Disulfiram: Anti-Alcoholism Drug Acts Like the Asian Flush

So we’ve talked WAY too much about the Asian flush here on 8Asians, meaning the immediate flushing response one gets when certain Asians–ahem, Ernie–drinks alcohol, where the symptoms can often include nausea, vomiting, and other not-so-lovely side effects when one imbibes even a half-glass of wine.

According to an article featured in one of Time magazine’s blogs, however, it looks like the Asian flush is actually seen as an evolutionary response— an advantage, even. According to Biomed Central journal, BMC Evolutionary Biology, Chinese researchers did a genetic study on a certain gene responsible for making the enzyme that allows alcohol metabolism all across China, and discovered that in areas where rice was first domesticated, mainly southeastern China, there were more people who carried the mutation that caused the Asian flush. However, in areas where rice isn’t eaten as often, like in Tibet, the mutation is seen in much less numbers. The authors argue that the mutation prevents people from dying from alcohol overdoses and somehow “supports imbibing in moderation.” Anyone who’s seen Asian American college students with the flush drink themselves literally under the table knows that just because one gets the Asian flush doesn’t mean that they don’t drink as much as others.

In fact, a drug now used to keep alcoholics from drinking too much, disulfiram, apparently acts exactly like the Asian flush. People who take disulfiram and try to drink suffer the exact same symptoms: flushing of the face, nausea, vomiting, weakness, and the list goes on.  (I would make a comment about this being a drug for Asiaphiles that makes you more Asian, but I think that might not go over very well.)

(“Drunk Ernie, not Efren” photo was modified from this)

Does your face turn red when you drink alcohol? Click here for the cure.

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About Efren

Efren is a 30-something queer Filipino American guy living in San Francisco. In the past, he was a wanna-be academic even teaching in Asian American studies at San Francisco State, a wanna-be queer rights and HIV activist, and he used to "blog" when that meant spewing one's college student angst using a text editor on a terminal screen to write in a BBS or usenet back in the early 90s. For all his railing against the model minority myth, he's realized he's done something only a few people can claim--getting into UCSF twice, once for a PhD program in medical sociology which he left; and then for pharmacy school, where he'll be a member of the class of '13. He apologizes profusely for setting the bar unintentionally high for his cousins. blog twitter
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