QJScience: A drinking substitute?

It’s probably not hard to imagine spending an evening predrinking with friends, walking downtown to a bar where you continue drinking and then trudging back home at 3 a.m. What might be hard to imagine, however, is waking up the next morning feeling wonderful and even good enough to hit the gym. Well, according to British scientist Dr. David Nutt, this could be a very real possibility in the near future.

Dr. Nutt has created an alcohol substitute which allows you to experience the enjoyable aspects associated with drinking, such as relaxation, but doesn’t induce the less-than-desirable effects such as aggression, addiction and hangovers. Furthermore, he claims it won’t be harmful to vital organs. He’s also created an antidote pill that quickly sobers you up.

Details of how his new inventions specifically work haven’t been released, and he’s planning on starting rigorous trials this month in order to make this substitute as effective and safe as possible, with the hopes that investors will soon develop the product. His discovery came about in an attempt to prevent alcoholism, which he has been studying for more than two decades.

But, similar to most new discoveries, this one brings up a lot of controversy. First and foremost, although it may not be physically addicting in the same way alcohol is, it seems it could certainly encourage people to go out ‘drinking’ more frequently if they are guaranteed to avoid a hangover and to sober up whenever they choose.

Furthermore, there are countless side effects that come with drinking, so it’s unlikely that this substitute will be able to address every single one. This means the substitute will only focus on some of the side effects, which some scientists have deemed ‘purely naïve’. It’s also important to remember that every individual reacts differently to alcohol, so creating a substitute that’s universally effective certainly seems like a stretch.

However, similar products that have shown to be effective do exist on the market today. For example, electronic cigarettes convert a flavoured liquid into a vapour which you inhale in order to help you quit smoking.

While Dr. Nutt works toward the development of this product, I think it will be important to keep in mind it’s likely that this substitute will have at least some toxic effects and negative consequences. Perhaps all it’s doing is eliminating a number of negative side effects while introducing others.

Finally, is it fair that people should be able to avoid the negative effects of alcohol consumption by simply taking a substitute or popping a pill? Isn’t part of being human learning how to lead a balanced life and growing through mistakes and experiences?

Maybe we should stop and think about this before jumping at the thought of being able to have a wild night of drinking and then hitting the gym the next morning.

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