IWith dry January feeling like a big night out, the arrival of wet February – where some people overcompensate after a month without alcohol – may have already served as a reminder of the downsides of excessive drinking.
If so, a new product that claims to rapidly reduce blood alcohol, combat symptoms of intoxication and allow users to “never lose a day” to the night before might sound like an attractive antidote.
Safety Shot is the latest in a string of products that are said to speed up the breakdown of alcohol and replenish essential nutrients that help the body recover. “The big difference is that there is nothing in the world that lowers your blood alcohol content like our patented drink,” says Safety Shot’s CEO, Brian John.
Cans of the stuff, which launched in the US before Christmas, sold out almost immediately. Further launches are planned later this year in the UK and elsewhere. But does it really work? I nobly reach for a wine glass to find out.
A birthday dinner party presents my first opportunity. I arrive with a few cans, next to the requisite bottle of wine. Our host, Ben, looks at them suspiciously. “Why do you want to get sober?” he says.
I don’t tell him about a drunken night when I believed there were tiny people in my handbag, when in fact I just accidentally turned on my dictaphone. Instead, I try to swing him with the possibility of avoiding a hangover.
According to Safety Shot’s COO, David Sandler, the drink’s patented formulation not only reduces the effects of alcohol by helping the body process it more efficiently, but improves how people feel immediately and the next day.
Maybe if I could clear the alcohol out of my system faster it would have less of an impact on my sleep. It can also improve my conversation skills and help me remember what I said.
I’m pushing to get drunk enough to test Sandler’s claims. Three courses and seven glasses of wine later, I reach for my breathalyzer: it registers 120mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood – well over the drink driving limit in England, Wales and Northern Ireland of 80mg/100ml of blood, and enough to start to impair speech, judgment and body movements. I also do a response speed test, which records an average of 365ms. The norm for a sober adult is 200-250ms.
I crack open a can of Safety Shot. Orange flavored and sticky sweet, the liquid feels like it’s sucking all the moisture from my tongue. Ben looks unimpressed. “I have no desire to get involved yet,” he says.
I stop drinking and start taking breath test readings every 20 minutes. At one point, my friends convince me to put two copper coins in my mouth because someone believes it might interfere with the breathalyzer. That I agree to do this indicates that I am still far from sober – but despite a temporary and minor drop, my blood alcohol remains hovering at around 110mg/ml for the next two hours.
So much for reducing my blood alcohol quickly. Still, I’m full of energy, and after an hour my reaction speed has improved to 276ms. Even Ben says I look “restrictor”.
I don’t feel drunk when I walk home at 1am, but I don’t feel completely sober either: my limbs feel sluggish even though I’m wide awake. I slept fitfully that night and woke up tired but hangover-free. So, could the Safety Shot have helped?
According to Dr Emmert Roberts, a senior clinical lecturer in addiction psychiatry at King’s College London, the only ingredient listed on the can for which there is “very minimal evidence” to reduce hangover symptoms is pyridoxine (vitamin B6).
Roberts recently revised the scientific evidence for various hangover interventions. “The conclusion was that there are very few scientifically rigorous studies of products that claim to prevent or cure hangovers, which unfortunately remains true,” he said.
However, I am convinced that the drink has affected my alertness, so I decide to give it another go – this time with half a bottle of wine with dinner.
There is still no discernible difference in the rate at which my blood alcohol drops compared to when I just drink the same amount of wine. However, about an hour after taking the Safety Shot, at 10pm on a Sunday, I experience an overwhelming urge to clean my living room, which I do. That night I barely slept.
Possibly it is the 200mg of caffeine in the can, equivalent to about four shots of espresso. Two further ingredients – theacrine and methylliberine – can also increase mental alertness, while another, huperzine-A, can improve mental function, says Dr Ashwin Dhanda, from the University of Plymouth who studies alcohol-related liver disease. But, “without knowing their doses, it’s hard to objectively evaluate,” he added.
The same goes for several other listed ingredients that could theoretically help with alcohol breakdown. Dhanda said: “The manufacturer claims it lowers blood alcohol levels, reduces further alcohol intake and improves mental function. However, none of these claims have been assessed or endorsed by the FDA (US Food and Drug Administration) and no clinical studies have been conducted to formally validate them. Therefore, at best they can be considered marketing claims based on theoretical actions of some of the ingredients.”
Safety Shot claims that a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial is underway examining the impact of alcohol before and after consuming its product. Its website also says that every person is different and that “genetics, liver health, habit and a host of other factors can affect the rate at which alcohol is metabolized”.
I will not take another Safety Shot after a night of drinking. But I might be tempted to drink one the morning after – especially if I have homework to do.