How the Future of Drinking Will Avoid Hangovers and Addiction

An English psychiatrist who specializes in addiction and anxiety predicted that Western countries may totally give up drinking alcohol within the next 10 to 20 years. Instead, we may rely on alcosynth (which he created), a non-toxic chemical that provides many of the same pleasurable effects of alcohol without any of the consequences, though the product hasn't finished safety testing.

Psychiatrist David Nutt, who teaches at Imperial College London in the U.K., originally created alcosynth as a way to save lives, Live Science reported. Dubbed Alcarelle, the drink is marketed as low-calorie and hangover-free, but Nutt suggests the benefits may go far beyond this.

Related: How To Learn A New Language: Drinking Alcohol Could Improve Pronounciation 

"Alcohol kills more than malaria, meningitis, tuberculosis and dengue fever put together," Nutt told The International Business Times, U.K. "Wouldn't it be fantastic if we could replace alcohol with something that led to almost no deaths? That would be one of the greatest public health developments in the history of the world."

12_18_booze The days of hangovers and dangerous intoxication could soon be over. Brian Ach/Getty Images for UGG

What makes Alcarelle different from alcohol is that its metabolism does not lead to the production of the toxic byproduct acetaldehyde, Nutt told Newsweek. When we drink, alcohol is broken down and creates this byproduct, which is further broken down by enzymes in the liver, How Stuff Works reported. Although the body usually has no problem breaking down alcohol, if we drink too much too fast, then the liver has trouble keeping up. As a result, acetaldehyde builds up in the body. Because acetaldehyde is a toxin, high levels of the chemical in the body cause unpleasant effects, such as vomiting and headaches.  

Related: Alcohol And Emotions: Drinking Spirits Really Do Make You Teary And Aggressive And Red Wine Makes You Relaxed

Without acetaldehyde, there would be much less risk of hangovers, and according to Nutt, far less risk of addiction. The psychiatrist told Newsweek that death from alcohol poisoning would be “virtually impossible” with alcosynth, and the drink would also only be able to get consumers “merrily tipsy” not “blind drunk.”

Nutt predicted that the alcohol alternative could even have more of a trickle-down effect, and reduce street violence and other “unpleasantness in our city centers,” IB Times U.K. reported.

While Alcarelle isn’t here just yet, Nutt suggests that when the drink is perfected, it could become preferred to traditional alcohol as it will provide the same benefits of alcohol, such as social lubrication, but without the dangerous side effects.

“In another 10 or 20 years, Western societies won’t drink alcohol except on rare occasions,” Nutt predicted to IB Times, U.K.

However, not everyone shares Nutt’s unabashed optimism about synthetic alcohol. For example, Scott Edwards, an assistant professor of physiology at the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center's Alcohol and Drug Abuse Center of Excellence told Live Science that we have to be very careful about alcosynth—in order to cause slight intoxication and reduce anxiety, the drug mimics the GABA neurotransmitter. This is a neurotransmitter in the brain that controls motor function, vision and other brain functions.

"GABA is one of the most abundant neurotransmitters in your brain, so we have to be extra careful about messing with this system,” Edwards told Live Science, adding that any changes in GABA activity can cause "significant impairment of judgment and motor function, with all the associated sociological and legal consequences."

In addition, Edwards is not completely convinced that the public will accept this drinking alternative, as past evidence shows that smokers continue to use cigarettes even though e-cigarettes are available as an alternative.

For now, Nutt told Newsweek that he needs investors to fund the final stage of food safety testing. He plans to put out a prospectus for this in 2018 and then it will take about three years for testing to be completed.