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I had only had two beers before I went to college…each beer at separate times. Each time, my face immediately felt flush and hot afterwards. It wasn’t until at college when I rediscovered this feeling of my face getting splotchy red and hot while drinking. Then people had told me I had “Asian Man’s Disease” when I drank. The combination of not drinking in high school and not having many Asian friends prevented me from ever being exposed to this “phenomenon”.
Throughout college, I went through phases of caring about this seemingly unpreventable reaction…on one hand, it was uncomfortable, and on the other hand…who cared? For me, it was hit or miss. Some nights my face would turn red, and other nights I would be “in the zone”. It was the inability to predict how my body was going to react that sparked some anxiety. I was constantly running to a mirror to see if my face was red. I quickly learned that, for me, the color of the palms of my hands was a good barometer for how my face was doing. If they were red, I was in trouble. If they were normal, I was good to go…
I started to mentally keep track of my habits leading up to a night of normal college drinking. What did I eat? Did I drink a lot of water during the day? How much sleep did I get? How much did I drink last night? What was I drinking? How fast was I drinking? There were many variables to eliminate and, unfortunately, was never organized enough to systematically eliminate many of them. One night, I thought I had the secret ingredient to success. A McDonald’s #6 combo meal (a wonderful Crispy Chicken Meal at the time, RIP) about an hour or two before drinking. The second night – I got the ol’ #6 again, and a different (unwanted) result. I was more disappointed about not cracking the code than getting flush in the face. Thankfully it wasn’t the answer to my question, because I would end up weighing 300 lbs. I ended up going with a solution that worked about 90% of the time…Drink until my face turned red, and then chill out for about 30-45 minutes. Let the reaction subside, and then continue as usual.
Fast forward a full 2 years after college. I was having a last hurrah party at my townhouse in Arlington, when I was approached by an (Asian) acquaintance, “Hey – noticed your face is pretty red…didn’t you take a Zantac?” he said.
Zantac. A heartburn pill? It was like someone had pulled a blanket from over my head. At first I felt a little betrayed when he said that’s what most Asians do to prevent the reaction to alcohol. Why hadn’t anyone told me? I had gone through countless combinations of different pre-game meals and rituals trying to discover a solution that turned out to be an easily accessible, inexpensive, over-the-counter antacid pill.
A few quick Google searches later, and I discover that there is something missing in many Asians that prevents our bodies from breaking down the acetaldehyde left over from the breaking down of the alcohol. And although there are a few sites that have anecdotally mentioned the benefits of taking Zantac, no one site has come out and said it outright. I’ll add more anecdotal evidence: Zantac works for me. I rarely have reactions to alcohol anymore, just as long as I don’t start with shots of Cuervo. As a result, I have stashes of Zantac 75 (generic store brands w/ Ranitidine as the active ingredient work just as well) everywhere. It’s almost like a placebo, in that I start to feel uncomfortable if I drink without popping a Zantac. So far, no ill side effects. Amanda’s friend from school also has adverse reactions to alcohol, and she just tried it last week, and it worked like a charm. So, there…2 data points. I try to take one about an hour before I think I might drink, and pack another one just in case it goes late night. Just look here at my pictures, I don’t think you’ll see any bad reactions (at least when a camera is around) for the past few years.
Even some of my close friends don’t really know that I take a Zantac every time before drinking. I decided to write this because it has come up quite a few times in the past month where people don’t understand why I say I need a Zantac before drinking. It allows me to feel comfortable in casual situations and happy hours, in which I would otherwise feel uncomfortable with even having one drink. Hopefully this spreads the news about Zantac faster than just letting friend’s of a friend in on the secret. If you have more anecdotal stories, leave one in the comments!
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