Since founding Cheers, the main critique we have heard about our company is people thinking it could increase binge drinking. The logic is simple enough: “If you get rid of a hangover, you’re getting rid of someone’s incentive to drink responsibly.”
At its core, the argument that our critics — usually teetotalers (as most people who drink understand the rational need for our product) — are making is that alcohol consumers moderate their drinking based on the potential resulting hangover, and therefore, reducing the hangover is only going to cause people to drink more.
For the reasons that we will present below (a non-exhaustive list), we believe that this line of logic, while seemingly intuitive, is reductive and fails to grasp the nuance of the subject matter or what our brand of products is about.
In another blog post, we wrote about where DHM comes from and how it works (if you don’t find this brief section compelling, please go read it for more context).
In short, DHM binds to the same brain receptor that alcohol binds to (the GABAa receptor), and by doing so, reduces GABAa rebound — the primary reason that people don’t feel good following alcohol consumption (acetaldehyde is the secondary reason, but more on that in a future article).¹
As shown in rat models, this reduction in GABAa rebound not only 1) decreases hangover symptoms, but 2) mitigates increased levels of alcohol consumption in rats (even bringing alcoholic rats back down to baseline levels of alcohol consumption when taken daily).²
While many people mistakenly believe that hangovers are just dehydration, we would argue that the masses actually do know about the important role of GABAa rebound in hangovers — even if it’s just implicitly.
How do people implicitly know GABAa rebound is at fault — even if they explicitly think hangovers are just dehydration? Because humans have long known that the “Hair of the Dog” or morning drinks such as “Bloody Marys” are effective at reducing hangover symptoms. So long as the drinks continue, you won’t have to deal with GABAa rebound. However, this technique a bad long-term decision unless (you guessed it) you want to never stop drinking.
Because more alcohol is an effective means of dealing with a hangover, it means that people are tempted to use techniques such as the “Hair of the Dog” to cope (which as seen in the rat models, in combination with increased tolerance, led to significantly increased levels of alcohol consumption over just a 10-week period of time). In fact, if someone had a reduced hangover upon waking, then there is actually less reason to drink the next day — not more. Ultimately, a reduced hangover helps make the decision to drink more volitional (act of intentional will) than chemical (a physical need).
We’re not saying that Cheers to can reduce alcoholism in humans (moreover, we could get in trouble with the FDA if we did as our product has not been tested for that purpose yet). Rather, we’re simply stating that 1) Cheers makes people feel better the day after consuming alcohol and 2) researchers believe that the mechanism of action behind DHM — which were shown in animal models to reduce increasing levels of consumption of alcohol over time — could be helpful in the context of alcohol.⁴ Therefore, there’s a potential that Cheers’ use of DHM could be part of the solution, and at the very least, not part of the problem.
The argument that the teetotaler makes of “if you get rid of a hangover, you’re getting rid of someone’s incentive to drink responsibly” assumes that the only reason people don’t go crazy with alcohol consumption is due to the fact that they will have to pay the price the next day in the form of a hangover.
In fact, we have even heard people argue to us on Facebook that “God made hangovers by design to prevent people from drinking too much”. But if that’s the case, then why don’t other “harder” drugs cause a hangover? For example, LSD has no hangover. And many other drugs, such as marijuana, cocaine, and amphetamines have very little “hangovers” — if you could even call it that. Did God forget about those? If other drugs don’t have “hangovers”, then why isn’t their use uncontrollably rampant? The reason is that people make the decision to use or not use a drug — alcohol included — on reasons beyond just “will this give me a hangover?”
For example, when it comes to alcohol, here’s a lot of reasons to not drink or drink less that don’t include a hangover: watching calories, driving later that night, wanting to go to bed early, not wanting to accidentally act like a fool at a party, don’t like how it tastes, don’t like the feeling, religious reasons, costs too much, being pregnant, etc.
People are going to drink or not drink for various reasons, and the hangover is only a single reason among many. Therefore, a perceived hangover can’t be given singular credit for how people moderate their alcohol consumption.
In fact, there’s a drug called disulfiram (sold under the trade name Antabuse) that actually slows down the body’s ability to break down acetaldehyde (the secondary cause behind hangovers — and one of the exact opposite mechanism of actions behind Cheers Restore).⁵ Disulfiram creates 5–10x more acetaldehyde than normal for the relative amount of alcohol consumed. Disulfiram was designed to make a small amount of alcohol create a massive hangover, and thus, create a stronger incentive for people not to drink.⁶
Disulfiram was approved as an alcoholism treatment by the FDA in 1951. However, now in modern times, disulfiram is rarely used in the treatment of alcoholism.⁷ Instead, naltrexone and acamprosate are used — both of which are designed to help with GABAa rebound (which, as you guessed it, also reduces hangovers), among other receptors.⁸ Why is disulfiram rarely used now? Because besides poor compliance, one of the reasons its usage has been slowed is that people continued to drink while on disulfiram, which wrecked havoc on the patient’s body with repeated use — thus providing no benefit and yet increasing harm.⁹
Translation? Despite having a drug that would make their hangovers significantly worse… people decided to drink anyways. The truth is that people choose to drink or not drink for many reasons, and the potential hangover is only one of those reasons (and in many cases, doesn’t cause people to refrain from drinking or even drink less). Therefore, why should hangovers be treated as some holy ground that are not allowed to be treated?
