The Pitch: "Freedom from hangovers"
April 2009. Chaser's pitch is simple: take two of these tablets when you start drinking, then two more periodically throughout the night, either after a certain number of hours or a certain number of drinks. According to the website, "specially processed calcium carbonate and charcoal" absorbs the impurities that cause hangovers. The website also claims that elaborate clinical trials have been conducted, but details are lacking.
Opinions of Chaser's effectiveness vary widely. There's no shortage of willing self-experimenters (mostly college students) who write about their experiences of going on drinking binges while taking the prescribed amount of tablets. Some say the pills work, while others complain they still woke up with hangovers. An amusing video on YouTube shows one willing guinea pig guzzling 10 beers and a margarita while taking Chaser; the next morning he says he feels fine, though he complains of mild side effects (including a "buzzing" sensation). Most of the Chaser reviews on Drugstore.com are very positive, with users stressing that you need to take the pills while, and not after, you're drinking.
What explains these wildly different experiences? An article on HowStuffWorks.com, "How Hangovers Work," suggests that Chaser (and other anti-hangover pills) is meant to be taken with liberal amounts of water -- a full glass with the first dose, a full glass with the second dose, a full glass when going to bed and waking up, etc. Drinking copious amounts of water has long been known to mitigate the dehydrating effects of alcohol, so the effectiveness of pills like Chaser may have more to do with the water than the ingredients.
1. The Badger Herald
In this article from the official student newspaper of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, reporter Molly Webb describes how she and her friend took Chaser pills while on an all-night drinking adventure. No luck: they both woke up the next morning with "horrible" hangovers.
Review: Hangover Pill Catastrophe, Molly Webb, Oct. 15, 2004
John Watson works his way through a 12-pack of Killian's Red while taking the prescribed amount of Chaser tablets; he says the pills work as intended, and ascribes his "dry mouth" to not drinking enough water the night before.
Review: Chaser -- Hangover Cure in Pill Form, John Watson, Aug. 24, 2007
In the section of her article devoted to OTC hangover remedies, Perry points out that the effectiveness of pills like Chaser may have more to do with the full glasses of water you're supposed to swallow them with. She allows that Chaser may be slightly more effective than other pills because it contains activated carbon, which can filter out certain impurities. However, there is no indication that the article has been reviewed by a medical review board, and there is no indication that Perry has medical or scientific credentials.
Review: How Hangovers Work, Lacy Perry
In this (somewhat) amusing clip, the anonymous 30-something reviewer downs 10 beers and one giant margarita in the course of a night, all while taking the prescribed dose of Chaser pills. He reports feeling fine the next morning, though he does say (later on in the day) that he feels slightly queasy and "buzzy."
Review: Testing Chaser Hangover Pills, "txitalian", May 31, 2006
Most of the 20 or so users posting to this site have overwhelmingly positive things to say about Chaser; they stress that it's important to follow the directions on the bottle and take the pills while, and not after, you're drinking. A handful of users say they experienced no benefit from taking the Chaser, however, and awoke with hangovers anyway.
Review: Chaser Freedom from Hangover, Caplets, Contributors to Drugstore.com