Sobriety pill wants to take the kick from champagne

Would you drink wine if it weren’t for the alcohol?

Researchers at UCLA are threatening to put this difficult question to wine enthusiasts as they move a “sobriety pill” to clinical trials. Of course, we already have a device for sobering up: the credit card statement. But the researchers are working with extracts of the oriental raisin tree that have been used to treat hangovers in China for five centuries. The pill, based on dihydromyricetin (DHM), a component of the extract, has been found successful in reducing the effects of alcohol and hangovers in lab rats. That’s right, rats fed the substance after binging on alcohol no longer craved greasy breakfast nor did they spend the morning avoiding bright lights and loud noises! Read more at

The researchers say they are developing the pill to combat alcoholism, which seems debatable. But it does lay bare the motives for wine enthusiasts: would you continue to pay for and provide tasting notes for fermented grape juice if it gives you the same buzz as Welch’s?

Or would you actually drink more knowing that you could taste through every wine in a given region, pop a sobriety pill, drive home and go for a five-mile run in the morning?

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9 Responses to “Sobriety pill wants to take the kick from champagne”

  1. Being a physician and a wine enthusiast I don’t believe the pill will do what people would like it to do (allow unlimited drinking with no risk). You pose a good question indirectly: does one drink for effect or taste? We drink for taste, which is why we don’t drink well liquor at a bar, don’t drink free beer at a party (usually some mass produced lite beer), and don’t drink mass produced cheap wine. Also the idea of being able to drink a lot of different wines at one seating would probably only confuse me when trying to do a comparison. The availability of the pill won’t change our approach to drinking one bit!

  2. If I read this correctly, it doesn’t change how wine tastes, but it would reduce the effects of alcohol. That would lead to the temptation to drink more. And that could lead to more alcohol-related health problems if it makes you less impaired, but doesn’t change the effect of alcohol on your liver.

  3. With out question I would drink more! All those tasting menus where I skipped the wine pairing b/c I had to drive home…

  4. It really would depend on the other effects it has on you physically. How does it do what it does? Would it remove the alcohol?
    But generally it would make it possible to do wine tastings at places other than your own home. You wouldn’t have to choose between the port flight and a night in the pokey.

  5. From Adam Gopnik:

    “Wine, Saul Steinberg once said, is the only thing that makes us happy as adults for no reason.

    [But} it is not wine that makes us happy for no reason; it is alcohol that makes us happy for no reason. Wine is what gives us a reason to let alcohol make us happy without one. Without wine lore, and wine tasting, and wine talk, and wine labels, and, yes, wine writing and rating–the whole elaborate idea of wine–we would still get drunk, but we would be merely drunk.”

    Pill? Thanks, but no thanks.

  6. Chuck – Thanks for the comment. The New Scientist account of the DHM pill’s development did mention that a pill with similar ends never made it to production because of side effects. They said that the new pill wouldn’t have those side effects but it will be interesting to see the results of the clinical trials.

    Christina – yes, it stops a neurological process. So it could be popped after consumption to reduce the unwanted effects. Thus I’m somewhat surprised that it is being developed with the goal of stopping alcoholism and abuse and is supported by David Nutt, among others.

    On a related note, here are some recent, revealing data on binge drinking in the US.

  7. El Gordo – Sounds possible. But like infomercials about getting ripped abs while sitting on the couch, it sort of seems too good to be true, no?

    Quizicat – yes, or worse…

    Dave – Good to see you again. Eegad, I didn’t mean for this post to sound all “Gopnik”! Good thing we still have wine lore, wine talk, etc…

  8. When I drink too much wine, the reaction occurs long before the morning breaks, and happens quite suddenly, and is totally unpremeditated. Is this pill taken immediately after finishing that last drink or in the morning? Do people always know when they’ve had that last drink? It all sounds kind of overly organized for the person who might need this.

  9. Anything that could possibly cut down on drunk driving I am are for. It is hard to imagine a future where you can get tipsy and then pop a pill and you get sober. cheers!


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