Old Man Drinking - © Council On Substance Abuse

Hangover Avoidance: Science Always Finds A Way…

The issue of hangover avoidance has dogged humanity since potable alcohol was fist imbibed. And the long-sought cure has eluded us as maddingly. But now, scientists have discovered a way to head off hangovers: Not a cure, but a preventative…

Synthehol - © 2024 - ParamountMr. Data introduces a ‘resurrected’ Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott
to Synthehol in Ten-Forward, Aboard the new USS Enterprise,
in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

As fictional scientist-philosopher Ian Malcolm (played by Jeff Goldblum in the Jurrassic Park movies) is famous for saying: ‘Nature always finds a way’. In his honour, I submit that ‘Science always finds a way’.

In today’s case, it’s the Holy Grail-like search for a hangover cure. And after thousands of years of suffering, science has apparently found not a cure, but a preventative.

Conventional wisdom

Prior to the new discovery, the hangover was considered a thing to be shunned, an ignominious condition, and something of a medical mystery. The fact was, serious scientists stayed away from working on the problem because the hangover was an ‘entirely preventable disease’, which was socially deplored. And didn’t merit the application of their high-flown talents.

According to an archived article from The New York Post, “Dr. Thomas Waters [once] told the Cleveland Clinic that there is no cure for a hangover but time. ‘There’s no magic pill, no miracle cure to make a hangover go away. Your body has to catch up and metabolize the alcohol you consumed.”

Dr. Ed Boyer, of Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital concurred, telling Time Magazine in 2017 that hangovers are still mysterious to medical professionals. “I don’t think anybody can really tell you with a great degree of honesty what causes a hangover. The bottom line is nobody knows for sure what causes it, so we don’t have a good cure.”

But researchers at the University of ETH in Zurich (ETHZ)decided to take another tack, and see if hangovers could be prevented by anticipatory measures. They came up with a beverage designed to break down alcohol before it enters the bloodstream.

A cautionary tale

Or, the tale of a precaution… The new hangover remedy is a protein-based gel preparation you take before embarking on a night of drinking. And it not only heads off the production of hangover-causing acetaldehyde, produced by the conventional digestion of alcohol, but also breaks down the alcohol before your body can absorb it.

It doesn’t have an official name, yet. In fact, it’s only been proven effective in mouse-level studies, thus far. But its discoverers say it shows great promise.

A boon to barkeeps?

Based on the description of how it works, the miracle anti-hangover gel might also be a boon to the world’s barkeeps.

Not only is the stuff that causes hangovers headed off at the stomach, but alcohol is broken down before it has a chance to be absorbed into the bloodstream. That could mean folks so inclined could drink more before becoming inebriated. Alas, the happy-making effects of the alcohol they consume probably wouldn’t have a fair chance to express themselves.

Going where no drunk has gone before?

Makes one think of the stuff they served at Ten Forward, on the USS Enterprise in Star Trek: The Next Generation: Synthehol. According to one major fansite, “It appeared to have the same taste and smell as ‘real’ alcohol to most individuals, but none of the deleterious effects associated with alcohol for most humanoids, such as debilitating intoxication, addiction, and alcohol poisoning.”

The folks at ETHZ haven’t exactly gotten that far, yet. But who knows what the future may hold, now that the ‘great hangover divide’ has been crossed?

My take

The stuff can’t come on the market soon enough, as far as I’m concerned. We have far too many folks among us who are addicted to booze, and commit all kinds of bad behaviour under its influence. Anything which can save them from a potentially disastrous drunken stupor is akin to a Godsend.

The benefits for society could reach much further than simply saving alcohol abusers the discomfort of hangovers…

~ Maggie J.