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One time, I had a bad experience with vodka; I drank a very excessive amount in one night.

As a result, I can no longer drink vodka or even smell it with out getting queasy / sick. This was several years ago.

Now, if I want to have any type of spirits, I can only have a small amount and I need lots of mixer (Coca-Cola, Lemonade etc.). If I drink it straight, I throw up.

Some of my friends have had the same happen to them with a variety of different spirits. They also cannot stand that type of spirits anymore and get sick if they drink it.

What is this phenomenon called?

Why does this happen?

Is there a "cure" or "fix"?

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This isn't specific to alcohol, and is instead a general mechanism of neural association. When you consume anything and then become sick afterward your brain associates sickness with what you consumed to stop you from consuming it again.

From an evolutionary standpoint this makes sense, because it would keep you safe from continuing to eat or drink the toxic substance. In the case of vodka, this is your body's way of saying don't do that again.

There is no cure but time - the time it takes for your brain's association with the substance to fade. For instance, the same thing happened to me with vodka about 16 years ago, but it's been so long that it's no longer a problem (bear in mind it didn't take that long to rectify itself, this just illustrates that the problem will eventually resolve itself).

  • I see. Thanks for the answer and the real-life story! There appears to a wide range of research on neural association and alcohol – user9506231 Apr 2 at 23:43
  • I did this to a lesser extent with bourbon, in my case It wasn't quite as severe, so I just forced myself to drink a bit every now and then to try an re-acclimatize. I have no idea whether that actually speeds anything up though. Time is definitely the answer. – Jack Apr 10 at 7:54
  • This is spot on. Recovering from a bad experience just takes time. As an analog, I once got food poisoning eating sushi, which was one of my favorite foods at the time. After recovering, it literally required months of concerted effort to get back to eating fish at all and sushi specifically again without it triggering nausea. The key is - if you really really want to get back to it - doing small amounts and building back up the "trust" in your brain that this isn't poison. – Matt R. Apr 14 at 6:39

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