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The forum for the research and development of Safe Alternatives to Alcohol - SARAA's


Alcohol abuse can break families apart


Alcohol is one of the leading causes of death in the world today among males under 50


To ignore the terrible harms Alcohol does to society is no longer an option.

By philipedwards, Jan 29 2019 10:03AM

Jan 29, 2019

December is a season of excess in most parts of the world, and in the United Kingdom the annual festivities notably involve over-consumption of one indulgence in particular: alcohol. While the holiday season in North America tends to focus more on food, sugar, and child-centred celebrations, December in the UK is known as the month of office parties, late nights and increasingly gruesome hangovers. According to industry website, the average Brit will consume 156 units of alcohol over the six days between Christmas Eve and New Years Day – an average of 26 units a day, nearly twice the recommended allowance of 14 units in an entire week, as advised by the UK’s Chief Medical Officer.

Unsurprisingly, many in the UK pair this annual season of excess with a month of self-control by abstaining from alcohol entirely for all of January. According to charity Alcohol Change (formerly Alcohol Concern), more than four million people in the UK – one tenth of adults who drink – are taking part in so-called “Dry January” this year, with an estimated 100,00 of them signing up to raise funds through charitable for Cancer Research UK through “Dryathlon”.

What kind of ways can taking a month off drink benefit us? In 2018 researchers from the University of Sussex surveyed 1,715 people who had attempted Dry January in the first week of February. Respondents to the reported a slew of ways they had visibly benefited: 88% saved money, 70% felt healthier, 71% slept better, 67% felt they had more energy, 58% lost weight, 57% felt they could concentrate better, and 54% said their complexion had improved.

These are just the visible, subjective benefits. What about the measurable, objective, biological benefits?

In 2013 10 staff members at New Scientist went dry for a month , while four continued drinking as normal, in a small experiment conducted with the Institute for Liver and Digestive Health at University College London Medical School (UCLMS). After 31 days of abstention, tests revealed the ten abstainers on average experienced a 15% reduction in liver fat, a 16% drop in blood glucose, and lost 1.5kg each.

In a larger experiment in 2017, British scientists from a number of universities enlisted 94 people who took a month off drink (and 47 who did not), and sampled a range of health measurements at the start and the end of January: weight, blood pressure, blood cholesterol, insulin resistance (a marker for both the likelihood of developing both diabetes and fatty liver), and more. Publishing their results in the British Medical Journal in November 2018, they reported that abstainers on average experienced a reduction in insulin resistance of about 25%, and lost around 2kg each. Other health metrics such as blood cholesterol improved as well, though not to a significant degree.

So far so good. But medical experts caution there is more to the story – and even the BMJ has suggested the Dry January campaign could actually “do more harm than good”.

For one, abstainers may over-indulge in February, undoing all the benefits. The fact that “Dryathalon” implies a month of sobriety is a difficult challenge could lead many to wish to “reward” themselves at its completion with excessive drinking – and a return to the status quo. For this reason Public Health England is more keen to promote taking at least two days off drink per week – which would translate into more than 100 dry days a year, rather than 31. The point of a month off drink is not simply to give the liver a break: it is to take a moment to soberly consider the role alcohol plays in their lives.

The post-festive season has long been considered a time to cast off old habits and embrace new ones, such as by hitting the gym, saving money, nurturing new relationships, and so on. A month without alcohol should give abstainers a chance to reflect how they relate to alcohol, and ideally, permanently adopt new ways of consuming it. That survey from the University of Sussex did in fact find that after a dry month, 82% of people thought more deeply about their relationship with alcohol, 80% felt more in control of their drinking, 76% said they had learnt about when and why they drink, and perhaps most significant, 71% realised they did not need a drink to enjoy themselves.

That’s just after a month of sobriety. But did this translate into long term changes? Those same researchers were able to survey 800 of the 1,715 people who took a month off drink eight months later in August 2018, and found they were drinking slightly less: respondents said they had taken their drinking down from 4.3 days a week on average to 3.3, were consuming 7.1 units on a drinking day compared to 8.6, and were drunk an average of 2.1 times a month rather than 3.4.

