A leading British neuroscientist says he has developed an alcohol substitute that mimics the drug's pleasurable sensations, yet when chased by a pill makes the user instantly sober without a hangover.
David Nutt, a professor at Imperial College London and columnist at The Guardian, claims it is an initial discovery that could do for alcohol what e-cigarettes have done for smoking -- but he needs investors to fund his research.
"I find it weird that we haven't been speaking about this before, as it's such a target for health improvement," he tells BBC.
Nutt says he has identified five compounds that target the same neurotransmitters in the brain that respond to booze. Theoretically, consuming an alcohol substitute that targets these brain regions, followed by pill that blocks the pleasurable sensations immediately, would leave the user free to drive or return to work.
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"In theory we can make an alcohol surrogate that makes people feel relaxed and sociable and remove the unwanted effects, such as aggression and addictiveness,” Nutt writes in The Guardian of the substitute, which he has tried on himself.
It's a bold claim coming from a man who's not afraid of controversy.
The former scientific government advisor resigned from his position in 2009 after a clash over policy. As a member of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, he ruffled feathers by claiming cannabis, ecstasy and LSD are less harmful and cause less deaths than alcohol and cigarettes combined.
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As for this new venture, Nutt says he has already been in touch with alcohol manufacturers about producing the substitute and is working on ways to flavour the drug. However, he maintains industry pressure will not making funding his research easy. Until there is sufficient demand for a substitute, he says, alcohol companies will be reluctant to bring the product to market.
What are your thoughts on an alcohol substitute? If one was brought to market, would you try it? Tell us in the comments below.