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Beer Science

Scientist Seeks Investment For "Alcohol Substitute" 328

Posted by samzenpus
from the bottoms-up dept.
First time accepted submitter MalachiK writes "A senior academic and former UK government drugs adviser reckons that pretty soon it'll be possible to enjoy the fun of being drunk without having to suffer the negative effects of alcohol. In a proposal reminiscent of Star Trek's synthehol, Professor David Nut has identified a number of molecules that he claims offer experiences that are subjectively indistinguishable from alcohol intoxication. Apparently a major advantage of using these more selectively psychoactive drugs is that the effects can be quickly reversed. It's not all good news though as Professor Nut seems to think that the drinks industry is using its financial and political clout to stop this sort of research being undertaken."
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Scientist Seeks Investment For "Alcohol Substitute"

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  • by bigjocker (113512) * on Monday November 11, 2013 @06:34PM (#45395747) Homepage

    Professor Nut

  • Not all good (Score:5, Insightful)

    by houstonbofh (602064) on Monday November 11, 2013 @06:35PM (#45395755)
    One of the things that cause people to curb their drinking is that morning after hangover. With no pain for indulgence, this could be much more addictive than alcohol, which is already very addictive.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Then again, there will be no need to 'curb your drinking' when you can control the effects instead of the effects controlling you.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by fey000 (1374173)

        Then again, there will be no need to 'curb your drinking' when you can control the effects instead of the effects controlling you.

        The problem depicted is not that of hangovers, but rather that of excessive drinking leading to a severe lapse of judgment and restraint. This seems like a smart consideration to make.

        I have seen drunks with little regard for their own or other's safety, and I would prefer if such behaviour stayed rare and infrequent. We already have problems with drug addicts behaving in undesireable ways, so let's take a moment to ponder if we want more alcoholics that behave in a similar manner.

        Also, it should come with

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by s.petry (762400)

          What you said!

          Some things simply should not be produced, or studied beyond a certain point for that matter, because they harm society much more than they help society. If a guy develops a cure to heal you of an alcohol addition and provides you a nice fat dose of daily PCP have they helped, harmed, or have things stayed the same?

          Historically drugs have been used by people in power as a method of control. Simply teaching people about that aspect is not enough to cure the abuse of substances, but it's a sta

        • by Shavano (2541114)

          Wait a minute. Nobody said that abuse will not kill you. You just won't have a hangover.

    • Re:Not all good (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 11, 2013 @06:44PM (#45395845)

      One of the things that cause people to curb their drinking is that morning after hangover

      No.
      If you're an alcoholic, the hangover is just a reason to start drinking early, not a deterrent. No hangover? I'll drink to that!

      If you're not, then you don't really need to "curb" it, and the memories of the dipshit things you did will be just as much of a deterrent. In fact, since you'll have a clear head and fully remember all your antics from the night before, the lack of hangover would actually increase the chances you'd think twice before having that last six shots of Tequila.

      As for the article, we already have alternates to booze and it's called Marijuana. But because it's not physically addictive and doesn't cause horrible health effects, that means it has an even higher potential for abuse and is thus even more "addictive". Legally speaking, that is. I have a feeling that anything this guy comes up with is going to end up in the same boat. Either it'll have some nasty side effects (like so-called 'bath salts') or it'll be "too good" to allow people to use.

      • we already have alternates to booze and it's called Marijuana. But because it's not physically addictive and doesn't cause horrible health effects

        Warning to reader: your milage may vary depending on where you live [drugwarrant.com]

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Charliemopps (1157495)

        No, there are certain people (mostly Asian) that have a genetic mutation involving how Ethanol Metabolizes that causes their hangovers to come on quicker and stronger. It's been proven that these people have significantly lower rates of alcoholism. It's been proposed that this common genetic mutation among Asians is a contributing factor to eastern societies relatively low rate of alcohol consumption.

        • Re:Not all good (Score:5, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 11, 2013 @08:57PM (#45396757)

          No, there are certain people (mostly Asian) that have a genetic mutation involving how Ethanol Metabolizes that causes their hangovers to come on quicker and stronger. It's been proven that these people have significantly lower rates of alcoholism. It's been proposed that this common genetic mutation among Asians is a contributing factor to eastern societies relatively low rate of alcohol consumption.

          Spoken like a man that has only studied East Asia in books and journal articles, having never been there. They drink like fish and are stone alcoholics, too. Not sure where you're getting your information, but it's not from reality. Lying to save face is also extraordinarily common. Just look at Fukushima!

