David Nutt, a professor at Imperial College London and the former drug advisor to the UK government, says he has patents for 90 different synthetic alcohol compounds. He claims these synthetic versions mimic the effects of alcohol, like pleasurable intoxication, but do not cause dry mouth, nausea, and headaches. Two of these compounds are currently tested by independent bodies.
Professor Nutt thinks that by 2050, all booze will be of the synthetic variety.
“It will be there alongside the scotch and the gin, they’ll dispense the alcosynth into your cocktail and then you’ll have the pleasure without damaging your liver and your heart,” he told The Independent.
“They go very nicely into mojitos. They even go into something as clear as a Tom Collins. One is pretty tasteless, the other has a bitter taste.”
Nutt and colleagues wanted to find new drugs that are mirror the effects alcohol has on the brain. They did not find one, but a myriad of compounds that fitted their description. Remarkably, these non-toxic variants only touch on the positive effects of alcohol as they did not target the ‘bad areas’ of the brain.
Not much is known about the contents of these magical concoctions, as Nutt refuses to share any of the science behind it. In 2011, British researchers who were not connected to Nutt presented an alcosynth which used a derivative of benzodiazepine, a drug which belongs to the same class as Valium. Nutt said on the record, however, that his synthetic booze does not contain benzodiazepine. Instead, it uses compounds that target various receptors in the brain like the gamma-aminobutyric acid or Gaba.
Nutt also says they managed to limit the effects of his alcosynths, make it impossible to feel ‘too drunk.’
In 2012, about 3.3 million net deaths, or 5.9% of all global deaths, were attributable to alcohol consumption, according to WHO. Nutt says that his compounds are 100 times safer. Then again, why not 1,000?
For now, we’ll just have to take his words for it and it might a long while before we’ll see pints served with alcosynth. Taking this sort of product to the market costs a lot of money and no one seems to throw cash at Nutt yet.
“I don’t think we’d give money to it until it was a little further along,” said a UK Department of Health spokesperson. “If [Professor Nutt] were to apply for funding, it would go through the process of everything else and would be judged on its merits.”
“It would be great for producing better workforce efficiency if no one was hungover,” they added.
Nutt is a controversial figure in the UK. He was sacked in 2009 after he publically claimed LSD and ecstasy are less dangerous of alcohol and more people die from horse riding each year than from overdosing on MDMA.