All the fun of drinking alcohol without the nasty hangover? It might sound too good to be true, but it’s something that’s currently in the works by world-renowned drug expert Professor David Nutt, a neuropsychopharmacologist from Imperial College London.
IFLScience spoke to Professor Nutt in December 2022 for an episode of our podcast series The Big Questions. Among the many topics covered by the conversation, Nutt described his quest to make substances similar to alcohol without any negative side effects, such as dependency, nausea, headaches, memory loss, loss of coordination, and poor judgment.
“I like alcohol, most people like alcohol, most people like alcohol because it relaxes them and most people use alcohol in social situations, where there is a little bit of anxiety. You go to a party, you feel a bit tense, you don’t know people, you’re not quite sure what to do with your hands, so a drink is a way of calming yourself and helping facilitate social engagement,” he told the podcast.
Nutt goes on to explain how his team has concocted a natural herbal drink that aims to mimic the same effect that alcohol has on relaxation and sociability. Since there's no alcohol involved, there's no need to worry about the next morning's hangover.
On top of this, his team is looking to "invent" a new molecule that mimics all of the feel-good bits of alcohol.
“We have a drink called Sentia, which is an herbal drink containing herbs that have particular components in them that turn on the GABA system in the brain, which is the system in the brain which does reduce anxiety in social situations, which alcohol works on. What we’re also now trying to do is invent an alternative molecule to alcohol that will only turn on the GABA system to enough extent to relax you and socialize you but won’t have all the other consequences,” Nutt explained.
Aside from a few sneaky sips around among the team, the new compounds have not yet been officially tested on humans, but Nutt and his team hope to achieve this milestone in the near future.
“Currently we’re looking at seven different molecules. By the end of this year, we will have decided on which molecule to manufacture in large amounts, because it’s very expensive to make new molecules and to make enough to be safe, so we’ve got to be clear that we’ve got to put the best one through the safety testing,” he explained.
For all this and more, check out our full interview with Professor Nutt in the embedded player above.