Which Nootropics Cure Hangovers?

After New Year’s Eve, and in the light spirit of the holidays I decided to investigate what Nootropics, if any, can be applied to help hangovers. I’ve done a little bit of research for fun, and come up with some interesting conclusions. This should not be taken as serious science, as it is mostly an interesting hypothesis, and related to the relevant literature and anecdotal evidence I can find. It is in no way a recommendation to take these if you are suffering from a hangover, nor should it be construed as medical advice or anything other than what it is – a fun thought experiment.

What Causes A Hangover?
In order to figure out how to treat hangovers, it’s important to take a look at what the causative factors of hangovers are. Once we can figure out what the root causes of a hangover are, we can look at which Nootropics could potentially work to mitigate these factors. The main causes of a hangover are (please note, not an exhaustive list):

  1. Dehydration [1]
  2. Buildup of Acetaldehyde [2]
  3. Hypoglycemia [3]
  4. GABA “rebound” effect [4]


How Can We Treat These Causes With Nootropics?
Let’s look at how to fix the main causes of Hangovers. Causes 1 and 3 (Dehydration and Hypoglycemia) can be treated rather easily. The absolute easiest way to cure dehydration is to drink water. It’s important to drink water while drinking alcohol, and also to drink water after alcohol intake. In order to fix hypoglycemia, the easiest thing to do is to eat.

Pyruvate


What about the more difficult ones? How do we handle the buildup of Acetaldehyde? The liver converts Ethanol to Acetaldehyde through the enzyme Ethanol Dehydrogenase. Acetaldehyde is 10-30 times more toxic than ethanol[2]. It is then converted to Acetic Acid through Acetaldehyde dehydrogenase. I was unable to find a better source for this, but Wikipedia states that the these two reactions cause Pyruvate to be diverted from other critical pathways in the body. A lack of Pyruvate can seriously impact gluconeogenesis. And so we come to our first potential Nootropic for handling hangovers, Pyruvate. I have no good studies on taking Pyruvate to alleviate hangovers, but I have some studies that are related to Pyruvate in hangovers. [6][7]. It’d be nice to see if we could get some anecdotal or study evidence regarding the effectiveness of Pyruvate in treating hangovers, but it seems a good potential target.

Cysteine


How else can we help mop up and handle Acetaldehyde? Cysteine is mentioned around the internet quite a bit, and mentioned as a possible treatment in one PubMed study that I found, although it mostly seems to refer to Cysteine as being touted on the internet.[8]
Cysteine is an amino acid that specifically is involved in turning Acetaldehyde into Acetic Acid. By taking more Cysteine, it is absolutely possible that we could speed up the rate at which the liver can transform Acetaldehyde into Acetic Acid, and get rid of that nasty toxin. There was a study in rats where rats were pretreated with cysteine before being exposed to alcohol. Rats with the cysteine treatment were 80% more likely to survive acetaldehyde toxicity than control.[2] So, we reach our second potential chemical, Cysteine.

Phenibut


Reaching our fourth and final cause, the GABA rebound effect. Ethanol directly stimulates GABA receptors.[9] Once the consuming of alcohol is ceased, GABA levels are thrown majorly out of balance.[4] Because ethanol is removed from the body very quickly (at a commonly cited one drink per hour), the body reacts strongly from the sudden removal of ethanol, and the GABA receptors then drop significantly, causing withdrawl symptoms. Around the internet I found quite a bit of anecdotal evidence citing Phenibut as a great way to avoid hangovers when taken AFTER alcohol consumption. The theory for taking Phenibut as a hangover cure is similar to the “hair of the dog that bit you” cure of drinking more alcohol the morning after. Many people cite benzodiazepines as a good cure for hangovers, because they modify the GABA levels on a longer term than ethanol does, allowing the user to maintain sleep and to not deal with as sharp a withdrawl on the GABA receptors. Phenibut’s half-life is 5 hours[10], which if taken after alcohol consumption but before hangover symptoms begin, could theoretically slow the “come-down” so to speak and prevent withdrawl symptoms. Caution should be used here, however, as Phenibut can cause withdrawl symptoms on its own if too much is taken. When combined with Alcohol, it can lead to CNS depression and can be a potentially fatal combination. Please consult with a doctor before attempting this. If you attempt this, please take the proper precautions and be careful about it as you do this AT YOUR OWN RISK. This is simply an interesting theory which could have tragic consequences if done wrong.

