April 13, 2006

Potential alcohol substitute: would you choose to drink it?

I read an article in New Scientist this morning detailing the development of a new cocktail of drugs that mimics the neurological actions that cause the pleasurable effects of alcohol without causing any of the downsides. Whilst limiting the immediate adverse effects, such as violence and illness, it would also reduce the occurrence of longer-term problems like liver cirrhosis.

This all sounds like a fantastic idea, but I'm not sure I'm convinced that it will catch on. It started me thinking about my habits: I know I sometimes feel like I just need to go out and get a little pissed at the end of a long week, but most of the time I drink alcoholic beverages because I like the taste of them. What reason do people really have for drinking alcohol: is it for the love of the drinks themselves or the way that they affect you? What is it particularly about the state of drunkenness that is so attractive that we want to repeat it: many people still go out and binge drink despite often being ill and wasting days as a result of painful hangovers? Would there be a stigma associated with an alcohol substitute because it is an admission that you only like drinking because it gets you drunk?

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  1. Christopher Rossdale

    The stigma would take time, but it might go. Then again, you've got to consider why people drink. I do it because of the short term effect it gives me – but i know plenty that do it because of the harm it does – they want that part.

    13 Apr 2006, 13:15

  2. I feel the problem we have in this country (oh look at me sounding all high and mighty!) is that we associate alcohol with the wrong kind of atmosphere/effect. The reason we have such high levels of binge drinking/alcohol-related violence etc. is because drinking has become something in itself, to spend hours over of an evening. If we imitated some European cultures we might do better. They drink with meals and so not only is the alcohol more effectively soaked up, but they tend to drink in a slower and more civilised fashion. If we could disassociate drinking from having a good night out (something Europeans do too but without the excessive alcohol intake) then we might be onto a winner. Therefore, possibly a cocktail of drugs which give the effect of drunkenness might just be useful in that kind of situation. Although, like you, I know lots of people who enjoy drinking because of the taste, and without it, the effects of drinking would not be so enjoyable. I guess these drugs should be marketed to those who drink crap, strong alcohol to get drunk fast, and market it as something to have fun, but without the hangover in the morning.


    13 Apr 2006, 14:41

  3. Paul Hunter

    I have to agree that the European attitude to drinking is appealing to me….but by no means perfect. For example, drinking with a meal may well 'soak up' the alcohol, but it doesnt' remove it from your system, and therefore drink driving becomes a serious issue. Whereas at least when the British go out for a night on the lash there is much more of a tendancy to take a taxi/bus/tube or whatever.

    13 Apr 2006, 15:47

  4. James

    When first in the UK I did get a bit suckered into the drinking culture that prevails here, particularly amongst city workers. Combined with the hours and travel, it lead me as with many others to a lowering health standard, since there wasn't time for the gym or other training. I've made some amends since, but you have to be prepared (as I always am) to offend people, in this case those so myopic that they can't understand how you could have an enjoyable night out without drinking. I come from a country with little public transport, hence someone has to drive and being the designated driver is a way of life.

    One trick I have pulled on myself and others is to develop an interest in finer forms of alcohol, in particular wine. Once one become more discerning: (i) drinks cost more so you drink less; (ii) you aren't satisfied with cheap substitues so will decline the opportunity of drinking rather than settle for less; and (iii) it provides a further rebuttal to the social ass who berates you for not joining a round of vodka shots.

    I say this all, of course, snoozing in front of the computer after two pints and a curry. Do as I say, not as I do.

    13 Apr 2006, 16:00

  5. as i've just had a nice glass of red with some smoked salmon blinies (2for1 and reduced to clear respectively) I must say, drinking with food is far more pleasurable in general, and any weird cocktail of alcohol substitutes isn't likely to go well with anything…

    13 Apr 2006, 18:26

  6. As a borderline alcoholic and one who is generally interested in the way Drink (with a capital D) is made i feel in a position to comment. Firstly it'll never work. The brewing industry has long been aware of the various toxins etc in beer and have been able to manipulate them accordingly. It is i am told possible to create a beer with very few morning after effects but often choose not to as if you don't have a hangover how can you prove you went out and drank ten pints the night before.

