But Does It Work? We Tried Myrkl’s Hangover Prevention Pill

myrkl pill australia

Ever since humans first started drinking alcohol, possibly more than 13,000 years ago, we’ve been looking for ways to mitigate the unpleasant side effects, particularly those of the morning after.

While the ancients wore magic rings, drank raw owls’ eggs, or put flowers in their hair to ward off the negative effects of alcohol, these days we’re spoilt for choice, with new pseudoscientific off-the-shelf preventatives and cures hitting the market seemingly every month.

Most of these, like the popular Bae Juice, work on the assumption that changing the chemical makeup of our stomachs or circulatory system can modify the effects of alcohol. The trouble is, since we don’t know the precise mechanism of action involved in a hangover, most of these are best-guess solutions with varying results.

Myrkl — pronounced ‘miracle’ — is the latest vaguely scientific offering to have a stab at the hangover. Produced by De Faire Medical, the Swedish company launched their miracle pill in the UK in August this year, quickly clocking up 100,000 sales before selling out. The product then started re-selling on eBay for up to $430. Some commentators described it as “an act of God.”

It works slightly differently from other offerings. Myrkl uses a patented probiotic formula of Bacillus subtilis and Bacillus coagulans, which populate the intestine and break down up to 70% of alcohol before it can be processed by the liver. This stops alcohol and its damaging by-products from ever reaching your bloodstream and wreaking havoc the following day.

It sounds promising, and not the kind of thing you can pass up when the opportunity arises. So, once again, I got down to the bottle-o and prepared to put my body on the line for science.

The pills work like this; pop a couple of them one to 12 hours before consuming your first alcoholic beverage to give the bacteria time to work their magic. Then, consume a “moderate” amount of alcohol, safe in the knowledge that you’ve got some protective microbial body armour shielding you from the worst of the alcoholic side effects.

De Faire Medical board member, Frederic Fernandez, ran me through what I should expect and how the scientific backing behind it, describing the team as “science-first people.”

“We’ve done a clinical trial that showed that AB001, the formulation behind Myrkl, breaks down 70% of alcohol in the gut before reaching the liver, in 60 minutes,” he explained.

“It exponentially increases the speed at which you metabolise alcohol.”

When we consume alcohol, 80% of it is absorbed in the intestines, while the rest is absorbed in the gut. Myrkl breaks down 70% of the alcohol absorbed in the gut, according to their independent peer-reviewed study, meaning you’ll still feel most of the effects of the booze, just not as intensely.

“You’re still going to be tipsy, you’re still going to enjoy it, but you’re going to be clear-minded, you’re going to be sharp, you’re going to be in control,” Fernandez said. He added that the next you’ll feel “fresh” and ready to tackle whatever you need to do.

Image: Myrkl






Armed with a supplied pack of 30 Myrkl pills, I set about putting these claims to the test. For my first experiment, I attended a wedding where “moderate” drinking wasn’t exactly in the spirit of the occasion. I lost count of the number of beverages I had, but would guess it was somewhere in the 10 to 15 range.

Both myself and my partner, who also took the pills, noticed that we weren’t getting drunk. We weren’t really trying, given this was a family wedding and not the place to be getting blind, but still, no matter how many drinks we had, it always felt like we were at least three or four behind where we should have been.

The next day we both definitely felt ‘hungover’, but there was a noticeable reduction in how awful we were feeling. We’d given it a good road test, mixing drinks and consuming heavy IPAs from roughly 4pm until the wee hours, but weren’t paying for it as heavily as we ought to have been.

I put these findings to Fernandez who, somewhat disapprovingly, informs me that “this product is not made for people that want to binge drink.”

“A binge drinker wants to lose consciousness and control of his actions as quickly as possible. If anything, Myrkl will make his or her life much more difficult, because it will take much longer and be much more expensive,” he said.

“It’s for people that want to feel at their best the next day,” Fernandez explained, listing off the kinds of people Myrkl is targeting; “Work-hard, play-hard professionals”, people working in nightlife, young parents that want to go out once in a while, or seniors who want to enjoy a nice bottle of wine on occasion.

