For ages, dreamers, alchemists, mixologists and other enthusiasts have fantasized about a better world—a world where drunkenness wasn't accompanied by hangover, nausea or liver damage. Now, one scientist says he can make that dream a reality. Behold: the age of the "alcohol substitute" is at hand.
Neuroscientist David Nutt published a piece in the Guardian today detailing a line of research he hopes will lead to an alcohol substitute—one that produces many of the neurological effects of alcohol, with none of the chemical's direct physical harm.
The key to decoding alcohol is the gamma aminobutyric acid neurotransmitter system in the brain, which regulates the brain and keeps things calm. It's also the main target of alcohol, which replicates and enhances those calming effects but also not-so-desirable ones like aggression and addiction. However, as it turns out, the "GABA" system isn't quite that simple.
GABA has several subsystems that can be affected by targeted drugs. With this knowledge in his pocket, Nutt has done what many others would doubtless do in his place: devoted his time to isolating five specific compounds that perform alcohol's desirable functions without its drawbacks. Nutt writes:
The other great advantage of this scientific approach to intoxication is that if we target compounds that affect the Gaba system, then it is possible to produce other drugs that could be sold alongside the alcohol substitute as an antidote. I have sampled both new forms. After exploring one possible compound I was quite relaxed and sleepily inebriated for an hour or so, then within minutes of taking the antidote I was up giving a lecture with no impairment whatsoever.
That's right: take a pill when you're done being drunk and avoid that nasty headache entirely. Now he's looking for investors to make his idea a reality. Surely someone out there is willing to fund a mad scientist with a noble cause.
[image via AP]