Can I Get Drunk Without Drinking?

Dec 31, 2013
Outside Magazine

Hispanic men drinking shots at bar.    Photo: John Lund/Getty Images


You and everyone else, buddy! Luckily Dr. David Nutt, a professor of neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College London, decided this drinker’s dilemma is worth his time. More accurately, Nutt is interested in reproducing the pleasurable feeling of drunkenness without the negative side effects, including aggression, memory impairment, and liver toxicity.

His solution: a drunken party in a pill. As Nutt wrote in The Guardian, "the main target for alcohol in the brain is the neurotransmitter system gamma aminobutyric acid (Gaba), which keeps the brain calm. Alcohol therefore relaxes users through mimicking and increasing the Gaba function."

Nutt explains that drugs can selectively target the Gaba subsystems that make people feel relaxed and sociable without triggering the subsystems that prompt aggression or addiction. And because scientists will know exactly how these "alcohol surrogates" work, they should be able to make an antidote.

In Nutt’s perfect world, you could pop a drunk pill, or sip the substance in a drink, party on, then take a sober pill and drive home. Goodbye hangovers, DUIs, and awkward morning afters!

The good news: Nutt says he has already identified five compounds that should mimic the enjoyable effects of alcohol. The bad news: He’s seeking funding for testing right now. And should his surrogate pills work, he likely faces an uphill regulatory battle against alcohol companies concerned about their own sales.

The bottom line: It's not far-fetched to believe that sometime in the future, we could be taking drunk and sober pills, and skipping the hangovers, beer bellies, and blackouts. But to ring in this 2014, you’ll have to get drunk the old-fashioned way. 

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