Currently, there's only one sure fire way to prevent a hangover: Don't drink too much. You can drink all the water or electrolyte-laden beverages you want, take pain meds before going to sleep, not mix your spirits, or drink lite beer or wine. In the end, if you drink too much alcohol, you're going to feel the effects the next day.
One man is trying to change that. David Nutt, director of the nueropsychopharmacology unit at Imperial College London, is busy in his lab, creating an alcosynth he calls Alcarelle. According to The Guardian, Alcarelle will have the "relaxing and socially lubricating qualities of alcohol, but without the hangovers, health issues and the risk of getting paralytic." It's not on the market yet, but it may be coming our way in the not-so-distant future.
Nutt (pictured right and in the video above) has a low opinion of alcohol. He believes its toxic and that it's "more harmful to society than heroin or crack." Yet, he imbibes in moderation and he even owns a wine bar. But he would like to offer an alternative, so he's working on a solution.
The genesis of his solution began when he was a Ph.D. student and discovered an antidote for drunkenness in a chemical that blocks GABA receptors, a class of receptors that respond to the neurotransmitter of the same name that is the chief inhibitory compound in the central nervous system. The GABA system is part of the brain that's stimulated by alcohol.
The antidote Nutt created was too dangerous to put on the market. And even if it hadn't been too dangerous, it only changed the way the brain reacted to the alcohol; it didn't affect the damage alcohol did to the brain or to the liver.
Regulations and safety
That earlier research led Nutt to pinpoint the specific "GABA and other receptors" that need to be stimulated for a person to get tipsy. He's also found a way to stimulate those receptors without alcohol. He can get as specific as targeting the receptors that result in "good" effects and "bad" effects from alcohol. In theory, he can make you the best drunk you can be. If you want to see the effects of the drug in action, watch the response of psychologist and addiction expert Dr. John Marsden in the video at top.
Alcarelle would also do away with next-day hangovers and alcohol's long-term health effects. So what's the problem? If it's been invented, why aren't we pouring Alcarelle into our non-alcoholic drinks and becoming the perfect amount of tipsy while never getting stupid drunk?
It still hasn't been safety tested. Nutt has tested it on himself and a handful of others, but there's a lot of scientific testing that needs to be done to ensure that Alcarelle takes away the harmful effects of alcohol while not introducing any harmful effects. It also needs to be palatable.
If and when it does get approved and becomes available, I think the market is ready for it. There's already a strong non-alcoholic beverage movement happening, one that demands good, balanced drinks without the booze. One of the reasons for the growth of that movement is alcohol's long-term health impacts, including liver disease, heart disease and brain damage.
Imagine if you could add safe version of Alcarelle to a really delicious zero-proof cocktail. I'd be interested in trying that.
Inset image of Nutt: Skotten/Wikimedia Commons)