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Professor McNutt Develops a Pill He Says Make Hangovers an Agony of the Past

By Beenthere2Hippie, Mar 8, 2015 | Updated: Jan 1, 2016 | | |
  1. Beenthere2Hippie
    Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall, and hangovers follow Friday nights with the bouldering inevitability of a runaway freight train, except louder and fuelled by ill-advised Long Island Iced Teas. It’s an unfair succession of events that plagues mankind, to be repeated ad infinitum. But hey, that’s just the circle of life… or something.

    That is unless David Nutt, neuropsychopharmacology professor at Imperial College London and former government drugs adviser, has his way. Earlier this year, he revealed two new drugs that mimic the sensation of being drunk without the regrettable side effects, and reduce the impact of alcohol. The eternal question of whether to have one more glass of wine, even though it is Sunday evening and you haven’t washed your good shirt for tomorrow, may have just been solved.

    The first of Nutt’s wonder drugs is “alscosynth,” a non-toxic inebriant drink that induces the same I-reeeeally-luuuurve-you-man effects of alcohol, but carries no risk of hangover, aggression, loss of control or any of the general mess that comes from hammering your liver with a toxic compound.

    “It targets the parts of the brain that give the good effects of alcohol but not those that give the bad effects,” explains Nutt, who hopes the alcohol substitute will be marketed as a companion to regular alcoholic drinks, and be relatively cheap to buy. However, there are concerns about the safety of alcosynth, a benzodiazepine derivative and a substance in the same family as Valium, which some experts say can be harder to withdraw from than heroin.

    Nutt maintains alcosynth does not have the same withdrawal symptoms as Valium, explaining that it “doesn’t interact with those receptors that cause addiction to benzodiazepines.” When asked for an opinion on the risks of alcosynth if marketed to the general public, a spokesperson from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society said: “Unfortunately, we just don’t know enough about how it works to give informed comment.”

    It’s not the first time Nutt’s work has been met with question. In 2009, the neuropsychopharmacologist was criticised for suggesting that ecstasy is no more dangerous than horse-riding. Nutt’s second drug is described as a “chaperone,” which can reduce the effects of alcohol on the body. If the pill is taken before drinking, it is impossible to become drunk “to the point of incapacitation,” i.e. drunk enough to think hassling the DJ to play “Single Ladies” for “all my girls” is a good idea. If made widely available, the pill could be used as a quick way to sober up after a night out and may even reduce the risk of drink driving, although Nutt notes that the price would need to be set high to avoid abuse.

    But Nutt’s new drugs aren’t just enablers for midweek partying. The professor also stresses alcosynth’s potential as an alcohol addiction treatment. “I would hope alcoholism would disappear as people stopped using alcohol,” he says. “But before that, alcoholics might find alcosynth helps them reduce their drinking.”

    While the NHS condones medications such as acamprosate—a drug that affects the levels of gamma-amino-butyric acid (GABA) in the brain—to prevent relapse in people who have successfully achieved abstinence from alcohol, there is debate over the treatment of alcohol addiction with drugs. “There is a role for prescription drugs in helping people who are alcohol dependant or regularly drinking to excess,” says Jackie Ballard, Chief Executive of Alcohol Concern. “However, the main problem facing the UK is the culture in which booze is advertised everywhere, sold cheaply almost anywhere at any time, and where people often find it difficult to resist peer pressure to drink alcohol.”

    Indeed, many see stricter advertising and retail laws, not medication, as a way to reduce alcohol abuse. Last month, the Irish government announced it would set a minimum price for alcohol, something Health Minister Leo Varadkar described as “a response to the fact that the majority of Irish adults drink too much and many drink very dangerously.”

    Whether wonder drug or wrong direction, it’s still early days for alcosynth and the chaperone pill. While Nutt has applied for 85 new chemical compounds in the alcosynth and chaperone families to be licensed to DrugsScience and the Beckley Foundation, legal and human trial costs for the drugs are expected to reach £1 million, and Nutt has yet to secure a backer. But maybe that’s a good thing. Do we really want to experience a synthesised state of sub-drunkness? Should we be able to live hedonistic, Tequila-soaked existences with zero consequences for any of our alcoholic excess?

