back to article Boffins invent miracle pill that counteracts effects of booze

Biology boffins have turned their hand to something useful: a pill to stop you acting drunk no matter how many pints you put away. It's your mutinous immune system that gives you that sozzled feeling after a boozy session, scientists claim in a paper published today in the British Journal of Pharmacology. Conk out certain …


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  1. Nick Gisburne


    Now ugly people will no longer get laid, or at least not above their own league. This is not progress. At least not for ugly people.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Dunno, it means you ugly buggers will eventually be worked out of the gene pool..

      1. relpy


        No, ugly won't be bred out of the gene pool - beautiful people will become more beautiful, and us ugly sods will get more and more ugly. And there are more ugly people around than beautiful people.

        So I say to you beautiful people - if you don't want to be surrounded by more and more increasingly hideous people - act now - shag someone ugly today!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          not always true

          neither me or the wife are esp. beautiful. but we have managed to have gorgeous children (who may grow up up Ugly who knows!)

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            But you'd think ugliness was recessive

            I'd insist on paternity testing if I were you.

  2. alain williams Silver badge

    Get drunk or catch a cold ?

    Interesting choice -- could you take a pill to knock out the TLR4s when you leave the pub to dive home ? I wonder what PC Plod will have to say about this ?

    1. Steve Evans

      They'd still say you're nicked as you will still fail a blood and breath test.

    2. Remy Redert

      re: Get drunk or catch a cold

      Once this stuff because well known and well researched enough, it might eventually become accepted. Especially if we can make it work reliably and quickly.

      Start with applying it to addicts and overdosers, then gradually expand its use from there once we have a good handle on any side effects and risks associated with the meds.

      1. Steve Evans

        @Remy Redert

        I don't think the magic pill is really going to help addicts and overdosers. Addicts don't keep drinking to avoid the hangover, they're generally trying to escape something else, and you could still overdose, in fact maybe more so. This drug only stops the effect of the drug on the brain, your kidneys and liver will still have to sort out all the crap you've tipped down your throat.

        Evolution gave us pain because the human body doesn't come with a user manual.

    3. Scorchio!!
      Thumb Up

      Re: Get drunk or catch a cold ?

      Dunno, but I can bring to mind an old saying "I haven't had a c#nt, Drinkstable." (Edited for the benefit of any onlooking PC twits.)

  3. Anonymous Coward


    Whats the point in getting drunk then?

    1. Greg J Preece

      Has there ever been one? I often enjoy a drink, but I've never enjoyed being drunk.

      1. Willington

        I half agree. I enjoy getting drunk but I don't really enjoy being drunk.

      2. JEDIDIAH

        It is poison you know...

        > Has there ever been one? I often enjoy a drink, but I've never enjoyed being drunk.

        Yes, there is a very important reason to "be drunk".

        It lets you know that if you don't let up then you will get alchohol poisoning and DIE.

        Having some sort of adverse reaction ingesting a poison is not a bad thing really.

    2. relpy

      Ask a glass of water?


      1. Olafthemighty

        @ relpy

        +3 Internets for sneaking H2G2 in there.

        <- and a beverage of your choosing.

        Picture for advertising purposes only: actual drink may vary from that shown.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hmm, so produce more cytokine and get drunker ... let's have a pill for that too.

    Pills to quickly toggle drunkenness could be amusing.

    Wonder what the other effects of messing with this system would be though.

  5. adnim


    "Though a pill to let enjoy your favourite tipple without getting drunk appears to be a godsend"

    Does it? Appears to be the spawn of Satan to me.

  6. Colin Millar
    Thumb Up

    Best line ever in an academic study

    " reduce binge drinking in alcohol-preferring rats"

    1. hplasm

      I thought it was-

      Binge-drinking in alcohol preferring ratboys...

  7. Ian Stephenson

    Bloody spoilsports

    If you don't want to feel the effects or you need to operate machinery - don't drink alcohol - simples.

    Some of us enjoy the feeling of having one or three over the eight occasionally.

