Hangovers and alcohol are as inseparable as night and day. No matter how good the idea of slamming Sambuca on a sticky club bar might seem, we all have the horrific reality of spending the next morning rocking gently back and forth over a toilet to remind us that all actions have consequences. As fun as drinking is, it’s always tempered by the knowledge that it’s all bound to go south once the booze stops flowing.
Given that humanity has been struggling with hangovers for thousands of years, it’s slightly surprising that we have yet to come up with anything approaching a cure. Though legends like hair of the dog and greasy breakfasts provide small crumbs of psychological support, the truth is that they’re all fairly crap solutions to the central problem. However, after millennia spent feeling sorry for ourselves on a Saturday, there are signs that we may be on the verge of a major hangover breakthrough.
According to a team of scientists from the world famous neuropsychopharmacology unit at Imperial College London, there is every chance that within five years we could all be able to get drunk without ever having to worry about getting a hangover. The team, led by legendary scientist Professor David Nutt, claim that the key to hangover-free boozing lies in a newly created artificial alcohol molecule, christened “Alcarelle”.
As Professor Nutt explained in an interview with The Guardian newspaper, Alcarelle is much more than a regretful reveler’s pipedream. Work began on the project as early as 1983, when then-PHD student Nutt accidentally discovered a drug that reversed the effect of drunkenness. From there, he set about attempting to isolate “where in the brain alcohol has its ‘good’ and ‘bad’ effects,” such as tipsiness, lack of coordination and, unfortunately, illness. With his new substance, Nutt believes that he has created something that can produce all the “positive” effects of a drink, without any of the drawbacks.
This is not the first time that Nutt has found himself at the centre of an argument about alcohol. The Professor lost his job as the government’s chief advisor on drugs after he made a series of controversial statements in 2009 - claiming, among other things, that ecstasy was less dangerous than horse riding. Later that year, Nutt published a piece for the medical journal The Lancet, where he outlined how alcohol was demonstrably more damaging to society than heroin or crack cocaine. This new project is just the latest in a long line of attempts to change our relationship with booze.
As tempting as the idea of an hangover-free bender might be, Nutt stresses that we aren’t there yet. Though he and his whole team have all tried Alcarelle, Nutt believes that the product will not be ready for public consumption until at least 2024. Though in ordinary circumstances, testing and certification would take around three years, Nutt emphasises that the uniqueness of the product means that the process is likely to take longer. However long we end up waiting, if Alcarelle can do what Nutt claims, our relationship with booze may be about to change forever.