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“Hangover Cure” Bus is a Moving Binge Drinking Ad

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Instant gratification culture has now reached the seemingly endless pain that is the hangover. Hangover Heaven, a bus operated out of Las Vegas, feeds customers a drip IV concoction of a “vitamin mix” meant to fix or drastically lessen the head-wrenching, queasy, post-party problem.

Hangover Heaven’s site says the basic service yields a hydration IV, while a premium package injects “intravenous hydration, anti-nausea and anti-inflammatory medications” as well as a “vitamin supplementation.” What’s in that mixture? The website doesn’t say, though it assures that pre-existing customer medical issues are taken into account. Uh-huh.

Along with resolving a hangover the company also touts improved skin appearance and general state of health. So you come out of a hangover better than before?

Other companies proffer hangover “recovery pills.” Here, advertising depicts someone drunk with jarring accompanying text such as, “in 5 hours he’ll be clearing flight 87 for takeoff.”

Both the ad and the bus send messaging to drink as much as you want, whenever you want, then cure yourself quickly and easily.

As a refresher, what is a hangover?

Alcohol causes the brain to block creation of the antidiuretic hormone vasopressin, which is responsible for sending water to our kidneys. Without it, the brain sends water to the bladder, bypassing body reabsorption and use. For every alcoholic beverage we drink, our bodies expel about four times that amount of water, known as the diuretic effect. As we expel water, we also expel essential salts and potassium necessary for good muscle and nerve function. Loss of sodium and potassium causes headaches.

Bottom line, we’re losing electrolytes and water, causing our cellular processes to struggle, leaving us with dry mouth, queasiness and headaches. Our bodies, through an array of unpleasant aftereffects, are screaming for all kinds of things, and biologically, teaching us a lesson for depriving our cells of nutrients.

Hangovers are a flashing warning of overload: Too much!

So what?

Not only are downing relatively unknown and non-medically supervised treatments potentially dangerous, they also makes binge drinking seem all the more acceptable, commonplace and non-severe. With college-age student alcohol overdose rates on the rise (29,000 alcohol-only ODs estimated in 2008), among other demographics around the country, what message are we sending?

Cassie Rodenberg About the Author: I write on culture, poverty, addiction, and mental illness: I explore things we like to ignore. I also teach public school in New York City's South Bronx. Follow on Twitter @cassierodenberg.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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