Health

Does the New Hangover Pill Really Work?

For centuries, human beings have been trying their hand at highly creative hangover cures. They’ve run the gamut from rabbit dung and dried viper and skulls to primitive versions of detox involving (literally) much sweat and tears, according to the Newsweek article “11 Battiest Hangover Cures.”

Today’s remedies seem a bit less off-putting: Drink plenty of fluids, pop some ibuprofen, maybe load up on vitamins B and zinc, or so goes the common wisdom. Now, though, a new supplement pill from the Swedish pharmaceutical company Myrkl is promising more—to significantly reduce the next-day effects of too much alcohol consumption. (Learn more about alcohol’s health effects and dangers.) But how, and will the pill truly work?

How the New Anti-Hangover Supplement “Works”

The new anti-hangover pill is a probiotic supplement, an article in The Conversation explained. It comprises two types of bacteria produced from fermented rice brain. Together they break alcohol down into water and carbon dioxide; and because they’re encased in an “acid-resistant capsule,” they’re able to elude the stomach’s corrosive acids and reach the intestine where most alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream.

Consequently, the pill can reportedly absorb a significant amount of alcohol consumed—70 percent, according to Myrkl—so that a person who takes the pill before they start drinking won’t get as drunk or feel as miserable the next day. The manufacturer Myrkl based this claim on a study that followed 24 young adults who, over the course of a week, took either the pill or a placebo each day before drinking. Meanwhile, their blood-alcohol levels were tested continuously for two hours after they began drinking. Those who took the pill reportedly had 70 percent less alcohol in their bloodstream than those who took the placebo.

Potential Problems with the Study

But there were some problems with the study, as the publication The Conversation pointed out. Among them: incomplete results and inconsistencies between participants; and a one-pill protocol before a single drink, which differs from Myrkl’s recommendation of two pills one to 12 hours before consuming any amount of alcohol.

Less of a Hangover—But Less Euphoria, Too

Even if the pill technically achieves what it sets out to do—to relieve a bad hangover—there’s question as to whether it will prove a workable solution. By absorbing 70 percent of alcohol in the bloodstream, it also blunts the euphoric effects of drinking, after all. Those euphoric effects are one of the main reasons many people drink in the first place, especially if they are self-medicating anxiety or stress. Someone with an alcohol use disorder who takes the pill to ward off hangover symptoms could thus end up drinking even more than what they’re accustomed to consuming.

The Best Prevention of a Hangover?

In the end, the best prevention of a hangover is to drink less the night before. For some people, this may come easily: With a simple lifestyle tweak, they’re able to drink in moderation and still have fun, without the aches, pains, nausea, vertigo, and other miserable symptoms the next day.

On the other hand, heavy or binge drinkers may struggle to reduce their alcohol intake—despite the hangovers and other negative consequences. They may take a pill that relieves the negative effects of alcohol, only to find that it enables more drinking rather than less. In these cases, an anti-hangover pill is just a Band Aid solution, whereas alcohol treatment has helped many people get to the root of the problem.

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