        • by germansausage (682057) on Monday November 11, 2013 @09:51PM (#45397067)
          You should hang out with some Koreans some time. Their genetic mutation seems to be 2 parts Irish and 1 part Russian.
        • Re:Not all good (Score:4, Interesting)

          by spaceman375 (780812) on Monday November 11, 2013 @11:26PM (#45397595)
          You have it backwards. Asians are one of the few human lineages that haven't developed an adaptaion to the consumption of alcohol. Specifically a liver pathway for dealing with ethanol rather than a more generalized one. It's a little slower to metabolize the ethanol into the first step, an aldehyde, and the one produced has a different feel to it. Less euphoria, more blushing red face IIRC.
          • enlightenment (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward

            I now understand a shitload of anime that never made sense with regards to this until now, thank you.

            I could never understand why they used red face to mean tipsy, I was like "why would even an uptight character be embarassed to be drunk, thats the one time they can let loose and won't give a fuck what other people think until the next day" because in real life none of my friends get red faced when they get shit faced.

            Granted I will look at the ones with asian backrounds more closely now, assuming I'm actua

          • Re:Not all good (Score:4, Informative)

            by Dahamma (304068) on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @01:07AM (#45397995)

            Sorry, your post is factually incorrect. The common mutation to the pathway is with ALDH2 (aldehyde dehydrogenase), the *second* step of the process.

            What happens is ethanol is broken down into acetaldehyde by alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH), and then the aldehyde into acetic acid by ALDH2. When ALDH2 is not effective, aldehyde (a toxin) builds up in the bloodstream and causes flushing, nausea, headaches, etc. And it's been traced down to a single amino acid substitution in ALDH2 with partially dominant expression.

            One interesting anecdote I've seen from this is the use of certain drugs (an antihistamine, I think?) as off-label ALH inhibitors - basically to slow the pathway down and reduce buildup of acetaldehyde. In fact, an anesthesiologist friend was giving it to all of the Asian guys at the last bachelor party I attended :)

            And do the slightest research into it and you will see the OP was correct - one study showed something like 40-50% of Japanese had ALDH2 deficiency as a whole, but less than 5% of Japanese alcoholics had it. If you almost immediately got flushed and sick when you drank you'd obviously be more likely to avoid it in general...

        • It's been proposed that this common genetic mutation among Asians is a contributing factor to eastern societies relatively low rate of alcohol consumption.

          Have you never been to Japan? Going out after working late and getting shit-faced drunk before showing up for work again early the next morning (hopefully sober) is a long standing tradition of the typical Japanese salaryman. In fact, doing business in Japan without engaging in social drinking would be practically impossible.

      • by couchslug (175151)

        "and is thus even more "addictive"

        No, it isn't even comparably addictive. Words mean things and "higher potential for abuse" doesn't mean "addictive".

      • by jhol13 (1087781)

        One of the things that cause people to curb their drinking is that morning after hangover

        No.
        If you're an alcoholic,

        I think the GPs point was, "if you are not alcoholic". You need to drink quite a lot before you are alcoholic and hangover really does stop, very effectively, your drinking. It is not enough to prevent you from becoming an alcoholic, but it is one deterrent.

    • Re:Not all good (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jrumney (197329) on Monday November 11, 2013 @06:57PM (#45395949) Homepage

      Psychological addiction is all in your head. You can get addicted to absolutely anything (including non-chemical things like gambling), and you can wake up one morning and quit cold turkey. The real danger from alcohol is the physical addiction. Alcohol is one of the few drugs that can be life threatening if a serious alcoholic suddenly can't get any. As long as the replacement drug is not physically addictive, then it is a big improvement.

      • by steelfood (895457)

        you can wake up one morning and quit cold turkey without any physiological effects.

        FTFY.

        There are psychological effects to quitting psychological addictions cold turkey. In fact, some of these can become severe enough to eventually manifest as physical symptoms.

        As the practice of hypnotism has shown, the subconscious is very, very powerful and not to be so casually treated the way you do here.

        • Re:Not all good (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Altus (1034) on Monday November 11, 2013 @08:09PM (#45396475) Homepage

          You do understand that alcohol withdrawal can kill you right? It's phyxical effects are more dangerous than heroin withdrawal. Not that psychological addiction should be scoffed at but alcohol addicicion is no small matter.