    A more useful path of study would be how to block the hangover - a morning after(the night before) pill.

  8. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    Quick! Send some to Australia.

  9. Richard 23


    But does it suppress the craving for a doner kebab?

  10. TRT Silver badge

    Research on alcohol is kind of self-defeating.

    Also, didn't Star Trek have 'synthahol' which caused no liver damage etc. and could be reversed by taking a pill?

  11. TRT Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    OK, so it hopefully counters the lack of judgment that sees you waking up in the morning in a strange apartment with your knickers stuffed into your heels, but does it prevent a hangover?

    Paris, for obvious reasons.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Want to go out for a drink?

  12. Tchou


    So you could drive home safely?

    Could save thousands of lives per year!

    Obvious icon, i'll drink to that!

  13. AndrueC Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    >a pill to let enjoy your favourite tipple without getting drunk appears to be a godsend

    To who exactly? If you take away being drunk (or at least 'feeling tipsy') is there any point to alcohol?

    1. JimC

      @ getting drunk

      Personally I would love to be able to knock back a "few" pints on a hot day or relish the taste subtleties in a succession of glasses of different single malts or good brandies without losing taste, mental function and the ability to get home on the bike safely to the damn side effects...

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    let me reword that

    "Though a pill to let enjoy your favourite tipple without getting drunk appears to be a godsend"

    You say godsend, I say complete waste of time. Getting pissed it the point is what makes it my favourite tipple. You think people drink stella because of the refreshing taste ?.

    (the alcoholism bit is the godsend, but that was only mentioned in passing)

    1. stucs201

      re: for the taste?

      Probably not stella. A decent real ale on the other hand is an entirely different matter.

  15. Gilleain Torrance

    This paper is weird

    Ok, so it's 'accepted' and peer-reviewed, but not yet published. Fine. But also it doesn't seem to report any new results by the author. It's like a mini-review of some other paper (Wu et al 2011), along with other papers in the literature that comes to the conclusion. Is this normal in medical molecular biology?

    1. Kasper Loopstra

      Sounds normal for the medicinal folks. Haven't had a read yet myself, but it's quite common to just do literature work and claim it's a new discovery.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      It's also not new

      Well the pill bit might be new but I remember the newspapers reporting an injectable drug that completely, but temporarily, reversed the effects of drunkeness more than 25 years ago. (Sufficiently pre-Internet that there's no chance of finding a link for you.)

      When the injection wore off you went back to being drunk again! It was touted as being some sort of emergency cure: if you got pissed and left the baby behind somewhere then the police could sober you up sharpish and save the baby, or some such nonsense - you know what the press are like.

      Anyway, no use for it then and so probably no use for it now.

      / Beer icon, obviously

      1. hplasm
        Big Brother

        Didn't the KGB

        Invent a sober-up pill a few years ago (obviously) ?

        1. bags1

          not the KGB - it was Control!

          Maxwell Smart had these, created by Control labs in the eternal fight against KAOS

  16. Pete 43

    Good news for El Reg staffers then

    bad news for the vomit cleanup industry

  17. King Edward I

    And yet...

    ...You're still going to be killing yourself. Death without notice - yay.

    1. multipharious

      that is about right.

      You got it. If the response to the alcohol is inhibited then the drinker would have no warning if he/she continued to consume. Dangerous stuff.

  18. Red Bren


    "A pill to let enjoy your favourite tipple without getting drunk appears to be a godsend"

    Godsend? Are you mad? What kind of journo are you? And on a tech site too! Get to the back of the queue!

  19. Andrew Moore
    Thumb Up


    A cytokine inhibitor would be very useful if a H5N1 flu variant did break out (like Spanish Flu) as most of the victims of it died to Cytokine Storm (a fatal immune reaction).

    1. Eddy Ito

      I wonder

      Would building up a tolerance to alcohol also inhibit cytokine and thus make surviving the Spanish Flu more probable? If so chalk up another win for your favorite pint.

