Could Hangovers Soon Be A Thing Of The Past?

By Britni de la Cretaz 03/07/17

One scientist says a new synthetic substance that mimics the positive effects of alcohol could stop hangovers and alcoholism.

People toasting with glasses of alcohol.

David Nutt is a British scientist who has done research into a variety of mood- and mind-altering substances. Now he’s advocating for people to drink “alcosynth” instead of alcohol, which he claims has all the benefits of booze and none of the drawbacks.

Alcosynth, as the name implies, is a synthetic substance that mimics the positive effects of alcohol.

Nutt, who founded the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs, spoke to MEL Magazine about alcosynth and how it works. He says that through research that has studied alcohol’s effect on the brain, “we’ve got a pretty good idea how to target just the good effects, but not the bad bits.”

Nutt, a former chair on the UK government's Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, has patented more than 90 alcosynth compounds and says that two of them are very good candidates to replace alcohol, which is “a difficult drug to mimic.”

According to Nutt, being drunk on alcosynth is just like being drunk on alcohol and that in tests, people couldn’t tell the two apart. However, unlike being drunk on alcohol, alcosynth results in much less unsteadiness (something Nutt says was intentional).

Furthermore, “you don’t have a hangover, you don’t have gut ache, it doesn’t seem to cause aggression,” he explains. He also says that, unlike alcohol, the results from four drinks of alcosynth is the same as eight drinks; the effects plateau.

The result, Nutt says, is a substance that could cut down on alcohol-induced health ailments like cirrhosis of the liver, obesity, and erectile dysfunction. It could also reduce some of the societal effects of alcohol, like fights, law enforcement costs, and healthcare costs. “The social harms of alcohol are … enormous,” Nutt says.

According to Nutt, the alcosynths are designed to not be chemically addictive, though he clarifies that “anything can be habit-forming.” And while he doesn’t know that it could be used to wean someone who is addicted to booze off alcohol, he adds that “if people use it instead of alcohol, they won’t become alcoholics in the first place.”

He compares the substance to e-cigarettes and the tobacco industry, which became popular very quickly. He hopes alcosynth will be the same, though he understands the difficulties of convincing people to invest in the unknown. But, he asks, “Why would you want to poison yourself when you’ve got something that isn’t poisoning you?”

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Britni de la Cretaz is a freelance writer, baseball enthusiast, and recovered alcoholic living in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @britnidlc.