Sally Engelhart | A hangover cure on the horizon
Scientifically Blonde | A compound called DHM has potential to undo effects of drinking
April 11, 2012, 11:45 pm·
A lot of you are going to make some pretty bad drinking decisions this Fling. You’re going to get way too drunk, probably make a fool of yourself and then feel really, really hungover.
But what if I told you that you could undo that drinking?
Researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles, may have isolated a compound that eliminates the dangers and downsides of boozing.
In a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience on Jan. 4, it was found that rats given a dose of dihydromyricetin (DHM) sobered up more quickly, showed fewer signs of a hangover and never got addicted to alcohol. When compared to the rats that didn’t get DHM, the effects of alcohol were like night and day.
If it works similarly in humans, DHM might be the miracle antidote to alcohol that we’ve been looking for.
The specific findings were pretty incredible (and hilarious if you can picture little wasted rats). The rats were injected with an amount of alcohol that is equivalent to a human doing two back-to-back power hours (15-20 beers in two hours). Then, the rats passed out in a drunken stupor and researchers flipped them on their backs (sober rats hate this and will flip themselves over immediately).
Rats that didn’t get a dose of DHM lay snoozing on their backs for about an hour before being able to flip themselves over. On the other hand, rats that got a dose of DHM with their booze were sober enough to get on their feet within 15 minutes.
What’s more is that the effects of DHM lasted long past the drunken period. Rats that didn’t get DHM were more likely to show signs of a hangover (cowering in dark corners when put into a maze) the day after their bender.
You’re probably most excited about the idea of a drug that could sober you up when you’ve overdone it and wipe away your hangover so you can hit Van Pelt with gusto at 9 a.m. on Sunday. But the most standout finding of this study from a clinical perspective is the fact that rats that drank alcohol laced with DHM never got addicted to booze. (And yes, rats allowed to consume alcohol will drink more and more of the stuff until they become little rodent-alcoholics).
But at a college steeped in a binge-drinking culture, would this alcohol antidote make drinking a safer, more pleasurable experience, or will it let things get entirely out of control?
Wharton senior Tara Viswanathan — who feels uneasy about the idea of a DHM drug — thinks if such a thing were made available, alcohol consumption on campus would definitely rise. “I think it would affect different schools differently,” she said. “For a school like Penn, kids would go nuts for something like this, a drug that could help make them productive after a night of drinking.”
Point taken. For the school that likes to take studying and partying to the same extreme, DHM would have quite the appeal.
But Viswanathan worries about the amount of alcohol she would consume and how it would affect her health in the long term if she were taking a drug that masked the effects of being drunk.
Her concerns have not gone unnoticed by researchers. While DHM shows promise to reverse inebriation, prevent or cure hangovers and treat alcoholism — researchers are warning us from getting too ahead of ourselves. Alcohol has many effects on the brain and body and DHM may not prevent them all.
In some twisted way, hangovers keep our drinking in check. Get rid of hangovers and there’s no short-term reminder that we’ve drunk so much as to poison ourselves the night before. With no negative reinforcement, there would be a lot less to stop us from binge drinking on the reg.
When I get a hangover, I usually deserve it. Give me DHM and I’ll never learn my lesson.
Maybe this is a little masochistic. If I knew that a hangover cure wouldn’t cause me to change my drinking habits — why not eliminate the drudgery of a hangover?
But I think that I’m getting a little ahead of myself here.
While DHM will go into human trials, we’re nowhere near an alcohol antidote just yet. Maybe you’re kids or grandkids will have the luxury of curing their hangovers with a pill, but I guess this Fling you’re stuck with Advil, coffee and an egg sandwich.