How will a new hangover prevention pill change our relationship with alcohol?

Myrkl is the new pill that promises to prevent a hangover – but should you take it? 

For many people, the thought of a dry mouth, pounding head and sickly stomach the following day is enough to put them off opening a bottle of booze. But what if you didn’t have to worry about getting a hangover? That might now be the case, as a new ‘pre-drinking pill’ launched in the UK today (5 July), designed to break down alcohol before it reaches the liver.

Let’s just quickly run through what happens when we drink. Alcohol is broken down in the liver and produces the toxic compound acetaldehyde, which contributes to the symptoms of a hangover. But the brains behind new pill Myrkl say that, when taken at least an hour prior to drinking, two pills can break down up to 70% of alcohol in the body within an hour, using ingredients such as probiotics, amino acids and vitamin B12. The pills claim to turn the alcohol into water and carbon dioxide in the gut before it reaches your liver, meaning less of the hangover-inducing chemical is produced.

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Despite some people online pointing out that a pill that breaks down alcohol that fast will also kill the buzz of the booze and make drinking less effective, Myrkl is trending on Google and on Twitter, suggesting we’re all after a way to avoid a hangover.

But let’s be honest: most people who drink have probably turned down a fourth glass of wine or left the pub early because of the fear of midweek grogginess. And that begs the question: would the promise of hangover-free drinking change our relationship with booze for the worse?

“The threat of a hangover is literally the only thing that stops me from drinking too much,” says journalist Alex Sims. “A pill that could stop the headaches would definitely increase my alcohol intake, big time. I reckon it could have quite a negative impact for people who have a difficult relationship with alcohol.” 

Could a hangover pill change your relationship with drinking?

Stylist’s social media editor Chloe Laws agrees, saying: “I think it would be super tempting to take it and therefore my alcohol consumption would probably increase, especially on weeknights when I don’t want to be hungover the next day. I don’t think that’s a good thing as it could creep into masking a problem.”

However, she adds that she’d be interested in how the pill could be used for good, like avoiding the dangers associated with drunkenness or the impact of spiking.

Going into the first restriction-free summer after the pandemic is also a time packed with partying, and using a pill that breaks down alcohol could have positive and negative outcomes: the potential for those who enjoy the flavour or social aspect of drinking alcohol to have better control over its side-effects, but also the risk of many more units being consumed. 

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Dr Deborah Lee from Dr Fox Pharmacy tells Stylist: “This is a pill which stops you from absorbing alcohol when drinking. If it does this, it is helping to stop you from getting drunk after a few drinks. I worry that means people will not feel the same sense of relaxation or euphoria they normally get after a few drinks, and may just encourage them to drink more.

“However, as less alcohol is absorbed after taking the tablets, there is less alcohol for the liver to detox, and less in the way of alcohol breakdown products. But don’t be fooled into thinking you can now safely drink more than the recommended limits. The government still only recommends drinking a maximum of 14 units a week. No more than six units should be drunk at any one time, and there should be some alcohol-free days in the week.”

That’s because, of course, hangovers aren’t the only downside to drinking: long-term alcohol intake is linked with higher rates of illness and disease. Myrkl’s website says that the pill should never be taken to justify heavy drinking.

“[While] Myrkl helps break down alcohol fast before it reaches the liver, it is not suited and aimed to alleviate the impact of excessive alcohol consumption,” it says, adding that the pill “must never be an excuse to drink more alcohol and you should always limit your alcohol consumption within the government guidelines”.

But Myrkl also promises busy professionals the chance to enjoy a social night out and still perform the next day and says parents can go out knowing they’ll still feel fresh in the morning. 

As a wine enthusiast who loves the ritual of an evening glass of pinot but hates a hangover, I’m already much more tempted to ditch my once-a-week alcohol rule to enjoy more frequent basking in the sun with a wine. Is that really such a good thing? 

Images: Getty

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