There are been a few articles in press recently about a synthetic ‘hangover free’ alcohol that Professor Nutt of Imperial College London is predicting will replace alcohol within a generation. The reason? It is alleged to be hangover free.
In fact very little is known about the compounds themselves insofar as they affect human beings; there is no published research on them so it is very difficult to provide any reasoned comment on this, as best as I can make out idea is that this synthetic alcohol will have much the same effect as alcohol except that when the human body processes it there will be no resulting build up of acetaldehyde as there is with alcohol. It is this acetaldehyde that causes the sickness and headache aspect of the hangover.
The press seems very interested in this and Professor Nutt is obviously a very intelligent and well respected public figure, and this is one of those situations when I am left wondering if it is me that is being particularly obtuse, or everyone else. There are some questions that seem so obvious that I can’t believe no one else has thought to raise them. Specifically:
- The hangover is the one things that stops many people drinking to excess. By removing it aren’t you simply encouraging people to drink more?
- The compounds in this ‘synthetic alcohol’ are still chemical depressants, so presumable the human brain will seek to counter them by releasing stimulants (for more detail on this point see Chapter 2 of Alcohol Explained which can be found here). So wont this synthetic alcohol still be as addictive as alcohol, if not more so, as people will be able to drink more of it without becoming hungover?
- As we know the brain will still seek to counter the depressive effects of the alcohol with stimulants and when the depressive effects wear off the stimulants will still remain. This is what causes the disturbed sleep and tiredness the day after drinking. I very rarely got headaches and sickness when I drank, the main symptom of my hangover was tiredness and lethargy. So won’t this symptom still remain? If so synthetic alcohol isn’t really ‘hangover free’ is it?
- Following on from this another major hangover symptom is the feeling of anxiety and worry we have the day after drinking that is a result of the left over stimulants. Again presumably this aspect will remain?
- Presumably these synthetic compounds will have a similar affect on the limbic system as alcohol with the result that it will lead to emotional instability (more information of this aspect can be found here). Won’t allowing people to be able to drink more lead to more emotional instability, which is the cause of alcohol related violence, crime, domestic violence, child abuse, etc?
- The government guidelines recommend drinking no more than one or two drinks a day. The alcohol industry itself (on the face of it at least) supports this position and encourages ‘responsible drinking’ (whatever that may be). It you drink within these limits you don’t get utterly intoxicated and you don’t get hangovers. So presumably the whole point in synthetic alcohol is to allow people to ignore the ‘responsible drinking’ guidelines and get utterly intoxicated?
The whole point of this synthetic alcohol seems to be to allow people to drink irresponsibly, because if you are drinking responsibly you won’t be getting a hangover anyway. If you introduce something that allows people to drink to excess without having a hanger aren’t you just exacerbating all the ill effects of alcohol on individuals and society as a whole?
Please tell me, am I just missing something obvious here or is this just absolutely insane?!?