A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about This American Life‘s show about the alcohol consumption at Penn State. (“A football school with a drinking problem,” is how the oft-quoted quip goes. And as someone who worked on campus during many a football game weekend, I can tell you, it’s often not far from the truth.) One of the students interviewed on the show said, “If there were a drunk button, I’d buy one.”
Well maybe now there is:
An alcohol substitute that mimics its pleasant buzz without leading to drunkenness and hangovers is being developed by scientists.
The new substance could have the added bonus of being “switched off” instantaneously with a pill, to allow drinkers to drive home or return to work.
The synthetic alcohol, being developed from chemicals related to Valium, works like alcohol on nerves in the brain that provide a feeling of wellbeing and relaxation.
But unlike alcohol its does not affect other parts of the brain that control mood swings and lead to addiction. It is also much easier to flush out of the body.
Finally because it is much more focused in its effects, it can also be switched off with an antidote, leaving the drinker immediately sober.
As Chris McLaren points out, this leads to all sorts of other questions — not to mention science-fictional, world-changing extrapolations. How, just for starters, would it impact this kind of clever molecular mixology? But I think there’s definitely something to this. Personally, I don’t drink very much, or often, and the kind of excessive drinking that TAL made seem like the norm at Penn State is, to me at least, just staggering. (Honestly, three drinks and a slight buzz over the course of a long evening is as extreme as I ever get.) But if we can simulate the pleasures and benefits of social drinking, while at the same time eliminating all the dangers inherent in excessive alcohol consumption and public drunkenness, shouldn’t we maybe look into doing so?