    2. Loyal Commenter

      There is also evidence to suggest that the cytokine response is involved in the 'glutamate storm' that occurs when large amounts of glutamate are released during a stroke or other neurological trauma, so this could conceivably also help prognosis in stroke patients, or in cases of head trauma such as concussion.

    3. multipharious

      @Andrew Moore

      The other interesting research going on is how to block quorum sensing. This is basically a threshold that when reached tells bacteria and viruses there are enough of them to turn on and virulent...which causes the symptoms.

  20. Mermaid Dick

    Serial killer tool

    Perfect for booze drinking competitions against real enemies.

  21. Suburban Inmate

    Oh thanks guys!

    I'm newly teetotal (again, after a couple of weeks relapse) and now I don't get to feel smugly superior and blackmail people after all? The only amusement I'll have is hearing their livers exploding from time to time!

    More seriously, if this were readily available it would be a good way to thin the naturally irresponsible from society (through their livers exploding) kinda like we do with cars for teenagers.

  22. Blain Hamon

    Joking aside

    Wouldn't that mean there's a danger of some idjit* drinking, taking the pill, and not being too sloshed to stop drinking? Surely this pill doesn't counteract alcohol poisoning.

    * Yeah, it'd be their own dang fault, and go into the darwin award category. It might have implications for bar owners in the states, unfortunately.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    "Conk out certain immuno receptors in your brain "

    What could possibly go wrong?

  24. Stu J
    Thumb Up

    Mandatory injection for chavscum

    That is all.

    1. Stuart Gepp

      Am I the only one that misread that as chauvinism?

      1. Broccoli Spears
  25. Wind Farmer

    Pub-crawl Smarties

    "Just the ticket" for getting into the next pub and doing a pschyco Begsbie on the guy downstairs, because you want to start a fight. (Maybe you need to have seen Trainspotting).

  26. ScissorHands

    Body defence mechanisms are there for a reason

    Usually, to keep mammals alive. If you don't feel drunk, how are you going to know when to stop?

    1. auburnman

      And sometimes those defence mechanisms are knackered

      And they must be managed by manual intervention so that misfortunates with allergies and addictions and the like can lead a normal life.

      "“Medications targeting Toll-like Receptor 4 may prove beneficial in treating alcohol dependence and acute overdoses,” says Dr Hutchinson."

      Although if this was developed further it might have commercial application as a sober-up pill - presuming it's possible to 'sober up' by taking the inhibitor AFTER alcohol. I wouldn't complain if I could have a night on the town and take a tablet that gives me back the mental focus and energy to walk home safely and chug enough water to keep my kidneys semi-happy until morning before rolling into bed. There is always the possibility of it being misused if it was wildly available, but there's no sense in blaming the tools for what is done with them.

  27. Beelzeebub

    Haha, yes it was me!

    Oh **** bleurgh, byeee!

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Prior art

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Now you can give a girl 10 pints and drink 10 yourself and then trick her into sleeping with you without getting a droop-on.

  30. Anonymous Coward

    Hell in a hand cart

    "you'll be able to walk in a straight line, perform complex manual tasks and probably even stay awake on the night bus home after a heavy dose of alcoholic refreshment."

    That pill sounds worse than making fully grown men put up shelves whilst wearing goggles, ear muffs, gloves, kneepads, a hairnet, overalls and keeping a fire extinguisher nearby.

    What these scientists are doing to my colossal benders is yet another sorry sign of madness gone politically correct.

  31. Sapper
    Thumb Up

    So does this mean there will be

    ...Sober pills in everyone's advent calendar this year?

  32. Daedalus

    Ya shoulda read the abstract

    The "miracle pill" is nothing more than naloxone, which is also used to bring people out of opiate overdoses.

    And get this: it's being pushed in the US as an over-the-counter home emergency medicine for OD "victims". Wait till they hear about this result!


    1. Eddy Ito

      That's too bad

      It won't be long before the temperance movement and super-Christians are pushing their legislators to ban this evil product. After all won't it make it more difficult for the police to determine if a person is above the ever decreasing legal limit and allow people to actually enjoy wine with their dinner without having to worry about drinking a whole glass. Mark my words, the religious right will be all over this in short order, right after they stockpile a personal supply.

