Unless you're the designated driver, holiday parties are often associated with that wrecked morning-after feeling: nausea, dehydration, dizziness. And typical remedies — black coffee, aspirin, a greasy meal — might not always work.
Which explains why healthcare entrepreneurs — among them doctors and surgeons — have launched products intended to be taken before and during a night out, designed to head off the more unpleasant effects of drinking. The shots, capsules, waters, even tea bags, are designed to be tossed into a purse or pocket and consumed regularly throughout a night of partying. Many are said to work by helping the liver speed up the detoxifying process, or by flushing the body with electrolytes and B vitamins, as well as more nontraditional ingredients such as Japanese raisin tree, milk thistle and prickly pear extract.
Glutathione is a key ingredient; the substance is produced naturally by the liver, and those levels are compromised by alcohol consumption, said Danielle Citrolo, manager of technical services at Kyowa Hakko USA, which manufactures glutathione for use in some of these hangover remedies.
"It's the master antioxidant in our body, and when we drink a lot of alcohol, we use it all up," she said. "That impedes the body's ability to metabolize the alcohol out of the system."
There are treatments inspired by the worst after-effects of alcohol poisoning — the kind that land the drinker in the emergency room. Medical doctors Romy Block and Arielle Levitan used to administer "banana bags" to those who ended up in a hospital after over-indulging; a bright yellow bag of IV fluids containing magnesium sulfate, thiamine and folic acid. The doctors have since launched Recovery Act, four banana-colored capsules priced at $5 containing the same ingredients.
"The idea of hangover prevention is even more important than treating it," said Levitan. "These vitamins and minerals work better when they're taken while someone is drinking instead of waiting for the hangover effects in the morning."
Some medical professionals are worried these trendily packaged and marketed anti-hangover treatments might be sending the wrong message.
"Younger people may be attracted to the idea behind these products — that 'If this is going to help me in the morning, I can go crazy tonight,'" said Damon Raskin, an internist in private practice who is also the medical detox specialist at Cliffside, a rehabilitation center in Malibu. Still, says Raskin, a big concern is the lack of regulation around these products.
"Almost none of them are FDA-approved, nor have they gone through rigorous studies to show that they do anything at all. Obviously, the best thing for a hangover is to drink in moderation, and not to get one."
Otherwise, he said, for those determined to over-indulge, investing in these products is hardly necessary.
"Take a multivitamin, drink a sports drink and plenty of water, eat a banana, have some food in you — you can get all the same benefits, and it would be a lot cheaper," he said. "These hangover products are not a get-out-of-jail-free card."
New hangover treatments hit the market
Determined to try to stave off that hangover? Here are some other market newcomers that claim to do the job:
•Intox-Detox capsules are intended to be taken with lots of water before or during a night out to keep those headaches and nausea at bay. $3.99 per packet of four. intox-detox.com
•AfterPartyPal is designed to be taken before, during and after a night out. Ingredients include prickly pear cactus and various vitamins. $12.49 for a five-pack. afterpartypal.com
•FAST Hangover Liquid Relief contains caffeine and other ingredients, designed to be downed as soon as you feel that cocktail-induced headache creeping up. $5.98 for a twin-pack. firstaidshottherapy.com
•The people behind Resqwater suggest downing a bottle or two between drinks to stave off the effects of the body breaking down alcohol, and to end the evening with one. Ingredients are said to, among other things, replenish glutathione. $25.50 for a six-pack. resqwater.com
•With exotic ingredients like the herb pu gong ying, Hangover Tea should be taken immediately upon waking after a night out to soothe the liver and ease headaches, its makers say. $25 for 40 tea bags. america.yourtea.com
•The Cromwell Hotel in Las Vegas offers miniature bottles of Osmosis Pür's Harmonized Hangover Water as part of a weekend turndown service. But anybody can buy the doctor-developed formulation, which boasts "scalar wave-enhanced water molecules." It's intended to be taken before, during and after a night of partying. Prices vary, so shop around. $30 for 3.38 fluid ounces at dermstore.com.