        • You aren't considering the case where the subconscious WANTS to quit. You may think some people are too stupid to quit, but a psychiatrist I know commented that he's met many people who were too smart to quit. They could come up with all sorts of reasons for just one more, oh it fits so well here, I have to for thus and such reasons.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Physiological addiction in most cases can be beaten by a short stay in an inpatient rehab center. Success rates are very high. But the real danger and the real long term worry is the psychological element of the addiction. It's what makes addictions so hard to beat, the day in day out avoidance of the addictive chemical/behavior (even after what you consider the "real danger" period is past). Note that psychological addiction is very much related to genetics and background, so only a limited percentage

      • by Any Web Loco (555458) on Monday November 11, 2013 @09:08PM (#45396827) Homepage
        Hi - my partner works in problem gambling and (according to her) there's reasonably strong evidence for a biological (read:chemical) component to gambling addiction. I think the wikipedia article even touches on it. Yep, it does.
      • Psychological addiction is all in your head.

        So is PTSD, schizophrenia, and delusions of grandeur. All of those are no big deal right?

    • by plopez (54068)

      There's an easy solution to that, just stay drunk.

    • Re:Not all good (Score:5, Insightful)

      by PopeRatzo (965947) on Monday November 11, 2013 @07:06PM (#45396033) Homepage Journal

      One of the things that cause people to curb their drinking is that morning after hangover.

      That is absolutely so. I haven't been drunk since shortly after college and it's because I hate how it makes me feel the next morning.

      I don't know about the rest of the comment though. I don't quite understand why people feel that intoxicants are inherently bad. I don't use them, but I don't share the moral objection to them.

      If someone can use an intoxicant and still manage their life in a way that is satisfactory to them, I don't believe that society needs to place artificial strictures on intoxicating substances.

      • by Nemyst (1383049)
        I largely agree with this. My sole concern is the possibility of people abusing whatever drug it is they're using and ending up in the hospital. That's a net cost to society, both in medical fees and in their inability to do anything for a while, and it's putting their own lives at risk.

        I know that recreational drugs don't necessarily mean you're going to go on this slippery slope and end up drugged to hell, but it's a possibility and it needs to be kept in mind. I'd be much more supportive of preventativ
        • by PopeRatzo (965947)

          I wonder how much of the "ending up in the hospital" part of drug abuse comes from the way society demonizes intoxicants. If you think of the really destructive drugs, like meth or crack, you'll find that most people start out going for these substances because there aren't better substances available to them. There's a lot of data showing that someone can use heroin daily and still be a productive, safe member of society. The problems come from forcing them into back alleys to buy their drug and keepi

      • by Ol Olsoc (1175323)

        I don't quite understand why people feel that intoxicants are inherently bad. I don't use them, but I don't share the moral objection to them.

        There are many people with a strong streak of Calvinism in their makeup. Anything that is pleasurable is immediately considered evil.

        It crops up in so many places. The temperance movement was one. The Comstock laws are another. The Harrison act, and the war on drugs is yet another.

        Even in more legal circles we see a lot of hate toward e-cigarettes. No particular health hazards, no second had smoke, allows ex smokers to improve their health.

        But it really pisses off three groups; those who have been t

    • Re:Not all good (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Charliemopps (1157495) on Monday November 11, 2013 @08:21PM (#45396549)

      This begs the question: If a drug has no pain for indulgence, and you can turn off the effect almost immediately with a counter-acting dose... Does it matter if you're addicted to it? Do we have a problem with people using drugs of their own free will if those drugs have no negative impact on their lives?

      • This begs the question: If a drug has no pain for indulgence, and you can turn off the effect almost immediately with a counter-acting dose... Does it matter if you're addicted to it? Do we have a problem with people using drugs of their own free will if those drugs have no negative impact on their lives?

        It is that last line that is the problem... Addiction does have a negative impact. That is the defining characteristic. Some examples here... http://listverse.com/2010/11/07/top-10-cases-of-extreme-game-addiction/ [listverse.com]

      • by reub2000 (705806)

        Simply put, an addiction is the continued use of a drug despite clear negative effects. If you take away the negative effects, then they aren't really addicted. Kind of like the millions of perfectly functional people that depend on caffeine.

    • by JanneM (7445)

      The hangover seems to come too late to reliably cause an aversive association to alcohol. One idea behind Antabus is that the negative reaction happens quickly enough to be useful. Of course, I'd expect it would also cause an aversive reaction to the medication as well.

