night of binge drinking, you looked at your sweaty, tired reflection in that fourth shot of whiskey and thought, This isn’t working the same way it did two nights ago.

Well, friend, you’re right — and you’re not alone (although you’re also not exactly in great company). Going out hard on nights two, three and four really is different.

The bodybuilding bros feel your pain: “Anyone else have trouble partying two nights in a row?” asked one guy in a bodybuilding forum. One reply suggested it’s an age thing: “It used to be easier when I was younger. Now I try to avoid doing the two-night thing since I barely can sleep when I drink and partying the next day can be a struggle.”

These guys are, essentially, complaining about the physiological anguish that comes with binge drinking, a popular form of self harm well known to most experts (and college students). In 2014, a government group set up to promote healthy living in the U.K. noted in a 92-page report that people should avoid drinking on consecutive days if they want to avoid health conditions like cancer, heart disease or cirrhosis of the liver. “The report will say that drinking alcohol regularly, even if it only just over the ‘low-risk’ guideline — the equivalent of two pints for men — can lead to health problems in later life,” reports the Independent.

Not to mention, in 2017, researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center found that binge drinkers who drank on two consecutive days were more likely to experience increased rates of atherosclerosis — clogged arteries — than those who drink moderately. “[Researcher John P.] Cullen says it’s not exactly the alcohol that poses the problem when you drink a lot. The real problem seems to be acetaldehyde and the other byproducts your liver pumps out after breaking down the alcohol,” reported Men’s Health.

All of which means, yes, it is really bad for you to binge drink on consecutive nights. But the question remains: Is it also more difficult to locate the sweet vibrations on night two or three of your “you-can-take-the-kid-out-of-college-but-I-dare-you-to-take-the-bottle-of-vodka-out-of-my-cold-dead-hands” bender?

Not according to the “shampoo effect,” which Urban Dictionary defines as “a residual drug or alcohol phenomenon in which, during a period after a heavy binge, only a small amount of the recently abused substance is needed to re-activate your buzz. So named after what happens in the shower when you ‘rinse and repeat’: only a tiny bit of shampoo is needed the second time around to achieve a full sudsy lather.”

Based on that theory, finding your buzz on night three should be a walk in the park. That Men’s Health article above agrees, comparing drinking on consecutive nights to “punching a bewildered boxer who’s still on one knee and struggling to get back up after a KO.”

But according to the slightly more credible National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism director George Koob, the shampoo effect is overstated, and, in fact, the opposite may be true. “A person can develop a tolerance toward alcohol after just one session of binge-drinking,” says Koob. “Pharmacodynamic tolerance is the body and brain reacting against the alcohol — trying to block its effects. A similar thing happens with opiates, but it’s more of a pain response.”

In other words, the bodybuilding party dudes may be right: Some people really will find it harder to party on night three of the bachelor party. Thanks, bros!