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Alcohol without the hangover? This scientist is testing booze without the nasty side effects

FILE: Beer is poured into a mug.
German prosecutors say three men died after drinking heavily at a Christmas party and apparently passing out in a sauna. . Getty Images

TORONTO – What is drinking without the hangover? A British doctor says he’s creating a drink that’s like alcohol and offers just as much relaxation, with any nasty side effects erased by a pill.

It sounds too good to be true but a professor is promising “healthy alcohol” could be on the market within just two years. That’s only if he pulls together enough funding.

Global News explains the doctor’s science behind his claims, how it could affect drinkers and the mixed reaction this proposed drink is getting.

Who is the doctor attempting to make this ‘healthy alcohol’?

Dr. David Nutt is a professor at the Imperial College London’s Centre for Pharmacology and Therapeutics.

He’s spent most of his career helping alcoholics, but it was his comments made in 2009 as a U.K. government drug advisor that’s most notable. That year, he said that marijuana, ecstasy and LSD are less harmful than alcohol and cigarettes while other reports even say that he said ecstasy is no more dangerous than riding a horse.

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How would Nutt’s “healthy alcohol” work?

In an editorial, Nutt says that crafting such a concoction comes from understanding neuroscience and how the compounds in alcohol affect our brains.

Alcohol plays with our neurotransmitter systems, relaxing users and helping them let their guards down.

READ MORE: Alcohol advertising linked to ‘increased’ drinking in adolescent girls, Canadian doctor warns

Nutt says he believes he’s identified five compounds that can act as alcohol surrogates, offering users the same feel-good highs alcohol gives without the side effects, such as aggression and addictiveness.

“The challenge is to prepare the new drink in a fashion that makes it as tasty and appealing. This is likely to be in the form of a cocktail, so I foresee plenty of different flavours,” he writes in the Guardian.

READ MORE: Could personality in childhood predict how teens will respond to drinking?

Users would drink Nutt’s “healthy alcohol” then take a pill, acting as an antidote, that would get rid of any hangover symptoms.

He said he’s sampled both new forms – the drink left him “sleepily inebriated” while the antidote left him alert and ready to lecture.

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What has been the reaction to the alcohol substitute?

So far, the response from consumers, industry and watchdogs in the U.K. has been lukewarm.

Alcohol Concern, a U.K. charity, says that it’s worried people would become addicted to the alcohol substitute. Other groups worry that drivers may forget to take the antidote pill, leaving them vulnerable on their way home.

READ MORE:  Teens’ drinking habits influenced by Hollywood movies: study

“We would urge caution on this,” she said. “We agree that alcohol is a serious burden to the country. But we would urge the Government to invest in policies that we know work, such as minimum unit pricing and advertising restrictions,” the deputy chief executive Emily Robinson told the Telegraph.

“We should focus on what is going wrong in our drinking culture rather than swapping potentially one addictive substance for another.”

Meanwhile, the Telegraph offered an editorial titled, “The whole point of drinking is the hangover.”

carmen.chai@globalnews.ca

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