    2. Ken 16 Silver badge

      I'll stay drunk

      Possible side effects include: change in mood, increased sweating, nausea, nervousness, restlessness, trembling, vomiting, allergic reactions such as rash or swelling, dizziness, fainting, fast or irregular pulse, flushing, headache, heart rhythm changes, seizures, sudden chest pain

  33. Graham Marsden


    ... you take a pill to stop you feeling drunk, so you can drink more and, whoops, goodbye liver...!

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I remember Tomorrow's World reporting on such a pill in the late 80's. I wonder what happened to that?

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This reminds me of the 'cytokine storm' reaction which can kill people when the immune system goes into overdrive. Think of flu deaths in some people.

    I wonder if something like this this could prevent a 'cytokine storm' in the first place ?

  36. alphaxion

    A bit late arent they? revenge of the nerds had this tech in the 80's! ;)

  37. Rob 5

    Naloxone - Possible side effects include:

    ... change in mood, increased sweating, nausea, restlessness, vomiting, dizziness, fainting, flushing...

    1. launcap Silver badge

      re: Naloxone - Possible side effects include

      "... change in mood, increased sweating, nausea, restlessness, vomiting, dizziness, fainting, flushing..."

      <Looks at list of my prescribed medicines>

      Yup. That lot appear on most of them as side effects.. especially some of the more powerful painkillers (Tramadol - I'm looking at you!).

  38. johnwerneken

    WOW. Fitrst useful discovery since the transistor

    Who says it only happens once in a lifetime ROTFFLMFAO. Please realize, I am deadly serious.

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Unfortunately for the chaps at the University of Illinois, this research had already been preformed on the booze-foamed shores of New Zealand. A clinically-tested preventative product has even come about from the work done a few years back by our sozzled scientists, called "HangoverOver". The biggest problem they've had (from a marketing standpoint) is convincing drinkers that it's a real thing and not just snake oil.

  40. Herby

    Beer without buzz

    What a shame!

  41. blcollier

    Effects observed in rats/mice do not always translate to humans. Let's see if this ever makes it to the clinical trial stage...

    Personally I don't mind being wobbly and un-coordinated when I'm pissed. Helps me to realise that I am actually pissed and that I don't need to keep cramming pints/spirits down my neck at the same rate.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I never could get drunk after ingesting LSD. Was that something to do with the same receptors?

    1. Anonymous Spain

      And LSD

      I think you are onto something here. I remeber that effect as well and I think the scientists tested that theory back in the 60's in the US? The side effects could be very interesting to see in humans.

  43. Piro Silver badge

    Your poor liver..

    Will still no doubt have to break down all this excess alcohol.

    I could see many more incidents if these are widely available.

    Still, I like the idea. Say you're having one too many, and then a serious situation arises, it would be nice to have the option to sober up and sort it out.

    No use for drink driving, since the alcohol is still sloshing in your system, at no doubt a higher BAC than allowable.

    1. blcollier

      Drink driving

      Thing is though, it's illegal to drink and drive because: your reaction times are slower, you are less attentive, more drowsy, more confident than normal (think you can drive better than you actually can), misjudge speed and distance, etc. It's not the fact that your BAC is over some pre-determined limit that makes it illegal to drink and drive; it's that having a BAC over a certain limit (one at which you are determined to be "drunk") causes all the effects I just described. If those effects were caused by some other intoxicant or a medication then you would still be unfit to drive, and you would still have comitted an offence, even if your BAC was below the legal limit.

      The interesting question is whether this drug - if the effects do translate to humans - negates all the ill effects of being drunk in the first place. Could you potentially have a situation where you've had enough alcohol to stun an elephant, yet you're still perfectly in control of all your faculties and fine motor control - thus allowing you to drive perfectly normally and not in any way dangerously. In those circumstances, would it still then be illegal to get behind the wheel of a car? Your BAC might make the intoximeter/breathalyser explode, but you wouldn't be suffering any of the ill effects usually associated with alcohol. How would the police/law determine whether you are unfit to drive? Our current system of measuring blood alcohol content wouldn't work.

