If physics has taught us anything it's that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Nowhere is this more true than in drinking. After all, for every spectacular bender, there's a spectacular hangover. And with Fat Tuesday coming up in just a few short days, many are on the verge of a painful encounter with Newton's Third Law.
Of course, ever since the discovery of the hangover, mankind has searched for its corresponding cure. Drinkers tout everything from a glass of water paired with every drink to aspirin and the proverbial “Hair of the Dog” to cure the splitting headaches and wrenching nausea that show up as the prize on the other side of nearly every drunken stupor. While some tactics meet with more success than others, none qualify as a bona fide cure. Results vary from person to person and even hangover to hangover, make it even more difficult to recommend any particular solution.
It's not surprising. Hangovers are complicated creatures. The combination of factors that deliver that unique cocktail of pain, fatigue and gastrointestinal distress is absolutely astounding. The ethanol in every drink causes dehydration. The enzymes used in the liver to break down that same ethanol make it more difficult to process glucose – bringing on the fatigue and drop in brain function. Chemicals created during the fermentation process of alcohol compound the issues even more. In short – it's a lot for a few aspirin to deal with.
But where there's a problem, there’s a hundred companies willing to do their utmost to make a buck off of it – bringing hordes of bottled and packaged hangover cures to drug store shelves and websites of dubious origin everywhere you look.
These cures come in a variety of forms, from pills that you take with every drink to foul-tasting liquids and powders that claim to wipe away hangover symptoms quickly and painlessly with no side effects. We met up with a group of brave drinkers with strong stomachs and high-functioning livers to find out if there is any truth to these claims. Here are the painful results.
Alcohol-X – According to the web site, Alcohol-X is a “...revolutionary fast acting compound of natural ingredients that goes directly to work to keep you hangover free.” To use this miracle of modern science you simply take two capsules after your last drink, along with 16 oz. of water. And while our panelist's headache wasn't quite as brutal as usual, it's all too likely that was because the instructions had her drinking a full pound of water before bed – thus avoiding the worst of the dehydration.
Chaser Plus – A “homeopathic” hangover medication, Chaser Plus contains a number of herbal ingredients aimed at nipping a hangover in the bud. According to the instructions, one must simply take two pills before drinking and another two after the last drink in order to wake up bright, fresh and with no need to kneel before the porcelain altar. Because the web site says the remedy is only for the “moderate social drinker,” we gave it to one person who was pacing herself and another who was throwing a bit of caution to the wind. The results were predictable. Apart from some moderate dry mouth, our social drinker woke up fresh as a daisy, while our party animal was bed-ridden for hours. Sadly, it was the group's consensus that the water used to take the pills was just as likely as the Chaser Plus to have helped our female tester avoid any consequences, especially given the complete lack of any mitigating effects on the man of the house.
THC: The Hangover Cure – Billed as the world's first extreme hangover cure, THC claims that only unicorn tears are a better hangover remedy. To use, one simply mixes the powder with water and downs the glass after the night of drinking is done, thus “replacing what alcohol takes away from your body” and preventing the hangover from occurring. Or, if it was all you could do to stumble home, let alone finding a glass and mixing things in it, the instructions say that you can also drink it as a cure the morning after when experiencing the blinding pain of a hangover. The watery tropical fruit flavor was somewhat off-putting, but it did seem to blunt the worst of hangover trauma for a savvy drinker taking it as an ounce of prevention. Sadly, one lush looking for relief the morning after didn't have nearly as much luck. Again, the verdict was inconclusive as to what role the water consumed as part of downing the cure played.
Hangover Gone – Packaged in a convenient 2oz. bottle much like the now ubiquitous “5-Hour Energy” drinks, Hangover Gone bills itself as a hangover preventive that can also be helpful when the hangover already has a grip on your sanity. With glucose, B vitamins, and a variety of amino acids and herbs designed to help your body combat the toxins left behind by alcohol, it sounds like scientists of some sort had something to do with its formulation. The instructions say to drink one bottle for every 4-6 alcoholic drinks. In other words, if you need to drink two of these, a trip to the local detox center may be in order. Regardless, one drinker dutifully downed a shot of the foul cough medicine-like mix, before downing her other shots. And while the company behind it warns that mileage may vary depending on body chemistry, this drinker didn't make it very far, with Hangover Gone showing little to no effect as a pain preventive.
Sadly, it looks as if the world will have to suffer through yet another Ash Wednesday morning without a magical cure-all.