    • by gl4ss (559668)

      ...so, do you have a reason to not be drunk without ill effects? if wouldn't be bad for your health, what would be so bad about being wasted in the evenings, really?

      and anyways, real alcoholists have to keep drinking to avoid the hangover that might get them killed... it's true, it can happen to real alcoholists, pink elephants and all - that's why proper doctors who get a patient who needs to go sober but who has been drinking nonstop for month+ don't do cold turkey on them(or if they do they pump them ful

  • by neminem (561346) <neminem AT gmail DOT com> on Monday November 11, 2013 @06:36PM (#45395763) Homepage

    The effects of alcohol are occasionally fun to experience, but what aren't fun are a. attempting to get drunk and failing because it takes a lot, b. attempting to get drunk, overshooting and being too drunk, and c. even after drinking exactly the right amount, getting a hangover because you had to drink a lot to get there. I totally applaud this research.

    That said, this is apparently also very old [livescience.com], so I'm not holding my breath ever seeing this in reality. (That is a link to basically the same synopsis of the same guy's research, from 2006.)

    • That said, this is apparently also very old [livescience.com], so I'm not holding my breath ever seeing this in reality. (That is a link to basically the same synopsis of the same guy's research, from 2006.)

      Shows what he claims; the business of producing alcohol for consumption is blocking his research and efforts.
      In a Nutt shell he's fighting Budwiser, just one of the many companies that would involve themselves in blocking this.

  • by bob_super (3391281) on Monday November 11, 2013 @06:37PM (#45395769)

    "the effects can be quickly reversed"
    It's called RU-486

    *ducks*

  • Will Prof Nut's concoction taste this good?
    • by DaveAtFraud (460127) on Monday November 11, 2013 @06:54PM (#45395919) Homepage Journal

      Will Prof Nut's concoction taste this good?

      I know it's a rhetorical question but can't stand not answering with a decided *NO*. I've tried both "near beer" and "non-alcoholic wine" and neither tastes anything like the real thing. They aren't even poor substitutes; they're horrible.

      Professor Nut seems to think that the only reason people drink is to get drunk. He definitely needs to expand his circle of drinking companions as well as what he drinks.

      Lastly, I would be afraid that his cure would be worse than the disease. This sounds like the next "date rape" drug.

      Cheers,
      Dave

      • Try Texas-Select Non-Alcoholic Beer. If you can stomach most American "Beers" then that one is pretty close to the real thing.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      That depends on your tastes...

    • I have a can of Natural Ice here, and have a similar question to ask.

  • Dunno, but it looks like these guys [slashdot.org] would be an obvious choice. Does the good Dr accept Bitcoins?
  • Proffessor Nut?

    you don't say.

  • It is known that certain forms of alcohol (real ale, Wine) have anti cancer elements, drinking moderately extends life. With all this removed you are just left with the drug.

    Perhaps the one which reverses the effect of being drunk has more promise (ready to drive home), but again if abused, as I am sure it would be, the kidneys still have to work, if the person is able to drink more it is perhaps less healthy.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 11, 2013 @06:42PM (#45395825)

    I've heard the drinks industry is allegedly involved against the decriminalization of pot. For obvious reasons.

    I'd consider pot an already researched and much better alchohol substitute too, but each to their own.

  • Taste vs Effect (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lanforod (1344011) on Monday November 11, 2013 @06:49PM (#45395875)
    I don't drink Alcohol for the effect/buzz etc. I drink it for the taste. I love a cold beer, or nice rum n coke, a scotch on the rocks, or a glass of pinot noir, all depending on the situation. The buzz can be nice, but that's more what the teenagers drink for, IMO.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anne_Nonymous (313852)

      What's interesting is that the alcohol is such an important part of the taste of these drinks. I did an unfortunately large amount of research to find my wife a decent tasting NA beer to drink while pregnant (yes, I know there's still some alcohol in NA beer). And even the best of them (IMHO Thomasbrau, by Paulaner), just didn't taste right without the alcohol. I'd say the same of red wine where I did less extensive tasting and could find no NA wines that were even in the acceptable range.

    • Re:Taste vs Effect (Score:4, Insightful)

      by chameleon3 (801105) <thishastobeafake@gmail.com> on Monday November 11, 2013 @08:40PM (#45396645)

      I don't drink Alcohol for the effect/buzz etc. I drink it for the taste.

      I love the taste of alcohol, too, but the buzz is part of the reason we got to liking it in the first place-- simple classical conditioning.

    • Interestingly, I can't stand the taste of alcohol. I'm not sure why, but beer, wine, and any other alcoholic beverage just tastes awful to me. I can stand some mixed drinks where the alcohol flavor is masked, but that's about it. I also can't stand anything carbonated - feels like it's burning my tongue.

