“Magic Cures” For Hangovers Are Smoke and Mirrors Above Rock Bottom
If you were anything like me, you prayed for a magic pill that would take away all of the gross physical side effects the morning after a long night of drinking. I got violently ill for hours the next day when I drank too much – so much so that I can’t even comprehend what drinking more, or eating solid foods, or being able to stand up to commute anywhere at all the next day – would have even been like.
Now, in our Instagram feeds, our Google Ads, and on our Facebook pages, we’re seeing a surge in advertised “remedies” that promise to take some of the physical consequences out of the equation after heavy drinking and “get you going the next day.”
These patches, vitamins, shots, and other formulas are designed to provide reprieve from things like headaches, nausea and drowsiness if you take it – or wear it – before you start drinking the night before. For many of these products, vitamins are the main ingredient, along with caffeine, aspirin, and other standard tried-and-true, get-em-at-the-drugstore hangover treatments.
But these make promises that go a bit further – preventing you from feeling those symptoms at all. And for someone who drinks alcoholically, and for someone who’s main signal that drinking was harming her were the physical side effects, it got me thinking about that claim that using this stuff is “The smart way to drink.” (Yep, that’s actually the tagline.)
Now, if you’re a “normal” drinker, an occasional social drinker, or just overdo it every once in a while and think this is worth your time, great. This article is not for you. This article is about what the potential might be to prolong someone’s “bottom” if they’re able to use this sort of Band-Aid to mask what recovery groups refer to as a “physical allergy” when, at its core, pain and discomfort are usually a signal for us that something is wrong, and we need to try and heal it.
The main category in preventatives like “Blowfish” are a mix of aspirin and caffeine. No surprise there. Essentially, and I’m paraphrasing, it’s supposed to help you be able to show up for a work after a long night of drinking you hadn’t planned on and not totally blow the day.
Then there’s a patch called “Bytox the Hangover Patch,” which you’re supposed to slap on before you start drinking, and it essentially infuses you with the B-Vitamins you lose when you drink. It’s made up of the same stuff that people are given in hospitals when they are suffering from alcohol poisoning. A similar “Party Patch” also “uses science” to keep those vitamins shooting through you.
Another brand, “Drinkwel,” claims it’s “Designed to replenish nutrients, support liver health and process alcohol induced toxins. Formulated by a PhD in Biomedical Science and a Naturopathic Physician.” Someone named Gretchen left a five-star review on that website, raving “I purchased these for the second time because I have a trip to Vegas in the near future. I tried them for the first time last year when we went and it definitely made a difference waking up in the morning after a long night of drinking. I would recommend them to anyone who has a long night planned with alcohol being involved.” People whose jobs require them to drink and those who party hard have called it a “magic pill.”
There’s also a shot you can drink called “Morning Recovery” (oh the irony) whose main ingredient is something called, DHM (Dihydromyricetin), a “powerful flavonoid that helps accelerate your body’s ability to break down acetaldehyde and other toxins from alcohol.” Says them: “Studies show DHM boosts liver performance and helps mitigate the ‘rebound’ effect on your brain by inhibiting GABA-a receptors. Say goodbye to next-day fog and sluggishness.”
Something called “PreFunc,” a shot you take before your first drink that is filled with green tea, ginseng and licorice root, brands itself with this message: “Are you a business professional who needs to network every weeknight? A student who just can’t miss out on a frat party even though you have a final in the morning? A mom who enjoys those ladies’ nights but still needs to be refreshed for the morning school run? A gym rat looking for the perfect detox shot? If you know you’re going to be drinking, always party responsibly. And the best way to do that? A two-ounce bottle of PreFunc as early into the night as possible. PreFunc should always be your first shot of the night. In the morning, wake up feeling refreshed and experience the magic of PreFunc. Head to work or class like last night was just a really good dream.”
Saving the best for last, there’s “Over EZ,” which claims that you can “Enjoy the night with no regrets.” I kid you not, #NoMoreHangovers follows.
One woman in recovery who I spoke to (and wishes to remain anonymous) said she believes this could be dangerous for alcoholics who are still active because it likely would have prolonged her own personal journey to getting sober. “There are different kinds of consequences that can push someone to get help, I think, but it was a combination of physical and social consequences for me, and I don’t know if social alone would have pushed me to where I am.”
“The reckless behavior, ranging from a “harmless” drunk text to potentially deadly drunk driving, can’t be undone with Vitamin B the next day. How on earth can you assure there will be no regrets?-Helaina Hovitz
Another woman named Cindy agreed that there is no magic pill for any condition. “Though this pill may keep you from experiencing a hangover, it doesn’t stop the physical damage that alcohol does to your body. I am also thinking that it doesn’t stop the questionable, maybe even fatal, behaviors that come along with drinking before the hangover hits.”
Bingo. The reckless behavior, ranging from a “harmless” drunk text to potentially deadly drunk driving, can’t be undone with Vitamin B the next day.
How on earth can you assure there will be no regrets? Are you also responsible, somehow, for that person’s decision making, getting them home safely, protecting them from drunk dialing, holding them up as they walk, keeping them from getting physically sick, making sure they don’t hurt themselves, get into a fight, do anything sexually dangerous? Will you “feel” less drunk in the moment, or just hungover the next day? And then, do you risk drinking even more, and way more than you should, if you don’t feel the effects as much, signaling you to stop?
Another woman named Jennifer said, if you’re already thinking about the fact that you’re going to drink so much that you’ll have a hangover, that could put you in the category of a problem drinker alone. She also pointed out that most of the self-identified alcoholics like her in 12-step recovery programs name hangovers as the least of their problems, so this may not even make a dent.
Let’s say that, “normal” drinkers, then, have an aid in helping them rebuke the effects of drinking and simply replenish their vitamins in an attempt to help them stay healthy. I imagine that this might be the same way that people without food related issues might want to do a three-day cleanse after the holidays, and we can’t be mad at them for that.
As Dr. Mikhail Varshavski, a family-medicine doctor in New York City told New York Magazine, there is currently no real hangover treatment available of which the effectiveness (or safety) is scientifically proven.
“Part of the reason for the lack of a reliable hangover cure is because scientists still aren’t totally sure what a hangover is. It’s not a headache; it’s not nausea. It’s this whole host of symptoms that we loop into one category as hangovers,” he said.
I asked Paul Lavella Jr, MA, LPC and a Director at Delphi Behavioral Group, what he thought of the potential of these remedies to both harm and help someone the morning after.
“Use of these products can serve as a quick fix, however in doing so, the consumer loses the opportunity to evaluate their drinking and consider the need to change the behavior that is leading to the concerning symptoms the morning after,” he said.
“Some people with Alcohol Use Disorders decide to alter their drinking patterns or find recovery due to their ongoing experience of these nuisance symptoms. Use of these products may change a person’s desire to consider change.”
Additionally, Dr. Lavella said, while they claim to alleviate the consumer of any hangover symptoms, they indeed will not prevent or undo the physical effect that alcohol has on the body, including potential impacts to the liver, pancreas, kidneys and the brain.
“What we do know about alcoholism, however, is that it is a progressive disease, and if it is not treated, it will get worse,” he said. “If we ignore early symptoms of a problem, the risk for more significant consequences will increase over time.”
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