These figures however may not paint an accurate picture. For one, the information is self-reported (as opposed to gathered from, say, an ankle monitor), so it is not an objective or ideal measurement. And two, less than half of the people who had completed Dry January willingly reported their drinking levels eight months later – suggesting those who had failed to changed their ways may not have been inclined to report back, skewing the data.

What is needed is not simply a universal shift to more moderate levels of drinking on a regular basis, such as with two dry days a week, but a viable alternative to alcohol. Cold, dark, and sombre, January is a difficult time of year for many, and there are benefits to light drinking that many people may crave more than usual: socializing, relaxation, and help getting to sleep . Though a month off drink is to be welcomed, we do well to keep the bigger picture in mind – and imagine what January would be like with a safer alternative on tap throughout the year, without a nation-side hangover come New Years Day.


1. "How ‘Dry January’ is the secret to better sleep, saving money and losing weight," University of Sussex Press Release, Wednesday, 2 January 2019.

2. Coghlan, Andy. "Our liver vacation: Is a dry January really worth it?" New Scientist, Magazine issue 2950, 4 January 2014.

3. Mehta G, Macdonald S, Cronberg A, et al Short-term abstinence from alcohol and changes in cardiovascular risk factors, liver function tests and cancer-related growth factors: a prospective observational study BMJ Open 2018;8:e020673. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2017-020673

4. Could campaigns like Dry January do more harm than good? BMJ 2016; 352 doi:

5. de Visser, Richard O, Robinson, Emily and Bond, Rod (2016) Voluntary temporary abstinence from alcohol during “Dry January” and subsequent alcohol use. Health Psychology, 35 (3). pp. 281-289. ISSN 0278-6133

By philipedwards, Dec 28 2018 03:51PM

December 28, 2018

The shift is undeniable: young people are drinking less. Drinks companies first noticed the trend a decade ago, and for years newspapers have commented on the departure from the drinking habits of the past.

“Sober is the new drunk: why millennials are ditching bar crawls for juice crawls,” and “Is drinking becoming as socially unacceptable as smoking?” The Guardian opined. “Millennials shunning alcohol as getting drunk is no longer cool,” The Telegraph declared. With the rise in “juice bars”, sober day raves, and “wellness” culture, the shift among youth to view drunkenness as an unfashionable bad habit of previous generations can be seen everywhere.

Now researchers have quantified just how much young people in Britain have cut back on drinking, putting hard numbers to the noticeable trends. A study published in the journal BMC Public Health earlier this year, using data from nearly 1,000 people aged 16 to 24 from the Office of National Statistics in the UK, found that young people are indeed drinking less.

The key findings tell a nuanced story:

- In 2015, 29% of people aged 16 to 24 identified as non-drinkers (including ex drinkers and “lifetime abstainers”), up from 18% in 2005.

- The percentage of young people identifying as “lifetime abstainers” nearly doubled over a decade, jumping from 9% in 2005 to 17% in 2015.

- Among those who do drink, those who said they hadn’t consumed any alcohol for the past week had increased to 50% in 2015, up from 35% in 2005.

- Young people have also cut down on “binge drinking”, or consuming twice the recommended daily limit: 27% admitted to binge drinking on the heaviest day of the year in 2005, compared to 18% in 2015.

- Interestingly, the percentage of ex-drinkers among young people has not changed: 2% of people aged 16 to 24 said they used to drink but no longer do in 2005 and in 2015.

It’s indisputable: young people are drinking less. But why?

Pundits and social commentators have proposed a variety of theories: health consciousness and the “wellness” craze; tightened budgets due to the high cost of living; career goals and long working hours; rebellion against the lifestyle choices of previous generations. Even “selfie obsession” and the pressure to look pristine on social media at all times has been floated as a reason for sobriety among Millennials.

But while there are no shortage of theories, or colourful explanations from individual non-drinkers, very little is known about why young people at the population level are drinking less.

Intriguingly, the BMC Public Health study found that across all subgroups, young people have cut back on alcohol, including those who are overweight or obese, eat only zero to two portions of fruit and veg per day, or who have mental health problems – all subgroups that traditionally were thought to drink more, not less. So if people who are obese or eat an unhealthy diet are also drinking less, clearly health consciousness cannot be the only explanation for why young people are increasingly identifying as tee-total or light drinkers.

