Imagine being able to imbibe without the fear of a headache, nausea or even liver damage. Would you get drunk more often?
You may soon have the opportunity to find out, thanks to a new type of synthetic alcohol developed by neuropsychopharmacologist David Nutt, professor at Imperial College. The substance, called "alcosynth," can mimic the boozy effects of being drunk, but doesn't cause a hangover, reports The Independent.
“We know a lot about the brain science of alcohol; it's become very well understood in the last 30 years,” said Nutt. “So we know where the good effects of alcohol are mediated in the brain, and can mimic them. And by not touching the bad areas, we don't have the bad effects.”
Alcosynth also has a built-in limit on the level of drunkenness that it stimulates, so it could have the added benefit of encouraging people to consume fewer drinks overall. The effects of drinking alcosynth cap out at around four or five drinks, and consuming more than that won't increase your buzz.
For this reason, Nutt claims that his concoction could offer a healthier alternative to alcohol. But even if alcosynth reduces the number of drinks people consume overall, it's unclear what impact having a hangover-free alternative would have on public drunkenness. It could very well encourage more people to drink more often, which could increase health risks associated with impairment. For instance, it could increase incidents of drunk driving.
Even so, Nutt expects alcosynth to fully replace alcohol by 2050, which seems like a long way off for such a promising product. But delays are to be expected due to clinical trials that must be performed for what is essentially a new drug. Even if alcosynth does get approved in timely fashion, people may not be so quick to give up their taste for alcohol. Seasoned scotch drinkers, oenophiliacs, and beer connoisseurs might be slow to give up on their alcoholic beverage of choice, even with the hangover potential. There are aesthetic and culinary hurdles for alcosynth to overcome before it represents a true viable alternative to alcohol.
Of the two versions of alcosynth currently in development, one is tasteless and the other has a bitter flavor. Apparently, the substances work especially well in a mojito or a Tom Collins. Maybe, though, a new generation of cocktails will be inspired by the flavors of hangover-free alcohol alternatives.