David Nutt's new drug mimics alcohol … minus the health risks and hangovers
The former drug adviser to the British government is designing a revolutionary drug, but he says the alcohol industry is shunning his efforts.
Wed, Nov 13, 2013 at 11:16 AM
Although David Nutt — the British psychiatrist and neuropsychopharmacologist specializing in the research of drugs — has seen his fair share of controversy, he appears to be a genius. With his team at Imperial College London, he is pioneering what is being hailed as a serious revolution in health: a drug that offers the positive effects of being drunk, but without the health risk, or the hangover.
Remarkably, according to the World Health Organization, alcohol consumption is the world’s third-largest risk factor for disease and disability; in middle-income countries, it is the greatest risk. It is a causal factor in 60 types of diseases and injuries and a component cause in 200 others. Almost 4 percent of all deaths worldwide are attributed to alcohol, greater than deaths caused by HIV/AIDS, violence or tuberculosis.
But the new alcohol-mimicking drug alleviates much of that risk as it targets neurotransmitters in the brain directly, giving the user all the pleasures of drinking, without the toxins and risk of poor behavior and addiction.
“In theory we can make an alcohol surrogate that makes people feel relaxed and sociable and remove the unwanted effects, such as aggression and addictiveness,” Nutt wrote in The Guardian.
And since it acts directly, it can also be immediately reversed by taking an antidote. Users could potentially be sober in a matter of minutes.
“After exploring one possible compound, I was quite relaxed and sleepily inebriated for an hour or so, then within minutes of taking the antidote I was up giving a lecture with no impairment whatsoever,” Nutt wrote.
But Nutt says that his team in running into some opposition from the alcohol industry. Nutt was hoping to have their support, but the industry is instead shunning his work until it becomes a threat, he says. Speaking to the BBC, Nutt appealed for investors to come forward and support his groundbreaking research.
“I think this would be a serious revolution in health ... just like the e-cigarette is going to revolutionize the smoking of tobacco,” he said. “I find it weird that we haven't been speaking about this before, as it's such a target for health improvement.”
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