    Actually, that sounds pretty good.

    By Phoebe Hurst - Munchies/March 2, 2015
    Art: Detroit Hangover by Mack Galixtar/fineart.com
    Newshawk Crew

    Author Bio

    BT2H is a retired news editor and writer from the NYC area who, for health reasons, retired to a southern US state early, and where BT2H continues to write and to post drug-related news to DF.


  1. RoboCodeine7610
    It sounds intriguing, but I can't find any sort of reference to the compound by the name of "alcosynth" except in similar articles, and none of them mention it's pharmacology. I'm very interested to see just how "alcosynth", in the chemist's own words will:

    and yet:

  2. malsat
    I'd be more interested to see how his claim that it doesn't cause withdrawal symptoms pans out. How can it 'target those parts of the brain that give alcohol's good effects' while it “doesn’t interact with those receptors that cause addiction to benzodiazepines"?

    Also, if it inebriates you in the same dampen-down-the-brain's-activity way as alcohol is supposed to, how can it not have an increased risk of aggression? Doesn't anything that lowers inhibitions increase the possibility of aggression in the right circumstances?

    Although, having said that, I sure hope it works out and he gets it to market (probably pretty unlikely) because almost anything would be better than alcohol as the socially acceptable recreational substance.
  3. malsat
    If anyone finds a paper or patent that he's published I'd be interested to see it. A quick search only turned up myriad articles like the one above.
  4. Healer
  5. rhinograde
    I've done a little sleuthing. My guess is that alcosynth is the substance etizolam. Why do I think that? If you read the article of David Nutt:

    The guardian blog, feb 27 2014: david-nutt-drink-alcohol-substitute-safer-intoxicant

    It says a couple of things:

    1. Nutt's alcohol substitute is a benzodiazepine derivative
    2. "The drug is already used in humans for other indications, he adds."
    3. "I am confident that the physically addictive properties of this drug are minimal, and that it is much less addictive than alcohol"
    4. Remarkably, he has also created an antidote, or "sober-up pill".

    OK, if we start with this list of benzodiazepine derivatives:

    Wikipedia: List_of_benzodiazepines

    If you look on this list, you want to look for the ones that:
    - are used for other indications, so in the column "Common Brand Names" I expect a brand name.
    - have a short "time to peak"
    - has an "Elimination half-life" that's not too large (if people would stay intoxicated for too long it wouldn't mimic the effect of alcohol)
    - it should have a couple of effects of alcohol: anxiolytic, hypnotic, amnesic, muscle relaxant, anticonvulsant
    of which hypnotic, amnesic and muscle relaxant would be the most important I reckon.

    Now read somewhere else on the drugs-forum: (id 117000)

    It's about some people's experiences with etizolam.

    I quote:
    - "I found some literature which indicates that etizolam has less dependency and tolerance liability than the "classical" benzodiazepines. This finding is based on data with mice"
    - "This was one of the most recreational of these types of drugs swim has taken"
    - " Etizolam also has antidepressant properties, according to the manufacturer's label, and the reason it does not cause the somewhat woozy feeling caused by diazepam is because it has an affinity for the a2 sub-type of the GABAa receptors. According to the leaflet, it is therefore less likely to result in dependence"
    - "Withdrawal does not cause up-regulation of a4 sub-unit when compared to lorazepam, and this supposedly makes it much less likely to become addictive or to cause dependency and / or tolerance."

    Reading all this, this makes it a very likely candidate to be "alcosynth". Further, a likely candidate for the antidote ("sober-up pill") is Flumazenil, a specific benzodiazepine antagonist.

    I didn't have time to look at all the benzodiazepines derivatives on the wikipedia list, but this one seemed the most logical.

    But do note one thing: this is very potent stuff, much more potent than the other benzodiazepines.
    Also read this thread on drugs-forum: (id 224840)

    He specifically warns not to use it with alcohol, this increases the effect..
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