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It’s not the first time some high-minded, lab-coat wearing alchemists donned goggles, skittered between beakers of boiling liquids and tried to make gold out of lead, metaphorically speaking anyway. In this case, it’s a British neuropharmacologist and his team’s attempt to develop a consequence-free type of synthetic alcohol called Alcosynth that comes with all the pluses and none of the pain.
Alcosynth, says its inventor, psychiatrist and professor at Imperial College London, U.K., David Nutt, is a low-calorie, hangover(less) beverage that would get drinkers tipsy, but not blackout drunk.
His team at Alcarelle is made up of clinical research scientists with the goal of finding a safe and responsible alternative to alcohol.
“Wouldn’t it be fantastic if we could replace alcohol with something that led to almost no deaths? That would be one of the greatest public health developments in the world,” Nutt said in an interview.
Sobering Statistics of Alcohol Consumption
Knocking back a few too many adult beverages is one of America’s favorite pastimes. The toll it takes on overall public health and wellbeing is pretty steep though. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) reports:
- Around 86 percent of adults admit to drinking alcohol at some point in their lifetime and more than 50 percent say they’ve had a drink in the past month
- It’s estimated that 15 million drinkers in the U.S. suffer from alcohol use disorder and that number is almost certainly underreported
- Alcohol-related fatalities are the third leading causes of preventable death in the United States, claiming approximately 88,000 lives a year
- More than 10 percent of children in the U.S. live in a household where at least one parents has problems with alcohol
- Regular alcohol consumption has been linked to 15 various types of cancer
The statistics are, shall we say, sobering. So, developing a safer alternative to alcohol is not necessarily a misguided venture. The U.K. based endeavor is named Alcarelle, though it’s not yet on the market anywhere.
According to Nutt, Alcosynth interacts with the body’s metabolism without resulting in acetaldehyde, the toxic byproduct of alcohol consumption that ends up causing “the spins,” nausea, vomiting and headaches – AKA the hangover.
The professor and his team are optimistic that Alcosynth would even reduce rates of alcohol addiction and death, though not everyone shares their optimism.
“My instinct is that we have an intrinsic drive to consume ethanol that can’t be replaced,” Robert Dudley, professor of integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley, said in an interview last year.
Can We Replace Drugs or Alcohol With Synthetic Alternatives like Alcarelle’s Alcosynth?
Author of “The Drunken Monkey: Why We Drink and Abuse Alcohol,” Dudley isn’t sure a synthetic molecule, like Alcosynth, can replace alcohol and there’s some evidence he’s right.
Other stimulant alternatives, such as e-cigs, nicotine laced gum and time-release patches, haven’t taken cigarettes out of circulation. Though tobacco sales are down, some evidence suggests that young people who take up “vaping” are more likely to become smokers later on.
On the other hand, replacement therapies for opioid addiction, medications like methadone, Suboxone and Naltrexone, coupled with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) have shown to be effective in treating serious addiction.
Whether or not alcohol and all its troubles are likely to disappear in a generation, as Nutt suggests, remains to be seen.
It would be interesting to see if it might help those with an addiction to alcohol or others who have other health problems that require that can’t have alcoholic drinks.
There’s little doubt, however, that a beverage like Alcosynth would lead to fewer days of missed work after a national event like the Super Bowl…or the Fourth of July or…Labor Day weekend or…