    However the vast majority of Drink derives its alcoholic effects from a natural or naturalish process taking say grape juice and leaving it to ferment, or by taking water hops and malt and and adding a yeast culture. What i am trying to say is it is a natural process not an industrial one that involves scientists using artifical chemicals. This is not always the case but often is to some extent. People have drunk natural alcohols for thousands of years sometimes we drink to much sometimes not enough but thats life, after all it is a drug and a damn tasty one at that.

    I do agree with Zoe though an alcohol substitute would have a place in alco-pops Kommisar vodka etc which derive their alcohol from industrial processes but a european drinking culture i'm not so sure. Much more interesting is what underlys our culture of drinking and how different are the drinking patterns of differnt classes and age groups. Also if we had a more "european" society could we please have between twelve and three off everyday to recover, and do a bit less work overall. Persoanlly i think our excess drinking culture and more importantly the violence which springs from it is on the whole is due to lager, it just makes people angry. Ban lager. Job done. I like the odd stella but forgoing is a good trade off for having a "better" society. And reduce the age of drinking in bars to 14 or 15.

    I fancy a whisky…mmm thats better

    15 Apr 2006, 19:12

  7. Dwayne

    I am unfortunate enough to have done myself some damage as a result of drinking too much too often. Now I cannot drink for a year or I risk having to get a pacemaker (I am 26). BZP is legal here in New Zealand, so I take them instead of drinking when I go out. If there was a alcohol substitute available, I'd defiantly be into it. I enjoy the feeling and am a happy drunk :)
    I believe there is a market for these pills, but it will by no means take over the drinking culture. "Men drink", that is what they do. It is beyond a social norm in many places, it is expected.
    I think putting them on the market will get a healthy response, but people generally drink for the social side of it. Sitting around drinking and talking is a great pass time, but without the alcohol it isn't the same. Simply taking pills for the effect doesn't lend the same amount of enjoyment as you aren't doing anything (as opposed to feeding your face with liquor). You might as well just take illegal drugs, the effect is better and the culture is about the same.

    09 Jun 2006, 02:37

  8. Colin

    I’ve stopped drinking alcohol for a number of reasons, and was looking for a substitute.
    Could you direct me to where you read that article, please?

    30 Sep 2006, 21:02

  9. http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg19025474.100-all-the-pleasures-of-alcohol-with-no-downsides.html

    30 Sep 2006, 22:41

  10. kelly bristow

    is there anything currently on the market or that we could get from our gp that would have the same effect as alcohol, but was not actually alcoholic, or something that would take the cravings away. i am an alcholic myself, and would love to find a similar alternative.

    05 Jun 2007, 12:19

  11. kelly bristow

    is there anything currently on the market or that we could get from our gp that would have the same effect as alcohol, but was not actually alcoholic, or something that would take the cravings away. i am an alcholic myself, and would love to find a similar alternative.

    05 Jun 2007, 12:19

  12. mixm8

    Hey Kelly,
    Ask your GP for “Campral” my hubby and I have been taking it for about 6 minths now and it deals with the cravings really well.

    13 Aug 2007, 22:10

  13. Mike

    The thing about alcohol is that it affect the whole family if one member of that family is an alcoholic.I have been trying to keep my wife alive and off the bottle and only came to realise lately that she is the only person who can change things.I have never heard of (Campral) or of new dugs which are an alcohol subtitute.Coming across this site is good news for me.My wife has the willpower but can’t beat the cravings.She always falls at the last hurdle.She feels like she is treat almost like a leaper when she visits her J.P. Maybe they will put her on a course of Campral to help.If anyone knows anywhere else where I can get help for her please reply.

    02 Sep 2007, 13:49

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