Hangover Cures Are a Lie
I got wasted several weekends in a row for the sake of research. You're welcome.
Shepard Sherbell / Getty Images
Something I like to imagine, because I'm immature, is how the first guy who ever tested Viagra must have reacted once he realized a supplement he took to lower his blood pressure actually gave him a four-hour boner. That's kind of how I felt when I tried Flyby, a capsule engineered to "cure" hangovers, and I still woke up with a hangover. The part that's analogous to a surprise boner is the fact that I woke up in my bed and not on a subway platform, leading me to suspect that Flyby may have prevented alcohol poisoning.
The night I tried the pill, I went out to celebrate my friend Hannah's birthday. When I got to the restaurant, I was unsurprised to find she had been drunk the entire day. My mama ain't raise no punk, so I popped a few Flyby capsules and got to playing catchup.
From what I can remember, I had two beers, two unidentified blue cocktails, three shots of whiskey, a glass of water (because I'm an adult) and three tequila and orange juices followed by two more shots of something I can't recall. I should have been way more drunk than I was.
Dihydromyricetin, the capsule's main ingredient is, er, loosely backed by a study done by The UCLA School of Medicine, which found that the ingredient counteracted alcohol intoxication and dependence—in rats. And while that research hinted at its efficacy in humans, there have been no trials in people. It claims to "boost liver function, so you're able to process alcohol quicker," says Eddie Huai, CEO and founder of Flyby.
"We also include another ingredient called liver hydrolysate," Huai adds. "I'm pretty sure we're the only company who uses that right now to treat hangovers. It's also been proven to protect your liver from a nasty toxic byproduct of alcohol called acetaldehyde."
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"Proven" is a bit of an overstatement. The effects Huai refers to are shown in another rodent study that suggests that liver hydrolysate has protective effects against "acetaldehyde-induced toxicity." Huai claims—and take this with a grain of margarita salt because he's not a scientist—that by limiting the effect alcohol has on on your neurotransmitters and protecting your liver from acetaldehyde, taking two Flyby capsules before you drink and two more before you go to bed will significantly reduce your chances of waking up the next morning with a hangover.
While it was clearly a stretch to assume that Flyby protected me from alcohol poisoning that night with Hannah, an even further stretch would be to suggest the capsule is any type of hangover remedy. Acetaldehyde doesn't exactly cause hangovers, says Nikolas Lemos, a forensic toxicologist and clinical professor at University of California at San Francisco. "When we consume alcohol, we actually consume a lot more than just that...there's so much more in an alcoholic drink. For example, things that manufacturers put in there to make alcohol attractive," Lemos says, referring to congeners, compounds that show up in flavor additives or as a result of the distilling and fermenting processes. "Congeners can increase the severity of hangovers—when we have hangovers, it's not necessarily because of the alcohol. It's all of the other things that are present," he says.
After drinking myself stupid and escaping death, I still had a hangover problem to solve. Some weekends later, I met up with my friend Keisha, whom I hadn't seen in five or six years. We decided to commemorate the reunion by getting hammered.
I took a different approach to drinking with Keisha than I did with Hannah, though. Save for one pina colada, I ingested as few congeners as possible—we took shots of silver tequila (which generally has fewer congeners than the aged stuff like reposados) for an hour straight, followed by more shots of the same at my apartment. And while I didn't wake up nauseated or with a headache the next morning, I still felt weak and fatigued.
Luckily, I had 9 am appointment that morning with The IV Doc, a service providing in-home IV hydration therapy. Hydration therapy allegedly relieves dehydration caused by the flu, jetlag, exercise fatigue, food poisoning, and general exhaustion, and some people partake after a night of drinking.
The service is pretty ideal for folks who have a hard time waking up after partying, in that you don't actually have to go anywhere the next morning. Depending on how early you scheduled your appointment, you roll out of bed and your nurse is already there (after a few missed calls). My nurse's name was Anika.
Feeling drained and drowsy from the previous night, I dragged myself to the door, let Keisha out, welcomed Anika in, and got cozy on the couch for the next 30 to 40 minutes. After plugging the equipment in, Anika took my vitals and put me on a video chat with general surgeon Adam Nadelson, one of The IV Doc's in-house physicians, to discuss my medical history (this shit really is the future).
Like most things from the future, this shit is also very expensive. While keeping their confidentiality intact, Anika tells me most of her patients are well-to-do. Famous actresses typically throw down $399 a pop for The IV Doc's "Beautify" treatment before award ceremonies, loading up on vitamins and electrolytes for an Oscar-worthy glow, while professional athletes might opt for a quick $150 "Super Vitamin B" intramuscular injection to burn some fat.
I chose the Doc's "Refresh" treatment, at $239, with an added vitamin B12 supplement, bringing my hypothetical total to $314—they comped the service. Refresh, a saline IV, also included an anti-nausea medication called Zofran, and an anti-inflammatory medication called Toradol. Nadelson warned that my symptoms might return later in the day once the treatment wore off. But for the time being, I felt like Denzel Washington in Flight—in that speedballing scene when a few lines of coke and some weed killed his hangover and had him ready to fly a goddamn plane.
Even so, to call hydration therapy a full-on hangover remedy would also be a stretch. While the treatment woke me up and kept me feeling energized for about four hours until my afternoon nap, the energy boost is merely a temporary treatment for symptoms—which is better than nothing, but obviously not ideal. Imagine having the flu and being professionally administered medicine without the option of taking more when your symptoms return later that day.
Lemos notes that IV hydration therapy has been around for a while. "Most of the old remedies for hangovers involved the administration via IV of something that either has a lot of saline or fructose," he explains. Salt and sugar have always had at least some effect on hangovers, but with hydration therapy, the dilemma finds itself in how much you're willing to pay for temporary relief.
Preventative capsules and IV solutions seem to remedy hangovers as much as DayQuil and Mucinex "cure" the common cold—modern medicine can treat everyday afflictions, but we've got a long way to figuring out how to skip them altogether. But like with the common cold, most people have their own half-baked theories and low-maintenance rituals when attempting to rid themselves of hangovers. I live across the street from a YMCA, so my go-to routine has always been twenty minutes or so in a sauna.
When I'm sick, I feel slightly better after a hot shower, so when I'm hungover, I try my luck in a steaming hot room surrounded by sweaty old men. Before writing this article, my thought was that by sitting in a sauna, I'd sweat out whatever alcoholic toxins have me feeling like garbage. Lemos shut that theory down with the quickness. By the time you're hungover, he says, those toxins have already come and gone. "Although that would be useful if you still had alcohol in your bloodstream, by the next day, most people have actually already excreted the alcohol," he explains.
Moreover, IV drips provide temporary relief from symptoms like fatigue and nausea because those specific symptoms subside with hydration—so sweating your ass off in a wooden room heated between 150 and 200 degrees is probably something you don't want to do.
Given that saunas are the most harmful "remedy" I've tried, if you don't have a few hundred dollars to blow on hydration therapy and you don't necessarily trust capsules with experimental ingredients, your best bet for combatting a hangover may still be some Yeezy prescribed sunglasses and Advil.
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