Synthetic Alcohol Could Eliminate Regret-Filled Nights


What if you could drink endlessly and stay buzzed but never get sloppy? And what if you could then pop a pill to let you drive home sober? It sounds fantastical, but scientists are actually working on a synthetic alcohol substitute that brings all the happy feelings of being drunk without all the nasty mood swings, headaches, and addiction issues.

The alcohol substitute, which is being researched by a team at Imperial College London, will be made from Valium-like benzodiazepines. While benzos furnishes drinkers with a feeling of wellbeing, they don't affect parts of the brain that control addiction and mood swings, and they're easy to flush out of the body (no more nasty hangover cures!). Perhaps most intriguingly, the chemicals can be "switched off" with an antidote. Eventually, researchers involved in the project envision a world where alcohol content in beer and wine is replaced with their synthetic substance.

Of course, it will take more than a research experiment to persuade people to give up traditional alcohol. And who's to say that synthetic alcohol will have exactly the same positive effects as a bottle of Jack Daniels? If it doesn't, it will be a hard sell. Thus far, drink companies haven't shown interest in the product—a bad sign for synthetic alcohol's prospects. Still, we're in support of anything that could cut down on the number of drunk drivers and alcohol-related accidents that happen every day.

[Via Popular Science]

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  • kate andrew

    I don't know..., i feel a little skeptical about this new synthetic alcohol and its antidote, i am afraid people might abuse the new substances as well as they abused other pills too, such as pain related pills which were supposed to help people not to transform them into some addicts. I won't approve it's usage till i get the proof that synthetic alcohol is not addictive, till then the surest way to combat drunk drivers is for them to follow an addiction treatment and get cured.

  • Kristina Robson

    the future is coming. No more drunken excuses...people may actually have to face the fact they do stupid things cause they're stupid. Not sure the world is ready for that.

  • M Leong

    So here's a problem - if you don't have the antidote with you you're still drunk. How long can your body last in this state? Days, weeks, months? Or if your last pill happens to fall down the drain then you can't sober up.

    Even if this becomes possible, no one gets a free pass - people still need to practice drinking responsibly. I don't think people will ultimately care if it's "fake" or "real" - as long as the effects are the same and as long as it's socially acceptable and possibly "cost attractive."

    Another risk that the manufacturers could possibly face - a law suite where the claimant says "he became a mean alcoholic and broke the furniture." So how does this synthetic alcohol work on people who become mean drunks versus those who "just become happy." And as someone else pointed out, what are the long-term effects?

  • Richard Parton

    I think there is a place in the market for this. Other commentators are right to point out that there will be many for whom an alcohol substitute that won't let you get fully drunk won't appeal, but there will also be plenty of people who aren't out to get totally hammered who'll want this by the gallon.

    Established drinks companies may be wary of the impact the new product will have, and may be just playing their cards close to their chests. It could be pretty damaging if they came out in favour of something which further down the line turned out to have nasty side-effects that haven't yet shown up. They already get a huge amount of PR flack for producing products that can have such terrible side-effects, so you can't blame them for being a little risk averse on that front. But I'm sure they can see the writing on the wall here, and if the researchers come up with the goods and a fully tested product that delivers on what it promises - I'm sure they'll be adding to their product-range. It's not clear from the short article here how far down the line the research is, but if they haven't started proper testing yet I'm guessing it could easily be 5-10 years or more before a market-ready product is out.

  • Paul Fountaine

    I think it's brilliant - you can get a buzz without the physical side effects of traditional alcohol.

    At 50 years of age, I can tell you even 2 cocktails have a negative effect on me the following day - from a headache to upset stomach, etc. and I know many people at my age or a bit older would love to join in the fun if it weren't for the liability and / or physical effects.

  • Bruce Barnett

    My former neighbor, was diabetic and used to joke he was waiting for sugar-free vodka to enjoy a martini once again. Maybe this technology could be used to create diet alcohol?

  • Tyler Adams

    @Chris, you have some good insights there. However, I think you're missing an option in your example. Wouldn't it be:

    A. Jack Daniels with an alcohol substitute
    B. Pepsi that gets you really buzzed and can be shut off instantly
    C. Normal Jack Daniels with real alcohol

    With this example, people would still have to choose between drinking real alcohol or fake alcohol (whether it's in Pepsi or fake Jack form). You would have to steal part of a market that already exists (people who would normally drink regular Jack) or find a market that doesn't (people who don't drink at all but would give the new product a try).

    If you create a new product, that isn't a drink, then people would have a different choice: drinking to get buzzed or taking a pill (or whatever) to get buzzed. This seems easier to market than the choice of drinking real alcohol to get buzzed or drinking (soda, fake alcohol, etc.) to get buzzed.

    On another note, I think Pepsi and Coke are both waaay to concerned about their brand image to ever put their logo on this product. But I think your idea is right, just not with those specific brands.

  • Chris Reich

    Perhaps they have been marketing to the wrong market. Instead of winning over traditional alcoholic beverage producers, I'd partner with a beverage company to produce something new, for a new market. Coke would be interested. "Rum and Coke" without a hangover?

    The researchers are scientists, not marketers. A smart marketer will open a new market for early adopters and the legacy beverage producers will follow. Or not. But so what? Gain market share without them.

    Look, which sounds better:
    A. Jack Daniels with an alcohol substitute
    B. Pepsi that gets you really buzzed and can be shut off instantly

    See? It's much harder to sell a change to an already successful item than to introduce a new item. Note: I use Pepsi and Coke only as examples because of their high name recognition.

    Chris Reich

  • Data Jane

    Wow, this is great! Two definite positives, less drunk drivers (=less accidents) and no "Gawd!-I-swear-never-to-drink-ever-again!" hangovers the day after. I do wonder if there are any side-effects, though.

  • Tyler Adams

    I don't know about this one. This doesn't seem to provide any type of solution to real world scenarios. The original article makes a good point, "The skeptics (and delinquents) among us wonder exactly why Nutt and company think that people who enjoy getting roaring drunk would voluntarily switch to a tipple that lacks the knock-down power of authentic alcohol".

    This product seems to be targeting a market that doesn't want it (those who enjoy getting roaring drunk) or a market that doesn't need it (those who only have a drink or two at a given time). Why not make a completely new product such as this same idea only in the form of a pill? If you market it right, it might even stop some people from drinking in the first place. It provides a completely different alternative to drinking. The question would become, "Do I want to drink tonight? or take this legal happy pill?" instead of "Do I want to drink real alcohol tonight? or fake alcohol?"