Psychedelics Pioneer Creates Alcohol Substitute With No Toxicity
In 2009, David Nutt was dismissed from his role as England’s chief drug adviser when he claimed LSD and MDMA were less dangerous than alcohol. Though it’s surely a nuanced argument, Nutt was referring to the relative toxicity between the substances – a fact overshadowed by the cultural stigma surrounding them. And now he’s trying to take that conviction to market with an alcohol substitute called Alcarelle, which gives users the buzz without the horribly toxic side effects.
“The industry knows alcohol is a toxic substance,” said Nutt in an interview with the Guardian. “If it were discovered today, it would be illegal as a foodstuff. The safe limit of alcohol, if you apply food standards criteria, would be one glass of wine a year.”
This hasn’t slowed the consumption of alcohol as the trillion-dollar global industry continues to flourish. Meanwhile, alcohol is attributed to nearly 6 percent of all deaths globally every year – that’s about 3.3 million people killed from alcohol-related issues.
While Nutt’s career is marked by his many breakthroughs studying the psychologically therapeutic effects of psychedelics – and earning him the lengthy title of neuropsychopharmacologist – he’s had his idea for an alcohol alternative on the back burner for decades.
Ever since he began studying alcohol antidotes that reversed the drug’s inebriating effects, Nutt realized that GABA receptors in the brain could be targeted to produce intoxication, while avoiding the elements that damage the liver and other vital organs. And now he believes the market is primed for a release of his product as the extent of alcohol’s adverse effects have become more widely understood.
He also believes the Silicon Valley doctrine of creating “disruptive” technologies has set the stage for his product to infiltrate the behemoth that is the alcohol industry.
In fact, he says he believes the industry will be receptive to his product as major liquor, wine, and beer brands are already investing in alternatives such as cannabis, at the behest of their customers; notably the newer generations that have access to more data and are more health conscientious.
But instead of trying to convince alcohol producers to revamp their entire process, Nutt says Alcarelle could simply be added to existing product, while the alcohol content is synthesized out or the product not distilled at all.
Nutt has identified the serotonin, dopamine and GABA receptors in the brain that alcohol works across and says he can individually target disparate receptors to achieve desired effects.
Not only could Alcarelle vary in the level of intoxication it induces, but it can also deliver a “capped” drunkenness where, after a certain point, you won’t get any drunker no matter how much you imbibe.
Nutt is currently working on acquiring $26 million in funding to have it properly tested and approved by the appropriate government regulatory agencies, before taking it to market. He already has one investor who provided the seed funding to get the product off the ground.
For now, only a handful of people, mostly he and his colleagues, have had the pleasure of trying his drug, and all are in concurrence that it’s as effective, if not more pleasant than alcohol. If it truly evades liver damage and a hangover, he may have an incredibly desirable compound on his hands. And coming from a man who owns a bar of his own and intends to one day sell Alcarelle at his establishment, it all sounds pretty promising.
For more on research conducted in Nutt’s field check out Gaia’s original series Psychedelica:
Bicycle Day 2022 – 79 Years Since Albert Hofmann's LSD Discovery
Eight years before Albert Hofmann first synthesized LSD in 1938, Harry J. Anslinger was appointed the founding commissioner of the U.S. Treasury’s Federal Bureau of Narcotics. While both men were of Swiss descent and their life’s work centered around public drug use, their paths couldn’t have been more divergent. And now for this year’s Bicycle Day, as the tides of drug policy are shifting quicker than ever, their stories are increasingly relevant.
While most consider the United States’ war on drugs to have started with the Nixon or Reagan administrations, author Johann Hari in his book Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs, urges our reconsideration of the country’s infamously failed attempt at drug prohibition to an earlier date.
Hari argues that based on racism, classism, and other prejudices, Anslinger was largely responsible for creating a zeitgeist of public misconception about nearly every drug, without regard to therapeutic applications or larger societal implications.
And though Anslinger’s tenure ended just before the criminalization of LSD, it was the foundation he set in place that widely villainized the chemical for decades.
But with the recent relaxation around psychedelic substances and the recognition of their potential as powerful healing modalities, Hofmann’s radical discovery may finally be realized for what he envisioned it could be.