Hangovers. Some students cringe at the word and avoid recalling memories of the morning after, but a new supplement out in stores this week claims to counteract the effects of alcohol, including hangovers.
The supplement, labeled RU-21, was developed by the Russian Academy of Sciences 25 years ago as a top-secret remedy to keep spies sober when they were drinking with potential targets.
Yet, the plan did not work as expected. The spies still became intoxicated, and the project files were declassified in 1999, according to Newhouse News Service.
Although the pill did not keep people sober, the declassification revealed RU-21’s benefits to the public.
The makers of RU-21 claim the pill slows down the production of acetaldehyde, a highly toxic byproduct of alcohol consumption, and speeds up the process of aldehyde dehydrogenase 2, an enzyme that converts the acetaldehyde into a non-toxic acid.
Therefore, alcohol is metabolized more quickly in the body and most people who use the pill do not experience a hangover the next day. The pills are sold at $4.99 for 20 pills from the RU-21 Web site, and consumers are supposed to take two pills prior or during consumption of every two drinks.
Emil Chiaberi, executive director of Spirit Sciences USA, Inc., said the pill was never really intended as a hangover remedy.
“It is designed to protect people from the effects of alcohol when consumed moderately,” Chiaberi said. “It is a pill that can help over time, and fortunately, or unfortunately, there are short-term effects, like not having a hangover.”
Despite the manufacturer’s warning that people should not take the pills just to deter a hangover, health officials are still concerned with the message the pill sends to the public.
Pam McCracken, director for the Center of Drug and Alcohol Education at CSU, believes consumers will see RU-21 as a consequence-free remedy for excess drinking.
“It gives a false sense of security,” McCracken said. “People think that because they are taking these they can drink more and have less risk for negative factors. There is only so much your body can handle.”
Trevor Roberts, a junior botany major, once had alcohol poisoning that left him sick for a week. He likes the idea of not having a hangover, but is also uncertain about using the new supplement.
“My hesitation is that you don’t have the hangover there to remind you that you may have gone a little overboard,” Roberts said. “Though it is painful at times, it is a good reminder. On the other hand it would be nice not to have a hangover.”
Curiosity, and the hope of a better tomorrow, may cause some students, including sophomore Becky Hartman, to try the supplement.
“I think I probably would buy it because hangovers are not fun. I can see how hangovers deter you, but no one likes to be sick,” said Hartman, a health and exercise science major.
The market for a dubbed anti-hangover pill is expected to be so large that Chiaberi said the company does not even have to advertise.
“We don’t advertise,” Chiaberi said. “We don’t need to because we get so much publicity in health magazines, on radio stations and in the other media concerned with health.”
The supplement is mostly intended for use as a long-term health benefit, a pill that can be taken every day to help deter the some effects of alcohol, including premature aging of the skin and liver damage. Supporters of the pill emphasize that it is for use by moderate drinkers, not an excuse to drink in excess.
“If there are enough morons that will interpret it this way (by drinking in excess), I guess it will be a problem,” Chiaberi said. “It is supposed to be for moderate drinkers to help them lead a healthier lifestyle.”
Despite the intentions of the pill, students have opinions on the message RU-21 sends to consumers.
“It tells you to drink as much as you want and you’ll still look good the next day,” said Juliana Hissrich, a senior political science major.
Jamie Penn, a junior psychology major, agrees.
“It will make people more likely to binge drink and to drink more often if they know they could not feel like crap the next day,” Penn said. “You could be doing serious damage by drinking that often even if you don’t feel bad. It encourages drinking without consequences.”
The long-term effects of the supplement have not been tested, nor does RU-21 have to be FDA regulated because it is being marketed as a dietary supplement. The pill has been available online at www.RU-21.com since the beginning of this year and is being shipped into major grocery, pharmacy and health food stores within the next few weeks, Chiaberi said.
Despite the lure of a magic anti-hangover pill, McCracken warns people to still take responsibility for their actions.
“If you abuse your body, no matter what you take, (your body) is just going to say ‘enough,'” McCracken said, “The key is not to get intoxicated to the point where you need a hangover pill.”