The small liquid shot would give the same lift as a few drinks after work. But those enjoying its benefits could then take an antidote before driving home. There would be no hangover and no damage to the liver.
David Nutt, chairman of the government’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs until he was dismissed last year, is developing his synthetic alcohol at Imperial College London.
He says the “Nutt slammer” could be on the market by the end of 2012 if money is available for clinical trials. It would provide all the pleasures of alcohol with no downsides.
It would need licensing, however, and the trials could cost as much as £10m. It could also pose serious questions for lawmakers over whether it is a safe drug to take before getting behind the wheel.
Britain’s £20 billion-a-year drinks industry is likely to want it banned from sale in pubs. Legally it might need a pharmacist to sell it. The government might also balk at losing tax revenues from lower sales of alcohol. But the neuropsychopharmacologist — nicknamed “the Nutty Professor” by critics — says Britain’s binge-drinking problems cost the National Health Service £3 billion a year.
His alternative would cut the number of deaths from alcohol poisoning and liver disease and help to reduce stomach ulcers and heart disease.
It is based on drugs known as benzodiazepines or “benzos”, which include Valium and temazepam. The prototype is in the form of a tablet or injection.
Nutt envisages it being marketed as a tasteless liquid shot to mix with a fruity drink. The synthetic alcohol works on the nerves in the brain that make people feel relaxed. Rather than getting drunk, they would stay in a pleasant state of mild inebriation.
Nutt claims there are no risks associated with long-term use of benzos. Other doctors disagree and point to people with addictions to drugs, including 1.5m people in the UK believed to be addicted to tranquillisers.
Critics say there is nothing to stop someone taking the new drink, getting tipsy and forgetting to take the antidote before starting to drive. Nutt argues that the police could be given supplies of the antidote to sober people up.
“Modern science can now provide a safer way for us to have fun,” Nutt said.Google+