Blowfish Hangover Remedy: Scam or Savior?
September 18, 2013
It might have been when Ross threw up on my living room floor that I second-guessed our plan. We were going to down a few shots, wait an hour for it to kick in, and then record our podcast, tipsy, and answer some questions about the show in general, before testing a hangover remedy the next morning, also on-air. Little did we know that our far-too-smart listeners would send in questions like:
“Is it hotter in Quebec than it is in the summer?”
“If a train is going 50 miles an hour and a cat is going 30 miles an hour, then aren’t I a vegetarian?”
“What’s 6,041 x 320? You may show your work.”
We struggled through the math, and answered the others the way a child might talk to someone they find during hide-and-seek.
“Ohhhh, you think you got us, but you DIDN’T! That doesn’t make SENSE!”
When the next day rolled around, we would be getting up early to try Blowfish Hangover Remedy, a new over-the-counter medicine alleged to lessen a hangover and “get you back on your feet in minutes.”1 The claim could have safety and even legal implications: Hangovers can impair a person’s driving abilities, even hours after they have stopped drinking.2 But now, still almost eight hours from the proposed wake-up time, Ross was on all fours, staring at his own vomit, and apologizing.
“Really, I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. Look how CLEAR my vomit is! I’m so sorry,” he mumbled as he tried to mop up the clear fluid that had spewed out of him suddenly, mid-sentence. Since Ross had been on a juice cleanse for two days and then drunk three rum-and-cokes, two glasses of champagne, and a beer in about 45 minutes, the upchuck was actually about the least-disgusting that vomit can get. On the show that night, my guest and I gently coaxed Ross back onto the couch, to think about what he’d done for science.
“You know,” I said gently, “I only drank a couple drinks, and I’m still loopy. You don’t have to drink that much...”
“Yeah, but I’m a quarter Irish. I can hold it,” said Ross, before running to the toilet.
The next morning, at 7:30 am, we stumbled to our microphones, respectively racked ear-to-ear with pain (me), and feeling sort-of unpleasant (inexplicably, Ross). We filled our glasses with water. Dropping the fizzy tabs in the water made a satisfying sizzling sound. Surely, all our sins would be absolved by this: the sound of medicine working.
We each downed two tablets, the recommended dosage. Ross, having had a lot more to drink (he’s part-Irish, you know) considered taking extra, but the recommended dosage seemed advisable. We flipped the box over to see how much of each active ingredient was going into our systems.
Aspirin 500 mg Pain reliever
Caffeine 60 mg Alertness aid/Pain reliever aid3
Yes, the magic cure-all flying off the shelves was a simple mixture of two age-old hangover remedies: some cheap aspirin, and a cup of coffee. All that for about two dollars a dosage. More than a coffee at my local 7/11.
But, according to Blowfish’s supporters, the magic tablets are worth it. At the drug store, the day before, I had asked a gentleman stocking the shelves whether he knew of any hangover remedies in the store, especially the storied Blowfish.
“Oh, I know exactly the one you mean!” Erich said, “But we don’t have it. We had to special order it for this guy last week. He said it’s really, really good! Hey, let me check in the back to make sure.”
He ran off, seeming eager to look it over with me so we could decide together: Yep, that looks like it’d cure a hangover, all right!
When he came back empty-handed, he apologized.
“You can special order it for next week.”
“No, I need it for tonight.”
“Oh yeah, I getcha,” he said, winking. I wanted to tell him that I don’t just do this sort of thing. No, no, I’m a proper journalist who does experiments, like getting drunk and doing math. But, in a bit of a hurry, I instead scanned the shelves one more time, and there it caught my eye: the tiny blue box with the telltale air-bubble design.
“Oh, there it is!” I said, grabbing a box.
“Let me see!” said Erich. Together, we read over the ingredients.
“It’s just caffeine and aspirin,” I said.
“Well, the guy said it’s really, really good. Maybe it’s special aspirin.”
The next morning, sitting at our microphones, the fizzy tablets seeping into our blood streams, we struggled to coherently describe our experience. As a chronic headache sufferer, I was either the best or the worst test subject for Blowfish’s efficacy. I found myself in somewhat less pain, but still fighting to feel like an ordinary human being. But as the minutes wore on, the headaches wore off. The grogginess turned to jitters, and my vision went from unfocused-haze to slightly anxious attention. Aspirin and caffeine had worked their wonders, to the surprise of no one.
We discussed the trade-off of paying so much for two of the oldest medicines going. “I guess you could argue that the special secret you’re paying for here is the formula—how much caffeine, and how much aspirin,” I offered.
One of the great things about doing a show with highly intelligent listeners is that they are constantly correcting you, lovingly, like a mother who tells you that you cleaned your room really well, except for the pile of clothes that you thought was a “woodless bureau” artistic statement, and she thinks is more like “a mess.” This time, it took about a day. Once the show was released, a listener wrote in about the remedy she’d been taking for years: BC Powder. BC, she said, was nearly exactly the same, and for a fraction of the price. I checked the ingredients.
Aspirin 845 mg Pain reliever/Fever reducer
Caffeine 65 mg Pain reliever Aid4
BC Powder had more aspirin and more caffeine in a single dosage. Twenty-four dosages were contained in a single box. And one box was just shy of five dollars. About 90% off from the Blowfish remedy. But perhaps they were just biting off Blowfish’s sweeping success with America’s drunks? A quick reading of “The BC Story” on their homepage (with some pictures of two dashing boys destined to be either pharmacists or very scary cult leaders) suggests that BC is the much older sibling. Blowfish was released in September, 20115; BC Powder was formulated in 1906.6
When Ross and I packed up our microphones and went about our days, he was already ready to go to work but I was still feeling pretty run down, even though I had had a fraction of the alcohol he had consumed. After my experiment with Blowfish, I went back to my usual hangover prevention routine: not drinking. But if I ever have to help out a hung over friend, I’m going to recommend BC Powder. No, wait, scratch that...I’m going to bring them my Blowfish Hangover Remedy. I have extra.
You can hear more about Ross and Carrie’s adventure with Blowfish (and hear them try to complete a simple math problem) at ohnopodcast.com or on iTunes under Oh No, Ross and Carrie!
2 Törnros J. “Acute and hang-over effects of alcohol on simulated driving performance.” Blutalkohol, 1991.
5 Rosenbloom S. “Ready to Address the Hangover,” New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/29/fashion/new-products-to-treat-hangovers.html?_r=0 28 December 2011.