The Shortest Way Out of Manchester

Joan Acocella offers an observation in the latest issue of the New Yorker that is so fundamental and so critical to those of us who possess an over abundance of interest in wine, it’s hard to believe you don’t see it noted more often:

"historically [the hangover] is not a subject that has captured scientists’ hearts."

For those of us with that over abundance of interest in wine, the importance of this observation should be obvious. But Acocella, in her fine article entitled "A Few Too Many", notes there is another reason why this point is curious: "anyone who discovered a widely effective hangover cure would make a great deal of money."

How much money? Certainly more than they need but not quite enough to buyout Constellation.

One of the things this seeming lack of scientific interest in finding a real cure for the hangover demonstrates is that sex is more desirable to Americans than the desire to stop the clanging bell in our heads and the throbbing temples that come with, say, a bit too much White Burgundy. Otherwise, instead of Viagra we’d have a drug likely called something terribly inappropriate, like "Drinqitalis".

I for one would be quite happy to fill the coffers of the company that produces this new wonder drug. There is nothing I hate more than a hangover. Besides the departure from my normal tolerance for sounds and people the hangover causes, it’s one of those things that happens to stay with me a very long time. In all honesty, I’m not even a big fan of the feeling that comes from ingesting alcohol except under certain very controlled circumstances.

And that brings me to a bit of speculation: what would be the impact of a drug that would negate the effects of alcohol on the body? Would the makers of this wonder drug make any money?

I think the answer is very little money. I think for the most part it would be folks like me who adore the taste of wine but really don’t care for the affect of alcohol that would buy this drug. The problem is I think I’m strange. I think even among those that love the taste of wine, like just as much the buzz that comes with drinking wine. Moreover, I think the vast majority of people drink FOR the buzz, no matter what the choice of liquid.

Folks would much rather have a drug that removes the ugly after effects of drinking than remove the ultimate source of the problem.

Acocello says it better than I can:
"A truly successful hangover cure is probably going to be slow in coming.
In the meantime, however, it is not easy to sympathize with the alcohol
disciplinarians, so numerous, for example, in the United States. They
seem to lack a sense of humor and, above all, the tragic sense of life.
They appear not to know that many people have a lot that they’d like to
forget. In the words of the English aphorist William Bolitho, “The
shortest way out of Manchester is . . . a bottle of Gordon’s gin,”

6 Responses

  1. Tom C. - May 29, 2008

    Forget hangovers. At age 48, I’ve learned pretty well where my limit is. How about a cure for baldness that doesn’t involve becoming a eunuch?

  2. Watson B - May 29, 2008

    Actually a pretty good cure exist, it’s a two world little wonder concoction called Milk Thistle, and although it doesn’t stop your brain from pulling at it’s membrane (a result of dehydration, check out, losing water mass in the brain causes the brain to shrink, making it literally tug at it’s protective membrane, thus the headache that’s worse when you move your head) it does do wonders for liver health in general as well as inducing it to host a mass exodus of toxins. trust me, Mild Thistle saved my life more than once after a wild college party.

  3. Morton Leslie - May 29, 2008

    There is actually a lot of work being done on the hangover. It is in medical journals and not normally discussed in trade publications or read by journalists. It is recognized as an important research subject in that its costs in lost human productivity are recognized. Hangover research also relates closely to issues with alcoholism and recovery, so it is not ignored.
    The reason that there is no handy dandy cure is that the hangover isn’t just one thing, but a serious of physiological problems caused by overindulgence. (Interestingly in recent research involving over a hundred subjects hangovers were statistically associated with 10+ drinks per occasion.) Hangovers are caused by dehydration, hormonal alterations, dysregulated cytokine pathways, and toxic effects of alcohol and its breakdown compounds like aldehyde. With this you see increased cardiac work with normal peripheral resistance (pound, pound, pound), diffuse slowing on electroencephalography, and increased levels of antidiuretic hormone. To make all this go away isn’t simple, we’re dealing with important human physiology here. Effective interventions include rehydration, prostaglandin inhibitors, and vitamin B6. Chelating agents like sodium salt of 2,3-Dimercapto-1-propanesulfonic acid (known as Unithiol) is said to dramatically alleviate hangover. And there are U.S. patents for its use, but don’t hold your breath to see it added to your Cabernet.
    Anyway, do really want to mess with drugs like these when all we need to do is show modest restraint, drink a glass of water with every few drinks, take a few aspirin and a B6 capsule before retiring? If all else fails we can always smoke a doobie!

  4. Marco - May 29, 2008

    more research on hsb-infused wine is needed or failing that, morton’s suggestion is very helpful for the future past.

  5. Summer Lyndon - May 30, 2008

    I’m not fund of drinking but if you are, especially wines, check out this site:

  6. physical chemistry - March 23, 2010

    nicely written!! Good

Leave a Reply