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Heads-up! Hangover cure might be here soon

By Shaun Smillie Time of article published Dec 12, 2020

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Finally the millennia-long search for a hangover cure might be over and it doesn’t involve celery sticks or raw eggs.

In fact this cure kills a hangover before it even starts.

A team of Canadian researchers have come up with a device that has the potential to quickly sober up drunks.

And it’s a simple device that uses hyperventilation and the lungs to expel alcohol.

“It's a very basic, low-tech device that could be made anywhere in the world: no electronics, no computers or filters are required.

“It's almost inexplicable why we didn't try this decades ago,” said Dr Joseph Fisher, an anaesthesiologist and senior scientist at the Toronto General Hospital Research Institute.

Usually the liver expels 90% of the alcohol from the body, and in the past if medical personnel had to sober someone up quickly they would have to turn to dialysis, and supportive measures such as oxygen, intravenous fluids and breathing assistance.

Hyperventilation can do this all quickly, but there is a catch.

“You can't just hyperventilate, because in a minute or two you would become light-headed and pass out,” explained Fisher.

To overcome the problem, the team created a device that returns the right amount of carbon dioxide to the body that is lost to hyperventilation. It is the loss of CO2 that causes the light-headedness.

The device fits into a small suitcase and is made up of a valve system with connecting tubes, a mask and small tank filled with compressed CO2.

In tests, the researchers found that through hyperventilation they could clear alcohol from the body three times fast than what the liver can do.

Fisher believes that the device could be a game-changer in the fight against alcohol abuse, where globally 3 million people year die because of the effects of drink.

The team’s findings were published in Scientific Reports, a Nature Research Journal. What they presented was a proof of concept and the authors have recommended further studies to understand how this technology could be applied in clinical settings.

Naturally a system like this could find work in South Africa, a country that is known for its high alcohol consumption and abuse.

“We shouldn’t get too excited, it is very preliminary. But it is something to watch out for," said Professor Charles Parry, director of the Alcohol, Tobacco & Other Drug Research Unit at the Medical Research Council of South Africa.

Perhaps in the future these devices might be freely available in pubs for patrons to hook up to and sober up before heading home.

The problem is that it could be some time to sober someone up so they could drive home.

Rule of thumb is that it takes the body an hour to rid a standard drink of alcohol from the body. Through hyperventilation this in theory would take 20 minutes.

Obviously someone who has had several drinks will take longer to sober up.

But it will take a while before such a device hits a pub near you, so in the meantime hangover cures are still going to rely on those celery sticks or the best remedy: not drinking at all.

The Saturday Star

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