A Hangover Pill May Soon Hit The Market As Clinical Trials Show Potential

Credit: Pixabay

A pill to cure the hangover may soon be available after clinical trails see success treating the condition. It is no secret that the world consumes a lot of alcohol in a variety of forms.

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Alcohol consumption is part of the cultural fabric of many communities around the world and remains one of the common threads shared among all of these communities. You can find alcohol in different forms around the globe as many cultures throughout time have managed to figure out how to make it. Traces of alcoholic drinks has been found as far back as 7000 BCE in what is now China. These drinks were made from fermented honey, rice, and fruit.

A bowl and stove used to make alcohol in the early Han Dynasty (206 BCE – 220 CE). Credit: Professor Gary Lee Todd/Wikipedia

Since its inception, alcohol has been used to celebrate, mourn, and serve as a right of passage from childhood to adulthood. Throughout all of its uses, alcohol consumption carries a price: the hangover or worse.

What Is A Hangover?

A hangover is a collection of different symptoms that arise from the consumption of alcohol. The exact amount of alcohol needed to cause a hangover depends on a variety of factors like age and body size. For some, it can take a single drink. For others, it can take many drinks. These symptoms are unpleasant and can affect our productivity for the day.

Some of these symptoms include fatigue and weakness, headaches, nausea, sensitivity to sound and light, and dry mouth among many others. These symptoms are generally seen after a night of drinking and when your blood alcohol content decreases to at or near zero.

There are various factors that contribute to the different symptoms. For instance, drinking alcohol causes you to urinate more often. This results in loss of water and dehydration, which gives rise to the thirst, dizziness, and dry mouth symptoms. Alcohol also irritates the stomach lining, which causes nausea and/or abdominal pains.

Headaches are caused by expanded blood vessels, which can be the result of alcohol. Beyond causing many bodily issues leading to the group of symptoms, alcoholic beverages contain cogeners as an ingredient. Congeners give alcohol its flavor but also contributes to hangovers. Dark alcoholic beverages, like bourbon or brandy, has more congeners than clear beverages, like vodka. The more congeners you have, the more likely you are to get a hangover or get a more severe hangover.

Whiskey and other dark alcoholic beverages contain a lot more congeners, giving them more flavor, compared to vodka and other clear alcohols. Credit: Wikipedia

Treating a hangover generally involves drinking enough fluids to compensate for the fluid loss, eating to reduce the chances of alcohol irritating your stomach, and avoid drinks with too many congeners among other solutions. Many also take pain-relieving medication to deal with the aches that hangovers cause. However, despite many anecdotal cures for hangovers, there is no actual cure for a hangover.

Finding adequate treatment options for hangovers and excessive drinking is important because too much alcohol can lead to alcohol poisoning, which carries even worse symptoms than a simple hangover. These include confusion, seizures, and unconsciousness.

A Hangover Pill

It may seem like trying to find a cure for the hangover is an unnecessary use of resources when there are other conditions with more pressing needs. However, a cure would treat more than just the hangover. Alcohol abuse and dependence have been found to be responsible for up to 10% of visits to the emergency in the United States.

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The excessive use of alcohol causes various disorders in individuals and is ranked as the fifth leading risk factor for causing diseases and injuries globally. Alcohol stands as the leading risk factor among 15-49 year-olds for causing disabilities and premature death.

The burden that alcohol places on societies around the world are great and one of the big reasons a cure is needed. While the best way to avoid hangovers and alcohol poisoning would be to minimize or eliminate your alcohol consumption, that is not a realistic plan.

Professor Yunfen Lu, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, University of California, and his colleagues wanted to address this problem by finding a way to mitigate the effects of alcohol on the body.

Since the only currently effective treatment is having the body break down alcohol with its own enzymes, Professor Lu and his team wanted to exploit this by creating a pill that contains natural enzymes found in the liver to do this.

The researchers selected three enzymes that could convert alcohol into harmless compounds the body could easily excrete. To avoid having the enzymes be destroyed anything, they wrapped the enzymes in shells already approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration.

They then injected these pills into drunk mice and found that these mice were able to have their blood alcohol levels be reduced by 45% within hours of injection. This was a marked improvement over those mice that did not receive the injection.

 

The researchers also found that acetaldehyde, a toxic compound produced by alcohol breakdown in the body, concentration in the blood remained low. This helped to reduce many of the symptoms of alcohol consumption, which includes headaches and vomiting.

The mice that were given the injections also woke up faster compared to the untreated mice. The results of this experiment are encouraging because it helps to prevent alcohol poisoning, hangover symptoms, and avoids the stress and damage that alcohol does on the liver.

Professor Lu and his team hope that they can begin human clinical trials in a year if continued animal trails remain effective. If successful, this treatment would go a long way towards dealing with alcohol poisoning, a common occurrence at many colleges and universities.

It will not stop people from drinking and may encourage them to drink more, the treatment option allows us to deal with the consequences in safer and healthier ways that does not burden our healthcare systems.  For now, we must make sure we drink responsible and take precautions to avoid hangovers and anything worse.

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Opinions expressed are solely the authors and do not express the views or opinions of Science Trends nor the author's institution.
Cite this article as:
Mohendra Shiwnarain. A Hangover Pill May Soon Hit The Market As Clinical Trials Show Potential, Science Trends, 2018. Available at:
http://doi.org/10.31988/SciTrends.18254
*Note, DOIs are registered Friday weekly and therefore may not work until then.

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