Victoria Stokes questions whether the arrival of a hangover ‘cure’ will change the way people feel about drinking…
For many years now, the thought of a pounding head, sickly tummy, and loss of productivity have been enough to put me off ordering another round at the bar.[restrict]
Once the first to gleefully order shots, the increasing prevalence and – dare I say – sinister nature of my hangovers as I’ve entered my 30s have curtailed my drinking almost entirely.
But could a hangover prevention pill be enough to coax me – and others like me – back to our ill-advised binge-drinking ways?
Enter: Myrkl, dubbed a ‘miracle hangover prevention cure’. Launched in the UK in July, the pre-drinking pill is designed to break down alcohol before it reaches the liver, effectively nixing the symptoms of a hangover before they begin.
So, could a lack of consequences cause ‘cautious’ drinkers (like me) to throw that caution to the wind without the looming threat of a hangover curtailing our drinking?
Well, it’s complicated. Whether your relationship with alcohol will change with access to hangover prevention pills may well depend on your reasons for drinking in the first place, suggests Catherine Hallissey, a chartered psychologist.
“People drink alcohol for a variety of reasons and the personal motives of drinking to be sociable or to cope with life stress can easily overshadow the less immediate detrimental effect on health and wellbeing,” she points out.
In psychology, this in-the-moment thrill-seeking with little regard for the long-term consequences is known as ‘experiential avoidance’.
“This is the term for seeking short-term pleasure even if it leads to longer-term ill effects,” explains Hallissey. “It’s often a way for people to avoid unwanted emotions like anxiety or low mood.”
In layman’s terms, that means, we’re more likely to engage in harmful behaviours – like binge drinking – if the negative effects aren’t as immediate and we’re unlikely to worry about the potential health risks down the line.
Mary, 37, who went teetotal three years ago, says the promise of being hangover-free isn’t enough to convince her to go back on the booze.
“For me, there are so many reasons not to drink. It’s not just about avoiding a hangover, but about an overall sense of self,” she muses.
“I hated the person I was when I was drinking. I was so loud and obnoxious and I’d cringe the next day remembering all the stupid stuff I’d said and done. No pill can cure that!”
Does Mary reckon a ‘miracle’ pill will prove popular? “I reckon it’ll be the kind of thing people stock up on for a big occasion, like a wedding or birthday party where you’re expected to drink, but I don’t believe it’ll encourage people to drink more,” she muses.
“Irish culture has moved on a bit. I don’t think people are as interested in getting shit-faced as they used to be.”
Mary’s right. Ireland has long been labelled a nation of drinkers, but there’s little denying that in recent years our relationship with alcohol has changed.
More and more of our peers appear to be drinking less often and less heavily, replacing bottomless brunches and shot-filled Saturday nights with more wellness-focused endeavours like sea swimming and the gym.
Non-alcoholic drinks, once the reluctant choice of the designated driver, have become trendy and in some cases even preferred. I’m not the first person and certainly won’t be the last to switch to a Heineken 0.0 before the night draws to a close.
It’s easy to draw conclusions about why drinking to excess has gone out of vogue. Our unrelentingly busy schedules leave little room for spontaneous nights on the sauce. Who has time to be bedridden for most of the weekend when they’ve looming deadlines and a busy inbox to deal with come Monday morning?
Likewise, our increasingly goal-orientated culture has made us more focused on hustling our way to the top than nudging our way to the front of the bar.
You try seizing the day with a throbbing head and a stomach that feels like the inside of a washing machine. Perhaps we simply no longer have time for hangovers in our jam-packed schedules.
Niamh, 28, reckons that hangover prevention pills could allow us to have the best of both worlds: making it possible to let loose without impacting the other areas of our lives like career and family.
“Being able to drink without a hangover, does make it more appealing,” she admits. “If I knew I’d feel fresh in the morning and wouldn’t lose all of Sunday getting sick and lying in bed I probably wouldn’t think twice about ordering another few rounds of drink.”
Niamh says a hangover prevention pill would make her less wary about meeting up with friends mid-week too. “Even a few drinks these days seem to leave me feeling hungover but if a hangover prevention pill meant I could catch up with friends during the week without feeling like death at my desk the next day I’d be all for it.”
Niamh’s only real concern is loss of control. “I’ve spent so long now monitoring how much I drink to avoid being hungover, that I’d worry about losing the run of myself.
“Avoiding a hangover is the one thing that’s forced me to exercise some sort of self-control as I’ve gotten older, but without that, who knows what could happen. It’s easy to see how people could end up in potentially dangerous situations.”
It’s hard to predict how our relationship with alcohol will change as the hangover prevention industry expands and evolves. It will no doubt be a very individual experience. For some, it could mean more good times with friends. For others, the return of self-destructive habits.
For Hallissey, hangovers naturally curtail our drinking. “If the short-term impact of drinking is removed, it is quite likely that people will drink more frequently, which raises significant concerns about the long-term impact of increased alcohol consumption,” she notes.
Perhaps hangovers, as unpleasant as they are, are just the natural order of things.