Prof Nutt's alcohol-free inebriation

Mankind, bless its beating heart and badly damaged liver, has always struggled with sobriety as a seven-days-a-week state.

Its yearning for relief from reality has always seemed to me to be probably caused by an innate chemical imbalance, a small but annoying cosmic mistake made millions of years ago in the evolutionary process.

A mistake, in fact, that makes us all unhappy much more than we are happy.

Or, as the Buddhists say: life is suffering.

Quite why scientists have put all their energy into inventing Viagra instead of working hard to develop a cure to the problem - a perfect drug that can replace alcohol that is non-addictive and does not cause hangovers - is beyond this columnist.

Fortunately, the aptly named Prof David Nutt is on the case.

His efforts are shown on Horizon: Do I Drink too Much?, on the Living Channel, next Tuesday at 9.30pm.

Do I Drink too Much? is hosted by addiction expert and keen drinker Dr John Marsden.

Dr Marsden's father, we discover, had a severe attack of the chemical imbalance, so severe he became an alcoholic.

His son, unsurprisingly, is worried he might have picked up a few too many of his father's genes, and wonders how much alcohol a human can safely drink, and whether (gasp) we should drink at all.

Before we consider the work of Prof Nutt, I must make a case for the Experimental Rat Community.

Is there a community so poorly done by, so abused, and so ignored in their suffering by society?Do I Drink too Much? looks at alcohol experiments done in the 1980s on children, before that sort of thing became uncool.

Now, they do it to rats.

Both "teenage" and adult rats were filled with alcohol, and put on a sort of grille that sloped at an alarming angle, to see if they could safely make their way to the top.

Remarkably, teenage rats did better at this activity, proving something or other that I've forgotten.

But really, it's the rats I feel for.

What a life.

Anyway, back to Prof Nutt.

Prof Nutt is visited by Dr Marsden at the Imperial College London, where he is working on a safe, non-addictive drug that does not badly affect your brain or body.

Dr Marsden gives it a shot.

"I can definitely feel something," he says.

"A slight tendency to want to smile.

"It's rather nice now."

Better still, the effects of the drug can be reversed with an injection, which Dr Marsden has.

Which is all well and good, until the reversing drug wears off, when Dr Marsden gets a hangover full of discomfort and worry, and goes to sleep.

More work to be done there, clearly.

Aside from this only vaguely successful experiment, there is plenty of interesting stuff in Do I Drink too Much? - just no real answer.

"What I have learned is the answer is complicated," Dr Marsden tells us.



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