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Happy New Year! The alcoholic drink that doesn't give you a hangover

IT will be welcome news to anyone who suffered from the excesses of the festive season:

David Nutt wants to mimic the good bits about alcohol and get rid of the harmful partPhotograph: Cathal McNaughton
David Nutt wants to mimic the good bits about alcohol and get rid of the harmful partPhotograph: Cathal McNaughton

a drink which looks, tastes and has the same effect as alcohol, but does not trigger a hangover.

It sounds like a dream - but former Government drug adviser, Professor David Nutt claims his idea for a substitute drug-based "cocktail" could create a world where the chances of becoming an alcoholic would be much reduced.

He said the drug would be designed to mimic the beneficial effect of alcohol in increasing "calming transmitters" in the brain, but not include those which cause problems like addiction.

Nutt, who is in the process of developing the drink, makes his remarks in a new BBC Radio Scotland science series, the first episode of which explores the issue of addiction.

Currently chair of the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs, Nutt is trying to develop a cocktail-type drink which will look, smell and taste like alcohol and make people feel relaxed, sociable and chatty, but without associated problems such as aggression and dependency.

"And also [you] shouldn't have a hangover," he said. "And we could get an antidote, so that you could go out, have a really good party, take the antidote half an hour later [and] drive home safely."

Nutt explained it would involve developing molecules which would have an equivalent effect to ­drinking one, two or three cocktails, but it would cease to be effective after a certain quantity, so that if someone carried on drinking, they would not get more intoxicated.

Nutt said several abstinent alcoholics had contacted him to ask if the drug could be used for them to start "drinking" again.

He added: "The answer is I don't know, because ... it is possible it would tickle up all those pleasant memories of drinking, so it possibly could destabilise abstinents.

"So I am definitely not encouraging the idea that this might be something that abstinent alcoholics could use safely.

"But what I would say is that in a world where this was what you use to have fun on a Friday night, the chances of becoming an alcoholic would be much less."

Nutt lost his job in 2009 as the head of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs after he criticised the UK Government's decision to change cannabis to Class B from C.

He also sparked controversy after suggesting taking Ecstasy was no more dangerous than horse-riding.

Responding to the substitute drink idea, campaigners said alcohol was a serious burden to the UK, but called for more investment in "policies which work", such as minimum unit pricing and restrictions in advertising and availability.

Emily Robinson of Alcohol Concern said: "Rather than swapping one potentially addictive substance for another, we should focus on what's going wrong in our drinking culture, and change that."

The Addictive Brain, which will be broadcast tomorrow at 1.30pm on BBC Radio Scotland, explores issues around addiction using real-life examples of alcoholics, an obsessive runner and a shopaholic.

Ideas and problems explored in the Brainwaves series, presented by Pennie Latin, range from bipolar disorder and the effects of high screen-usage on the brain to what happens when people fall in love.

Senior producer Helen Needham said the aim was to try to bring alive the science of the everyday.

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Drugs

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