The future is paved by visionaries, people who think on bigger, grander and more revolutionary scales. Some of them dream about worlds with self-driving cars or worlds where we colonize other planets. David Nutt dreams of a future without alcohol. In 2016, the Imperial College professor and neuroscientist introduced Alcosynth, a synthetic alcohol that he thinks will have replaced classics like whiskey and vodka by 2050.
According to Nutt, Alcosynth is the healthy alternative to your gin and tonic. Unlike traditional alcohol, it makes you feel tipsy without any of the unpleasant side effects, meaning no hangover and no loss of control. Nutt also alleged that the body metabolizes it in a way that won’t cause liver and heart damage and could severely lower the risk of alcohol-related diseases. Need to drive after leaving the bar? Nutt anticipates creating an antidote that will get you ready to hop behind the wheel.
One of Alcosynth’s potential perks would be foregoing the need to count your drinks.
“We think the effect round out at about four or five ‘drinks,’ then the effect would max out,” he told The Independent. “With clever pharmacology, you can limit and put a ceiling on the effects.”
How does it work? When you drink, your body metabolizes alcohol and creates a product called acetaldehyde. Normally, your liver breaks this down and emits it from your body, something it can easily accomplish if you’ve just had a few drinks. Drink too much alcohol, though, and you get a build-up of acetaldehyde, and the ensuing toxicity results in a hangover. With Alcosynth, Nutt claims, no such build-up occurs and you can wake up the next morning without facing the consequences.
Alcosynth is still in its infancy. In an interview with The Independent, Nutt said he patented about 90 different Alcosynth compounds during his research but has settled on two that are currently undergoing testing and could, someday, be the key to Alcosynth’s world domination. Early versions featured a benzodiazepine derivative (sound familiar? It’s often prescribed to help treat anxiety disorders and is related to Valium), though Nutt claims that’s not included in the new formula.
Regulatory groups, however, are not as on board as drinkers who want a quick hangover fix. The UK’s Department of Health has yet to extend funding to Nutt, and Nutt has also said he’s not sure if it will be approved by 2017’s Psychoactive Substances Act. Like with e-cigarettes, the health impacts of synthetic alcohol is not fully understood nor researched. Other experts, like Dr. William R. Corbin from Arizona State University, worry that combining Alcosynth with traditional alcohol or drugs could lead to adverse, unanticipated reactions.
Still, we’re a fan of a good, traditional glass of wine — a tradition that has been around for thousands of years, and one we don’t believe will be as easy to shake as David Nutt suggests. Now, if you’ll excuse us, we’re going to pour ourselves a glass of Merlot.
Photo courtesy of Gabriel Gurrola