Sunday, April 20, 2008

Hair of the Dog

I Learned something pretty interesting while talking to Mike (one of the staff members of our CTA lab) last Friday. I think most everyone has heard the expression "hair of the dog that bit you," but in the event that it's new to you it means treating a hangover by drinking more of what got you the hangover in the first place. I don't think I know of anyone who's ever actually done this intentionally, and it definitely never happened to me or anyone I know during either the 2006 or 2007 VT football season. Anyway, the science behind HOTD makes for a rather compelling argument:

When you drink, enzymes in your body (ie: dehydrogenase) break down the alcohol. The enzymes will first break down ethanol (if it is available) because it is easier. Then they go after the more complicated higher (aka "fusel") alcohols. The byproducts that result from the breakdown of these higher alcohols are quite toxic. These toxins are responsible for your hangover. This is why expensive liquor (has been distilled more times and therefore has a greater percentage of pure ethanol) generally has more mercy on your body than the stuff that we drank in college.

So, if your body has broken down all of the ethanol and has moved on to the higher alcohols, you can add more ethanol to your system and the enzymes will switch back to breaking down ethanol instead. If you can keep the enzymes busy with ethanol, more of the fusel alcohols escape metabolism and are excreted unchanged in the breath, sweat and urine. This is also why a woman who drank anti-freeze was prescribed whiskey, and why when 3 kids drank anti-freeze, only one of them survived. He lived because he had polished off half a bottle of whiskey prior to ingesting the anti-freeze. So the moral of the story is never drink anti-freeze or cheap liquor, and always drink in moderation (unless of course you just accidentally drank anti-freeze).

No comments: