Alcosynth: Making Alcohol Obsolete?

Is alcohol as we know it on the verge of extinction? A professor in London believes like the dinosaurs, libations that rule this earth will soon be left to history.

David Nutt, an accomplished neuropsychopharmacology professor at Imperial College, told the International Business Times (IBT) “in another 10 or 20 years, Western societies won’t drink alcohol except on rare occasions.”

In addition to worrying if I’ll be out of a job in a decade — or if restaurants will even need their draft lists and if breweries will become delipatitated relics — I wonder how Nutt hopes to eliminate one of the most beloved cultural assets. His answer is alcosynth. Complete with a sci-fi title, alcosynth is a substance concocted in a laboratory to mimic the effects of alcohol — without the negative side-effects.

In his own words, Nutt’s alternative is a drink that “targets the parts of the brain that give the good effects of alcohol but not those that give the bad effects.” If that sounds too good to be true, you might be right: the mystery elixir uses a substance in the same family as Valium, an existing drug with high-levels of addiction. The second of Nutt’s proposed alcohol-fixes is a magical pill, dubbed a “chaperone,” that can cure a horrible hangover.

Nutt and other alcosynth advocates contend these inventions are not supposed to encourage more drinking, but decrease the extreme detrimental effects of alcohol. Alcohol contributes to a wide range of health problems — from addiction to heart disease to even cancer — and is also credited for larger societal problems, like lack of productivity and abuse. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) said drinking cost the U.S. economy 250 billion dollars in 2010.

“If alcohol was treated as a toxic compound in the same manner as benzene or other lethal chemicals, the maximum amount you would be permitted to consume would be one wine glass a year,” Nutt told the Telegraph in 2015. “But it is exempt from toxic control measures because we like to drink.”

Nutt’s campaign for alcosynth is made all the more interesting given his controversial past. In 2009, Nutt was forced to resign from his post as the chairman for UK’s Advisory Board on the Misuse of Drugs. Home Secretary Alan Johnson cited his inability to give impartial advice after Nutt advised more leniency for cannabis and ecstasy.

Many colleagues came to Nutt’s defense, believing the country was more inclined to mislead the public about drugs than listen to dissenters in the scientific community. This issue has recently garnered domestic headlines, as the Trump Administration banned CDC from using words like “evidence-based.”

Ultimately, the alcosynth phenomenon is one the billion-dollar restaurant and alcohol industries are not particularly worried about at the moment. But if Nutt’s patented concoctions fulfill their promise, the drinking landscape could irrevocably change — in the next 10 or 20 years, of course.



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