The fact of the matter is that there are many positive reasons to drink alcohol. Such as a wedding, or a celebratory dinner party with your boss and coworkers. And as we have pointed out elsewhere, moderate and responsible consumption of alcohol can still lead to a hangover. So ultimately there is bonafide beneficial reason for a brand of products designed to “reduce alcohol’s negative effects and make people feel the next day” to exist.
At its core, the teetotaler’s argument is simply that if you reduce the risk of something, you reduce the incentive for someone to act responsibly with it. However, we would argue that this isn’t always the case, and in many situations, someone investing into the reduced risk of something actually makes them behave more responsibly with it.
Take motor-vehicles for example. Motor-vehicles are dangerous — like super dangerous, as 3000+ people die in motor-vehicle accidents every day.¹⁰ However, motor-vehicles serve a beneficial purpose, and so people consider the risk worth it every single day as they get into their cars to go wherever they are going.
In 1950, seatbelts were invented for mass production consumer motor vehicles. And by 1968, so were airbags. If we applied the same logic that our critics are applying to Cheers and alcohol, then our critics would argue that installing seatbelts + airbags should create more reckless driving by reducing the risk of injury or death when operating a motor-vehicle.(footnote counter example)
However, almost no one argues this. In fact, we believe that our teetotaling critics probably wouldn’t even argue this. Thus, the logic that reducing risks always increases risky behavior is flawed because we can see situations where that’s clearly not the case.
In the grand-scheme of motor-vehicle safety, the use of seatbelts and airbags are steps towards responsibility (safe driving) and not steps towards irresponsibility (reckless driving).
If someone has a child, then goes out and buys the safest car they can find (a new Volvo fully equipped with child seats, side airbags, blindside assist, a “baby on board” sticker, etc.) — i.e., a serious investment in car safety for their child — do you think that person is then going to drive even more recklessly? No, the investment into car safety is a step in the right direction that makes them now even more likely to make other steps in the right direction of car safety (e.g., driving the speed limit, driving slower in the rain, using their blinker, etc.).
The example above isn’t isolated. Here’s other examples :
Sunscreen: The proactive use of sunscreen for reducing the risk of skin cancer is a step in the right direction of skin health. People that invest in sunscreen are likely to care for their skin in other ways as well.
Bike helmets: The proactive use of helmets to protect your head from falls is a step in the right direction of bike safety. People that invest in bike helmets are likely to follow other biking best practices as well.
Fibrates/Statins: The proactive use of cholesterol medication is a step in the right direction of someone managing their heart health. People that are investing in managing their heart health are more likely to exercise and eat better as well.
And the list can go on and on. But the point is quite simple, steps in the right direction are likely followed by other steps in the right direction.
If you are 1) worried about a hangover and 2) are worried about liver health, and so buy Cheers Protect (daily liver supplement) and Cheers Restore (after-alcohol aid), it’s not then going to then cause you to drink even more.
Instead, it’s a conscious and intention steps towards caring about your alcohol-related health. By taking steps towards alcohol-related health, you’re actually making it more likely that next time you go out for an evening over drinks that you’re likely going to be smarter about it and how much you consume.
The bigger question is, why wouldn’t you want to support our mission of promoting “fun, responsible, and health-conscious alcohol consumption”?
¹ Shen, Y., et al. “Dihydromyricetin As a Novel Anti-Alcohol Intoxication Medication.” Journal of Neuroscience, vol. 32, no. 1, 2012, pp. 390–401., doi:10.1523/jneurosci.4639–11.2012.
⁵ Stokes M, Abdijadid S. Disulfiram. [Updated 2019 Aug 12]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2019 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK459340/
⁸ Witkiewitz, Katie et al. “Acamprosate for treatment of alcohol dependence: mechanisms, efficacy, and clinical utility.” Therapeutics and clinical risk management vol. 8 (2012): 45–53. doi:10.2147/TCRM.S23184
⁹ Stokes M, Abdijadid S. Disulfiram. [Updated 2019 Aug 12]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2019 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK459340/
¹⁰ “Road Safety Facts.” Association for Safe International Road Travel, www.asirt.org/safe-travel/road-safety-facts/.
¹¹ “Three-Point Seatbelt Inventor Nils Bohlin Born.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 27 Jan. 2010, www.history.com/this-day-in-history/three-point-seatbelt-inventor-nils-bohlin-born.
¹² Bellis, Mary. “Who Invented Airbags?” ThoughtCo, ThoughtCo, 9 Aug. 2019, www.thoughtco.com/history-of-airbags-1991232.