It doesn’t really matter what your drink of choice is–whether you enjoy the occasional few drinks at a wedding reception or an entire 18-pack of Coors Banquet Beer during a Sunday game. Chances are, at some point in your life you were made aware of the horrible side-effects of alcohol–namely the splitting headaches, nausea, and sense of dread that accompany a morning hangover.
But a new form of alcohol that makes you feel a pleasant buzz without the devastating after-effects could soon be available on store shelves, according to a team of researchers based in the U.K.
Dubbed Alcarelle, the synthetic alcohol could change the way people get intoxicated–by removing the toxicity factor altogether and simply allowing us to drink without necessarily getting drunk.
Alcarelle was created by David Nutt, a professor of neuropsychopharmacology at London’s Imperial College and former UK government drug adviser who was fired for saying alcohol is more dangerous than ecstasy and LSD.
Nutt discovered the synthetic alcohol when studying the main part of the brain that is stimulated by alcohol–our gamma-aminobutyric acid receptors or Gaba, he explained to The Guardian.
After years of studies, he was able to pinpoint the chemical reactions that lead to drunkenness, as well as the hangovers and withdrawal symptoms that follow binge-drinking–all of which hinge around the functions of the Gaba.
He now claims that his synthetic alcohol will be able to target Gaba receptors that induce the desirable factors of drinking–the head-change, the tipsiness, the dropping of inhibitions and sense of euphoria–while avoiding those receptors that result in headaches and hangovers.
“We know where in the brain alcohol has its ‘good’ effects and ‘bad’ effects, and what particular receptors mediate that – Gaba, glutamate and other ones, such as serotonin and dopamine. The effects of alcohol are complicated but … you can target the parts of the brain you want to target.”
But will someone be able to drink themselves into an absolute stupor if they imbibe enough Alcarelle? This is unlikely, Nutt explains, as many medicines already have a built-in “ceiling” or peak effect that shuts off before doses get too high.
Such modifiers mean that you will be able to enjoy the effects of a nice cocktail at the bar or happy hour drink with coworkers–with a nice bit of buzz providing a social lubricant–without actually getting drunk.
Alcarelle still hasn’t undergone safety testing, despite a few trials performed by Nutt and his team of scientists in the lab, who have mixed the foul-tasting molecule with fruit juice prior to ingesting it.
“We’re allowed to try it whenever we want … We tested a lot of possible compounds, to try to find which are most likely to work. It would be dishonest to spend millions of pounds on something when you haven’t a clue if it does what you want.”
But the team of researchers are planning to have the molecule ready to hit store shelves and bars as a regulated additive and legitimate ingredient within five years. Beverage companies have already approached Nutt’s team to inquire about the possibility of investing in the ingredient.
Nutt noted that the goal is to produce a product that won’t lead to such problems as cirrhosis of the liver, cancers, strokes, heart disease and other dire drink-related disorders:
“There will obviously be testing to check the molecule is safe … And we need to show that it’s different from alcohol. We will demonstrate that it doesn’t produce toxicity like alcohol does.
And of course we don’t want hangovers. We have to show it doesn’t have the bad effects of alcohol.”