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If you have gone to a Whole Foods or even just walked up to a bodega, you have probably seen pills that claim that they can end a hangover or even prevent a hangover. Some pills even suggest that they can help reduce the effect of a hangover brought on by drugs. Many people have seen them, tried them, and have stories about using them.
If you're like most people who like to party hard, then you probably have asked if hangover pills really work. So, do hangover pills work? What's the deal? We decided to take a look at the full facts—and let the reader decide whether it's actually worth it.
Do hangover pills work? If they do, they have to work to block symptoms or metabolize alcohol differently.
Hangovers happen because our livers work to metabolize alcohol. Our livers metabolize alcohol by breaking it down into two different compounds—one of which is harmless and one of which is actually far more harmful than alcohol itself. The harmful chemical is acetaldehyde.
In order for a hangover pill to work, it would most likely have to modify the rate at which you metabolize and break down acetaldehyde. Otherwise, it would have to work by minimizing hangover symptoms.
How do hangover pills work?
You're supposed to take hangover pills right before you start drinking— not after. The most common assumption involving how hangover pills work is that it's mostly a placebo effect at play. After all, study after study does show that the placebo effect really does seem to have a serious impact.
In recent years, there are a lot of hangover pills that allegedly have some science backing them. That being said, there's no guarantee that there's science behind what you're taking. The FDA does not actually look into food supplement science, which means that it's possible to have hoax hangover cures every single day.
We don't have FDA approvals to check, but do hangover pills work, or are they all hoaxes?
Because the FDA doesn't really require a lot of scientific backing on supplement claims, the results are a mixed bag. It really boils down to anecdotal evidence, Amazon reviews, and actual research into their active ingredients.
RU-21, a hangover pill that was invented in Russia, allegedly works by blocking acetaldehyde production during alcohol metabolism. However, during a "trial run" on The Guardian, drinkers found out that it really wasn't as effective as they thought it'd be.
Another one by the name of Fresh Start has science-backed prickly pear as an active ingredient, and allegedly works. With this one, it was reviewed by the folks at The Mirror, who said that they felt perfectly fine after a wild bender.
As of right now, there's only one hangover pill that has been FDA-approved to treat hangovers. That hangover treatment is Blowfish, and in terms of science, you can't get more evidence than what's being seen in Blowfish.
So, do hangover pills work? Perhaps—it depends on the brand, the scientific evidence, and on how much you drink. Some do, some don't, and that means that you'll need to look before you leap, regardless of which pill you choose to swallow.