      Granted, I don't think I'd be the market for the alcohol substitute since I wouldn't be looking for the intoxicating effects of alcohol in the first place.

  • Nutt, not Nut (Score:5, Informative)

    by Okian Warrior (537106) on Monday November 11, 2013 @06:50PM (#45395889) Homepage Journal

    First of all, it's Professor David Nutt, not "Nut"

    Second of all, it's the same Professor who was a British government advisor, who was sacked [theguardian.com] for "criticising politicians for distorting research evidence and claiming alcohol and tobacco were more harmful than some illegal drugs, including LSD, ecstasy and cannabis."

    Seems like a scientist with integrity. Perhaps this is less the risible ramblings of a madnam, and more he's at the "...then they laugh at you" part of fighting the good fight.

    (Unless, of course, you think LSD and cannabis are more damaging than alcohol and tobacco, in which case feel free to poke fun.)

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Thank you, came here to make that point.

      Yes, Prof Nutt is a remarkable sane, evidence based, thinking person. That's why he got fired by the UK government, he looked at the evidence and told the truth. That didn't mesh.

      A large amount of the political pressure was from the then-hysteria over Ecstacy (MDMA), mostly led by the papers. One of his conclusions was that the sheer scale of usage, and the relatively few deaths (probably less than 10 high profile ones from memory) meant that it was statistically s

  • After their success with Olestra [wikipedia.org], I'm sure they have eager investors on speed-dial with money to burn on the next artificial-vice-substitute.

  • it's Nutt, you nut (Score:5, Informative)

    by SuperElectric (754754) on Monday November 11, 2013 @06:53PM (#45395917)
    Former member of the UK government's drugs advisory panel, until some pol fired him for pointing out (correctly) that the health risks of horseback riding outweigh those of doing ecstasy. He's the author of Drugs Without the Hot Air, a fantastic book. http://boingboing.net/2012/06/20/drugs-without-the-hot-air.html [boingboing.net]
  • Higher alcohols... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jasno (124830) on Monday November 11, 2013 @06:58PM (#45395957) Journal

    There are many substances that effect our bodies in ways that are similar or complimentary to ethanol. Many of those substances are already present in fermented products like wine and beer. Some of those are higher weight alcohols(i.e. - fusel oils) like http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tert-Amyl_alcohol [wikipedia.org] or http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tryptophol [wikipedia.org]. There are other components too, such as the chemicals found in hops. Most of these compounds do not metabolize into acetaldehyde so they do not result in a traditional hangover.

  • Or maybe it's because it's very easy and cheap to get yeast to produce your alcohol for you. Might be ok as a replacement for distilled spirits, but imagine how expensive synth-beer would cost if manufacturers had to pay some chemical company for the added synthehol. Not to mention how it would be nearly impossible to replicate the flavor (think non-alcoholic beer).
  • I don't get hangovers. This is a genetic trait, shared by many serious alcoholics (rather than just opportunist ones like pop-stars), related to the balance between different alcohol-processing metabolic pathways in my body.

    If you are interested in my genes, send me some money and your address, and I can stick a sample in an envelope for you. Group discounts negotiable. If you all accidentally raise sociopaths, or in fact if anything at all happens, I take no responsibility at all.
    • same here, no hangovers thanks to generations of alcoholics pruning the family tree. Fortunately I find the feeling of being too-drunk an adequate deterrent.

      I am _not_ offering samples as the process would be significantly more challenging and unpleasant for me than for fatphil here. :-)

  • Good luck getting that past the FDA. They frown on new 'mind alternating' chemicals.

  • "Scientist Seeks Investment For "Alcohol Substitute" "

    Yea, it's called POT. We've had it for a very long time.

  • by PPH (736903) on Monday November 11, 2013 @08:21PM (#45396553)

    The intoxication wears off.

  • by Hartree (191324) on Monday November 11, 2013 @09:59PM (#45397109)

    "subjectively indistinguishable from alcohol intoxication"

    So to do that, too much would have to make you pee a lot, fall down the stairs and wake up in your own vomit, but no hangover?

    Now there's a selling point for you.

  • by smaddox (928261)

    Where's the soma?

    Although I guess you could argue salvia is basically soma, but it's now illegal in (I'm pretty sure) every state. I'm still confused why alcohol and tobacco have been excused from the morality legislation. I guess they just got the lucky break of being the state approved soma.

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