      Of course this is all purely speculation, and drinking alcohol without having the ill effects sort of defeats the point, but thought experiments can be fun...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        For the WoW players out there...

        Take the synthebrew googles, and reverse the effects. In a pill.

        Now, seriously. There are some drinks you only take to get high. There are others that taste really good, but they just happen to contain alcohol, not that you'd like to get high after drinking....

        I can see serious amount of this stuff available to military reserve forces, and heavy machine operators that are called on short notice (or whatever branch of operations where it would be needed people to sober up in a dime), should all the premises mentioned in blcollier's post hold true.

        If it holds true, the designated driver could also drink. Or you should keep a few of these on the car dash. You get the point.

      2. Martin

        Not quite....

        The reason drink/drive legislation was originally brought in was because alcohol causes all the things you mention. However, under the current legislation, if you drink enough that your BAC is above the limit, you have committed a crime - end of story. It doesn't matter if the alcohol has had no effect on you due to this drug - you'll lose your license.

        1. blcollier


          Yes, but if we were in a situation whereby everyone that has a BAC higher than the legal limit is suffering no effects of the alcohol at all, would not the current legislation need to be revised?

          I know it's possible for some people to be over the legal limit yet not have the alcohol touch them, and for others to have even half a pint and be falling all over the place. But if it's possible for *everyone* to suffer no ill effects from alcohol (only talking about driving ability here, not your liver), regardless of the amount they have drunk, it rather invalidates the current method for testing intoxication.

          Like I said it's purely hypothetical - I highly doubt that this will be a magic pill that allows you to get rid of all negative effects of booze almost instantly/

  44. Jedit Silver badge

    To: The Department of Psychology, University of Illinois

    You're my best mates, you are.

  45. The Fuzzy Wotnot


    The only reason too drink is to act stupid! Just 'cos you boffins don't like having fun, no need to ruin it for the rest of us!

    Seriously though, isn't the reason you immune system goes groggy an attempt to ensure you don't get hurt so badly? You only have to watch a drunk trip over and fall flat on his face, get up and carry on walking home to see his immune system being in sleep mode is doing him some good!

  46. Hardcastle the ancient

    counteracts effects of booze?

    'counteracts effects of booze' - what on earth is the point of that?

  47. Anonymous Coward 15

    Where do I sign up

    for the next stage of the trials?


  48. thenim

    Why not just drink non-alcoholic beer?

    I can't believe I just said that... Now off to find a real pint... (it's Friday afternoon and the weather is nice...)

  49. Atonnis

    I don't understand...

    ....maybe it's a British thing, but I just don't understand the point of drinking alcohol, which is essentially poison, if you're not going to get the buzz, numbing and/or other drunken effects from it.

  50. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Personaly I think the best use for this would be in law enforcement and casualties.

    When they come across a drinks fighting, laying in the gutter or harassing emergency staff, a Tazer-like gun to shoot them full of this stuff would save a lot of time and money.

    Can you imagion the reaction when they suddenly wake up in the gutter covered in vomit & piss and have to walk home like that stone cold sober!

    Do that a few times and even the dumbest members of our society might decide there are better ways "to have fun" than getting so waisted you cannot remember it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It will be fun to wake up in the gutter with a dart, like the one used to doze lions, nailed to one's arm. I wonder the reaction of the ex-drunk.

  51. Ian Ferguson

    Sounds like alcohol-free beer

    I wouldn't drink certain brands for the taste.

  52. Tom 13

    Potential downside?

    I don't know the chain of events for alcohol poisoning, but could this increase the risk? Subject get drunk, takes a pill, feels sober, gets drunk again?

  53. This is my handle

    As the Ferenghi synthehol angle has already been mentioned...

    .... I'd just like to affirm that as a Treker, and an Illinoisian, I'd be honored to volunteer to assist in this important research.

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