New Alcoholism Vaccine Gives Drinker Instant Hangover
Frank Sinatra once said, “I feel sorry for people who don’t drink. When they wake up in the morning that’s as good as they’re going to feel all day.”
But researchers at the University of Chile hope to make the opposite true for alcoholics, in hopes to make them “sick” of liquor. After getting a vaccine that blocks the liver from metabolizing alcohol, recipients will get a “hangover”—including accelerated heartbeat, nausea and pain—after consuming even a small amount of alcohol.
Scientists spent the past year designing the vaccine—now entering preclinical trials that will first use mice to determine dosing and enter phase 1 clinical trial in India later this year.
University of Chili Institute of Cell Dynamics and Biotechnology director Juan Asenjo believes the vaccine is an important step in countering alcoholism, which ravages one of every 15 men in Chile, according to the World Health Organization.
“People who end up alcoholic have a social problem; a personality problem because they’re shy, whatever, and then they are depressed, so it’s not so simple,” Asenjo said.
“But if we can solve the chemical, the basic part of the problem, I think it could help quite a bit.”
Generally when alcohol is consumed, the liver turns the substance into the compound acetaldehyde, which causes hangover symptoms the following day Then, an alcohol-metabolizing enzyme breaks the compound down. But researchers considered the 15- to 20-percent of Asians possess a gene mutation that inhibits the breakdown of alcohol and vastly decreases the rate of alcoholism among those with the gene.
“People who are Japanese, Chinese or Korean and have this mutation – Let’s say 15 to 20 percent of the population – they don’t touch alcohol, and that’s because they feel bad with the vomit and the nausea,” Asenjo told the Santiago Times.
The drug mirrors the affects of a near-century old product called Disulfiram. Disulfiram blocked the enzyme that breaks down alcohol, increasing the body’s proclivity to hangovers. But the pill didn’t curb alcoholic’s cravings and many hangover-ravaged patients simply quit taking the pill before it could alter any behaviors.
The new vaccine, however, counters that problem. Once injected, the vaccine can’t be reversed until its effects finally lapse. But the director of Chile’s Alcoholics Anonymous told the Times addiction cannot be solved with a vaccine.
“Personally, I hope it works. But it’s not so easy for the person who already has alcoholism,” said the director, who asked to remain anonymous. “Once you have this problem. You don’t have a solution. You pick up a drink, think you can handle a few, but it’s not possible.”
Taking away one addiction—alcohol—often leads the addict to pick up a new form of addiction—narcotics, smoking, sex, shopping or other destructive behavior—until the underlying mental challenges are addressed.
“I had a friend. He quit drinking. Then he became a terrible smoker. He was connected to an oxygen tank for two months to keep him alive,” said the director. “A person needs to confront themselves.”
[Image via Shutterstock]
I want more stuff like this!