Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Is death the only cure for a boozy night?

I recommend a refreshing can of Lilt. Some swear by an Ulster fry, or a teaspoon of milk thistle. These are only a few of the homespun remedies for the morning after, but, ultimately all such are in vain.

As the American humourist Robert Benchley said: "The only cure for a real hangover is death." Until now, that is.

David Nutt, everyone's second-favourite scientist (Professor Brian Cox still pips him), was on Radio 4's Today programme discussing his latest gift to humanity – a synthetic alcohol substitute.

This substance, he said, produces many of the enjoyable effects of alcohol, but with none of the miserable side-effects.

Also, as it works by directly targeting neurotransmitters in the brain, the effects can be quickly reversed with an antidote in the form of a dissolvable film placed under your tongue.

Alas, we may have a long wait before this wonder drug hits the market, if it ever does. While e-cigarettes are manufactured and promoted by the same tobacco companies that make traditional cigarettes, the alcohol industry has shown little interest in hangover-free booze.

The availability of a harmless alcohol substitute at a reasonable price could save the NHS an estimated £3.7bn a year.

So why is this nectar of the gods still languishing somewhere in a laboratory when it should be coming out to party?

It's not 'health improvement' that motivates investors, it's potential profit margins. Some drink to remember, some drink to forget and some drink because Tesco had a special offer.

Alcohol drinking is convenient in places where smoking is banned and, not only more socially acceptable but, in many situations near obligatory. So, the majority of drinkers, even problem ones, have absolutely no intention of giving up.

Alcohol also enjoys a privileged position legally: it's the drug that somehow isn't a drug.

The result of this illogical hypocrisy is that any substitute substance that is produced would likely be viewed as 'a drug' and be subject to much more restriction than a G&T.

All of this might be surmountable if we truly despised our hangovers as much as we pretend to. In fact, a hangover provides us with something to boast about; a great excuse to laze around.

COMMENT RULES: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. The moderator will not enter into debate with individual contributors and the moderator’s decision is final. It is Belfast Telegraph policy to close comments on court cases, tribunals and active legal investigations. We may also close comments on articles which are being targeted for abuse. Problems with commenting? customercare@belfasttelegraph.co.uk