I take this into consideration and my next few experiments are in much more moderate settings; a few beers after work, and casual drinks at the weekends with friends. I do notice that same ‘lack of being drunk’ feeling but, as someone who enjoys the taste of a good beer, I’m not mad about it. It feels good to be able to sample a delicious range of crafties while not descending into sh*t chat and getting sloppy.

As for the hangover, I can’t say that Myrkl completely eliminates it. Diminishes, sure, but being maybe 30% more functional the next day doesn’t seem like the kind of thing that will get them canonised into sainthood. That said, everyone is different and my hangovers aren’t generally debilitating.

To get a bit more of an understanding of what’s going on here I speak with Professor Steve Allsop of Curtin University, who has been working in alcohol and other drug harm reduction for over four decades.

Allsop notes that he can’t speak directly about Myrkl as he’s not familiar with the pill and, understandably, doesn’t want to get sued, so his comments are more general in nature. However, he explained that the relationship between alcohol and a hangover is not clear cut.

“I think the best conclusion we can reach is that several things interact and contribute and it’s very hard to unpack a single cause out of that,” he said.

He notes that researchers are often “anxious” about bold claims like the ones being made about Myrkl given that so many factors are at play. There are gastroenterological effects, there are contextual effects, there are effects on sleep. All of these contribute and none can be singled out as the only cause. He also notes that hangovers are subjective and that pinning them down as a single state of being is tricky given their borad range of symptoms.

Dr Faire explains that Myrkl works by cutting the amount of alcohol your body has to break down on its own, removing acetaldehyde and acetic acid “that cause hangover symptoms after you drink.”

Allsop too hits on acetaldehyde as the main villain in hangover research. If we had to pick a single chemical causing a hangover, acetaldehyde would be the one. Although, as above, it’s not that simple. Acetaldehyde is a “highly toxic” molecule that your liver converts alcohol into. So, lower your body’s production of this by cutting the alcohol and you solve a hangover, right? Not quite.

“The only issue with that is that acetaldehyde is metabolised very quickly in a functioning liver. So, why would it be creating a hangover later on?” Allsop asked.

There are also other things, including a class of chemicals called ‘congeners,’ that Allsop states are often included in arguments about acetaldehyde. These are generally things that give flavour and colour to a drink, with darker beverages being higher in congeners. These have also been linked to hangovers and could be playing a role too.

While Myrkl, in a sense, does the work of your body for you in breaking down the alcohol into water and carbon dioxide before these things can be absorbed, it may not be working on other additives and chemicals in booze that have negative effects on our mood the next day.

I’m uncertain if I’m just getting older, and leaning into more “mindful” drinking habits, or if the global conversation around alcohol is shifting towards harm-reduction and ‘sober-lite’ (probably both), but the idea of a pill that takes the edge off the thing that you use to take the edge off is appealing. At this time of the year, when avoiding alcohol is increasingly difficult, it doesn’t seem like a bad thing to keep in your back pocket.

There’s also the conversation around whether or not removing the hangover is even something science should be striving for. Allsop is certainly not in favour of it.

“Having hangovers is actually a bit of a reminder. It’s telling you that you’ve done your body some harm. Do we really want to take a pill that stops people from having an off switch in their drinking?” he asks.

“From a public health perspective, and a personal health perspective, that’s not necessarily a good thing.”

This is why De Faire, in their marketing, and Fernandez, in our interview, are so keen to emphasise what Mykrl is and isn’t for.

“Binge drinkers are not our consumers,” Fernadez said.

“Not only we don’t want them as consumers, but they don’t want to be our consumers. Everything that we stand for, which is moderate social drinking, feeling fresh the next day, is something that will make it much, much more difficult for them.”

I’m not sure there is much for Myrkl to be worried about here. The kinds of people who will spend $52 on a packet of pills so that they can function the next day after a night out are not the kinds of people who don’t care about their drinking habits. Still, it’s something of a Pandora’s Box and, now that they’ve opened it, there’s no telling exactly how their pill will be used.

Myrkl does work, although calling it a “miracle” pill is probably over-egging it. If you are that concerned about not feeling rough the next day, you’re probably better off drinking less, consuming water between drinks, and choosing lower-alcohol beverages.

Still, will I purchase a box to have for special occasions? Probably. But then, I’m a sucker for these kinds of gimmicks. Your own mileage may vary.

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