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Could Synthetic Alcohol Promise Hangover-Free Nights Out?

What if you could get tipsy without the headache the next day—and the long-term effects of liver damage?

Could Synthetic Alcohol Promise Hangover-Free Nights Out?

[Photo: John Rensten/Getty]

A new kind of hangover-free alcohol could mean that the only thing you wake up with the morning after a binge is that familiar ominous feeling of guilt. The substance, called "alcosynth," promises to get you tipsy without the throbbing head, the dry mouth, and the other side effects of a drunken night out—or the long-term liver damage caused by excessive drinking.

Rather than being one product, alcosynth is a more of an umbrella term for around 90 chemical compounds patented by Imperial College professor David Nutt, two of which are in active development, according to the Independent. Neither is it alcohol. Nutt’s earlier formulas were based on benzodiazepine, the group of anti-anxiety drugs which includes Valium (diazepam) and which is also used to help in alcohol detox. The latest versions don’t contain benzodiazepine, he says, but "their formulas would remain a closely guarded, patented secret."

[Photo: Flickr user Aaron Leavy]

Nutt’s research involves the harmful effects of various drugs, and he considers alcohol to be the most harmful drug of all—in terms of its effects on society. Alcosynth is meant to mimic the pleasurable effects of alcohol and avoid not only the hangover, but its addictive qualities. This could be good news for alcoholics, too. "Modern science allows us to target the relaxing and intoxicating part, while avoiding the bad parts like addiction and withdrawal," he told The Guardian’s Neil Brady in 2014. And his credentials are good. He spent time as the U.K. Government’s "drug tsar," although he was fired for failing to follow the dogma that drugs are always dangerous.

The future of alcosynth is as unclear as an alcohol-fuddled mind. First, Nutt himself is vague on not only its contents, but on when it will be available. His only claim, time-wise, is that it might replace regular alcohol by 2050. Alcosynth would initially be sold as a bottled "cocktail"—what they call alcopops in the U.K. You won’t be enjoying a delicious alcosynth beer of whisky any time soon, because much of the character of those drinks comes from the alcohol itself, which is excellent at dissolving and carrying flavor compounds.

But the biggest barrier to alcosynth might be the law. New medical drugs are approved all the time, but what about recreational drugs? Nutt was fired from his drug tsar position "for stating in [a] paper that the drug ecstasy was statistically no more dangerous than an addiction to horse-riding," so he knows that it’s going to be tricky to get approval for a new kind of drug.

If you’re looking for a way to switch off after a long day, then, what can you do to avoid the health risks and the hangovers of alcohol? You could always smoke some weed instead. It’s relatively safe, it’s legal in more and more places, and it has the advantage of being tested by time, so you know exactly what you’re getting into.

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