March 8, 2015


Why the government should fund research into finding a replacement for alcohol (Ryan Cooper, March 5, 2015, The Week)

Roughly 18 million Americans have an alcohol use disorder, and about half the country has a close family member with a current or previous alcohol addiction.

Something like a third of convicted people in jail or prison were drinking when they committed their crime, and nearly 40 percent of violent criminals. Two-thirds of domestic violence victims report alcohol was involved. That doesn't necessarily mean all those crimes would not have happened without alcohol, but given its effects on impulse control, it's safe to say it was a big factor.

Worldwide in 2012, according to the World Health Organization, alcohol caused 3.3 million deaths, or 5.9 percent of the total. But alcohol was responsible for about a quarter of all deaths among people aged 20 to 39. In the U.S., alcohol accounts for almost 90,000 deaths yearly; it is the third-place finisher among causes of preventable death.

Alcohol also has many benefits. In minor doses it has some protective effects on the cardiovascular system, and may reduce the risk of kidney stones and gallstones.

Its primary benefits are probably social, however. Alcohol lubricates gatherings. Loosened inhibitions help people strike up conversations and become friends. Dedicated communities get great pleasure out of the complex flavors of scotch, beer, wine, and other drinks. And as I will be the first to testify, a nice buzz feels pretty good! I am certainly not in favor of reinstating full-scale prohibition.

But that brings us to the question: would it be possible to discover another drug with similar properties to alcohol, but without its toxic side effects? Dr. David Nutt is working on that question right now. Like the famed drug chemist Alexander Shulgin, who developed more than 200 new psychedelic drugs, Nutt has filed for patents on some 85 different compounds, and claims to have a new one called "alcosynth" that mimics alcohol's buzz without the long-term damage. He's got another that can apparently help people sober up quickly and prevent hangovers.

Posted by at March 8, 2015 10:29 AM

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