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Strategies for a Hangover-Free Holiday Season

Old-fashioned remedies remain most effective prevention for hangovers
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New Hangover Prevention Strategies?

You may have seen ads for products that promise a night of excessive drinking with minimal hangover residue, simply by popping some pills or even changing the way you consume alcohol. But do they work?

As for the hangover prevention pills, many in the medical community remain unconvinced of their effectiveness. "They haven't been carefully studied," Hetzler says.

A few "hangover helper" pills contain a single key ingredient designed to ward off the unpleasant aftereffects of alcohol. Artichoke extract is one of them. While the product manufacturer touts this natural substance's effectiveness against hangovers, scientists at the UK's Peninsula Medical School found artichoke extract ineffective at curbing alcohol's aftereffects.

Of all the hangover helper pills, HPF Hangover Prevention Formula, an herbal supplement containing derivatives of the prickly pear cactus, has shown the most promise. Researchers found it reduces three of nine hangover symptoms: nausea, dry mouth, and loss of appetite. It's believed to work by reducing the body's inflammatory response that alcohol causes.

But skepticism remains high.

"The supplement [HPF Hangover Prevention Formula] is designed mostly to address allergic reactions that cause headaches. It does nothing for things like abstract memory impairment linked with learning, nothing for the central nervous system suppression, the diuretic effect, etc.," asserts Patrick Breslin, an alcohol and drug prevention facilitator at Western Wisconsin Technical College.

"The only evidence is their [manufacturers'] own internal reports. To the best of my knowledge, there's no evidence that there's any supplement you can take that will prevent a hangover. These claims have not stood up to scientific scrutiny by unbiased researchers," White tells WebMD. Incidentally, the study that demonstrated the prickly pear derivative's defense against hangovers was supported by the product's manufacturer.

Vaporized Alcohol

If hangover prevention pills don't work, there's also a whole new way to consume alcohol intended to curb the nasty aftereffects of consumption. The alcohol-vapor machine, or "alcohol without liquid" (AWOL) device, works by turning shots of liquor into an inhaled alcohol mist. The vaporized alcohol then mixes with oxygen and is inhaled through a tube, creating an immediate high and, according to product claims, no hangover.

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