Speaking as a graduate – or in other words, a recent Jagerbomb-drinking machine – the thought of spending a Saturday night (or a Monday – why the hell not) drunk and not faced with a hangover seems too good (far, far too good) to be true. To know that what follows an evening of revealing our true love for that awful chart song, hitting on that guy who’s probably a 4 but our beer goggles tell us an 8, and deciding a bar stool is a good place to take a nap, is not a painful stabbing headache, would be a Godsend.
So when I heard news of a new pill which mimics the effect of alcohol without the horrendous morning-after side effects, my first thoughts turned to where I could order my years prescription. Manufactured to target the neurotransmitter GABA which acts upon selective receptors, the pill blocks the activation of pathways which lead to the unwanted side effects experienced from heavy drinking, such as headaches and nausea1, 2, 3. On paper, it sounds like the perfect remedy for a night spent staggering home when you have a gruesome presentation at 8am the following morning. Or at that staff do where you drink far too much and blow out on a cab home. This hangover-less discovery may give rise to not-so-drunk driving.
The progression of tipsy to hammered on this pill would require over-stimulation of the GABA receptors in the brain, the action of which leads to impaired motor function and slurred speech3. Surely these effects, then, could be increased to dangerous levels? It is already known that the fatal effects of alcohol such as respiratory failure are due to a rise in ethanol in the blood so without the intoxicating effects of alcohol, is there still a chance of overdosing on this pill? Possibly, as the alcohol-induced sickess is usually what results in us saying ‘no’ to another round. The current ‘breathalyzer’ method of testing for drink driving – which measures blood alcohol content – would become ineffective and money would subsequently have to be pumped into devising a replacement. Yet the potential long term benefits are enormous; everything from decreased liver damage to reduction in cases of fetal alcohol syndrome.
I would assume then, if this pill makes it through clinical trials and eventually onto the market, there would be no need for high percentage alcoholic drinks, eradicating the stomach-turning taste that comes with them. So would this mean a trip to the local pub ends up with us all ordering a pill alongside a fruit smoothie? With it being safe to say that not all alcohol tastes great, it does (for whatever ridiculous reasons) leave us wanting more… and more. I’m pretty sure a line of tequila shots wouldn’t nearly be as tempting if they each tasted like a Viennese whirl. There’s just something exciting about drinking something horrific right? Especially realising you can drink four times more of a foul-flavoured liquid than that hench lad who you’ve engaged in a competition with. However, the thought of what might happen without the ‘this tastes disgusting, I should probably stop’ barrier is, predictably, worrying. Typically, I guess it’s better to know that the stuff you’re putting in your body actually tastes as bad as its effects are.
But still, would the idea of being able to pop a pill into an apple juice carton and drink without the consequences be publically embraced? Probably. And if these were readily available to buy across a bar with, significantly cheaper, alcohol-free beer, would I be the first one to buy a round? Of course.
1 Alcohol without the hangover? Its’ closer than you think (Nov 2013) The Guardian http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/nov/11/alcohol-benefits-no-dangers-closer-think
2 Get drunk without the hangover on Professer Nutt’s pill (Nov 2013) The Telegraph http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/10442298/Get-drunk-without-the-hangover-on-Professor-Nutts-pill.html
3 Davies, M. (2003) The role of GABAA receptors in mediating the effects of alcohol in the central nervous system, J. Psychiatry Neurosci., 28: 263-274
Image from http://www.costaricantimes.com/the-broken-road-quieting-demons/18588 (Accessed 22 Nov 2013)