A new experimental vaccine that aims to cure alcoholism will give anyone who has been vaccinated an immediate and head-splitting hangover after just one sip of booze.
According to the Daily Mail, scientists at the University of Chile have spent a year developing the experimental drug as a way to combat alcoholism.
The shot is effective for about six months to a year and works by speeding up the hangover process. The vaccine works by sending a biochemical message to the liver to stop it from expressing the genes that metabolize alcohol.
The liver normally turns alcohol into acetaldehyde, a hangover-inducing organic chemical compound that is then broken down by a metabolizing enzyme.
If a person who's received the shot tries to drink alcohol, they will almost instantaneously experience severe nausea, accelerated heartbeat and general discomfort, according to the Daily Mail. Essentially, the vaccine shot is to get alcoholics to associate drinking with bad side-effects and misery instead of fun, relaxation or as a way of coping with life problems.
What's more, there's no going back. Once a person has been vaccinated, he or she must stop drinking for at least half a year to avoid experiencing the immediate nightmare effects.
Researchers said that preclinical trials using mice to determine the correct dosing of the new vaccine is expected to begin next month. Investigators hope that the results of the preclinical trials will lead to human clinical trials this coming November.
Dr. Juan Asenjo, director of the Institute for Cell Dynamics and Biotechnology at Universidad de Chile, told The Santiago Times that while the new drug is not a cure-all, it serves as an important first step.
"People who end up alcoholic have a social problem; a personality problem because they're shy, whatever, and then they are depressed, so it's not so simple," Asenjo said, according to The Santiago Times. "But if we can solve the chemical, the basic part of the problem, I think it could help quite a bit."
The doctor believes that the new vaccine could potentially help millions of people around the world.
"In Chile, according to the most recent 2011 study from the World Health Organization, one in 15 men have an alcohol use disorder."
According to the latest government statistics from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, nearly 17.6 million American adults are alcoholics or have alcohol problems. People with alcoholism typically have a strong need to drink, cannot control their alcohol intake once they've begun drinking, experience withdrawal symptoms if they stop drinking and need to drink a lot to feel the "high" of alcohol.
Alcoholism can carry many serious health risks like cancer, organ damage and birth defects. Drinking can also increase the risk of death from car accidents and other injuries as well as the risk of homicide and suicide.
Asenjo says that if the vaccine passes clinical trials, it could have a "worldwide impact".
"If it works, it's going to have a worldwide impact, but with many vaccines one has to test them carefully. I think the chances that this one will work are quite high," he said.
Asenjo said that the idea of the new vaccine came from Asia, where between 15 and 20 percent of the East Asian population have a mutation that inhibits the breakdown of alcohol in their bodies.