Pyritinol


While not directly related to any of the causes I mentioned before, I have heard quite a few stories of Pyritinol working as a hangover cure. Pyritinol, which is modified Vitamin B6, has been shown in a few trials to help eliminate hangovers[11][8].

Conclusion
It looks like in addition to drinking water and eating, the following Nootropics can help cure hangovers: Pyruvate, Cysteine, Phenibut, and Pyritinol. If I have made any errors in this post, please let me know. Please also comment with any of your hangover cures, or anything that I may have missed. If you try any of these out, or have any anecdotal experience with these, I’d love to read it in the comments as well.

Sources

  1. http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/human-biology/hangover1.htm
  2. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2FBF01966822
  3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3220253/
  4. http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh22-1/54-60.pdf
  5. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hangover
  6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6779303
  7. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1178502/
  8. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1322250/
  9. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2040048/
  10. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phenibut
  11. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/4588294
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3 comments

  1. Dan   •  

    Hey. Thanks for this. I got the cysteine and sort’ve got the B6 (I had a Berocca – B Vitamen supplement). I’ve got the pyruvate on order and I actually purchased the phenibut but chickened out after your warning. The guy at the vitamin store also recommended a herbal detox formula as well which he said he tried so I got that also. Met at the pub at 12 and loaded up with the cysteine, Berocca and detox fomula. Meal prior to booze was small at around 8am so had a fairly empty stomach. Had about 16 standard drinks over 6 hours. All unflavoured beer and one shot of black Zambucca. Had about 1 lite of water intermittently between drinks so was relatively well hydrated. Had a gatorade bottle with berocca and cysteine pre dissolved waiting for me when I got home plus some more of the detox pills. Got home about 7pm pretty hammered and forget to drink gatorade bottle but woke up at about 3am and drank it. Tasted pretty ordinary but I’ve had much worse.
    Result? Woke up around 6.30am felt like shit. Was pretty wired due to the B vitamin. Detox pills did nothing, I don’t think cysteine did much either. When I say I felt like shit I didn’t have a killer headache or anything, I think that’s due to lack of flavanoids and preservatives in the beer which is a critical factor contributing to hangover that you’ve left off your article. I just felt like I had drunk about 15 beers the night/day before. In other words the supplements really didn’t do much at all! Looking at what the Phenibut’s supposed to do I get the feeling that this is a critical player though. I’m going to try some tonight (Sunday night) and see how it effects “the mondays” – even when I don’t drink I get the Mondays I don’t know why, I like my job I just feel like I’m 80 on Mondays. Anyway, I’m sure there’s a combo out there somewhere that works well maybe the pyruvate might help a little. I think something as simple as a meal before going out is critical. I’ll keep looking I love drinking but I HATE losing the next day. Keep writing good articles. Cheers.

    • mike   •     Author

      Absolutely! Thanks so much for sharing your experience and trying the different things out. I’m sorry that the cysteine and b vitamins didn’t help quite as much as you wanted. They likely helped deal with the headache at least to some extent. I don’t understand the flavanoids quite enough to write authoritatively on them, but I’ll definitely look into it more. The phenibut definitely helps quite a bit in my own personal experience (I used it in Vegas this past week), but it’s very important to be careful with it because it can compound the effects of the alcohol if taken too soon, which could cause serious complications. I typically wait a few hours after I finish drinking before taking the phenibut. I do strongly urge you to be careful, and want to remind you that you do this at your own risk, but I am eager to hear how it works for you.

  2. Rafael   •  

    Have any of you guys tried ALCAR the morning after drinking? My “hangover preventing procedure” has always been this: get home after drinking, eat a meal, drink a lot of water (1-2 liters), take vitamins (C and B) and antioxidants (resveratrol and ALA) right before going to sleep. Wake up 8-10 hours later, do all of the above again and add 1g sublingual methylcobalamin. I’ve done this for several months and it helps quite a bit on reducing headaches and the hangover feeling.

    A couple months ago I came across a study [1] that showed that ALCAR had neuroprotective effects and could reduce the damage caused by alcohol. So I tried it. Taking 500mg – 1g before going to sleep had no effects on me. But taking 500mg right after waking up and 500mg 6 hours later had a huge impact on how I felt. It killed the dizziness, made me less feel foggy and made me alot more energetic. Give it a try, guys. I take it everytime I drink.

    [1] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21079922

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