Another study published this year in the journal Drug and Alcohol Review came to the same conclusion: the evidence clearly shows that young people are drinking less, but for now we just don’t know why.

Convincing ideas about the influence of health fads or social media are all well and good, but at this stage, they are purely hypothetical. “Future research into the issue of falling prevalence rates of youth drinking should focus on possible explanatory factors at the population level rather than at the individual level,” the authors write in the journal Drug and Alcohol Review. Moreover, the study pours cold water on the idea that “selfie” obsession and social media are driving the trend to sobriety: “We found no evidence in support of the widespread assumption that the digital revolution has been of importance,” they state.

Both studies come to the same conclusion: we need to understand why young people are drinking less, rather than making assumptions, so we can then use that knowledge to encourage lower drinking levels in older generations.

Because while excessive drinking is on the decline among young people, it appears to be on the rise in older people. According to the Office of National Statistics, there were 5,208 deaths in people over the age of 50 that could be wholly attributed to alcohol, compared to 3,582 deaths in that age group in 2001 – an increase of 45%. If we knew more about what is driving young people to cut back, we could find ways to successfully encourage older people to do the same of their own volition, instead of imposing punitive taxes or other so-called “nanny state” tactics.

For the time being, it appears that young people will continue to drink less alcohol than their elders, for whatever reason.

If they were offered an alternative to alcohol that came with all the benefits of relaxation and socialising, without the downsides of hangovers, memory loss or health risks, would Millennials embrace it? And what can the drinks industry do to support this trend to consume healthier products, and to maintain its wallet share among Millennials?


1. Fat et al, 2018. “Investigating the growing trend of non- drinking among young people; analysis of repeated cross-sectional surveys in England 2005–2015.” BMC Public Health, 18:1090.

Available online:

2. Pape et al, 2018. “Adolescents drink less: How, who and why? A review of the recent research literature.” Drug and Alcohol Review, 37 Suppl 1:S98-S114. doi: 10.1111/dar.12695.

Available online:

3. “Alcohol-specific deaths in the UK: registered in 2016,” Office of National Statistics, 2016.

Available online:

By philipedwards, Dec 7 2018 01:47PM

December 7, 2018

What if we had a remedy for hangovers, or an alternative drink which didn’t cause one? A recent survey of 1,837 Dutch students suggests that a hypothetical hangover remedy would be popular but wouldn’t change the amount of alcohol individuals consumed. Almost 70% of participants said they would buy an effective hangover "cure" if such a thing became available. However, only 13.4% suggested that this would increase their alcohol consumption the night before. Many claimed that the risk of having a hangover is not a key influencer in drinking behaviour.

This new research opposes the common belief which has been adopted by several researchers: that decreasing hangovers would encourage alcohol dependence and abuse.

A group at Utrecht University have recently observed that alcohol consumption and even maximum blood alcohol concentration does not necessarily correlate with hangover severity. This may explain why several students would not change their drinking behaviours if the risk of hangover was reduced.

However, the reasons the participants gave were:

“The risk of having a hangover does not influence my drinking behaviour.”

“Alcohol is a harmful substance.”

“I do not want to become more drunk than I already am when drinking.”

“I cannot consume more alcohol than I already do.”

“I consume alcohol to have a good time, so no reason to increase the amount.”

This actually makes sense, when you think about it. Assuming you drink to have a good time, drinking more to the point that you’re in danger of passing out or being sick isn’t bound to increase one's enjoyment.

This latest research into changing drinking behaviour only focuses on a young age group (18-30 years old), and there is no way of knowing if older drinkers would agree with these views. Another drawback in this latest study is that it describes only the individual’s intentions. There is no way to know that if a hangover remedy existed that these behaviours would still be observed.

Despite these limitations, these new findings confirm the established role of alcohol in society, and the fact that even unpleasant symptoms are not enough to stop alcohol consumption. This is highlighted by many survey participants claiming, “The risk of having a hangover does not influence my drinking behaviour”.

The findings also reveal a major opportunity for the drinks industry to innovate and satisfy the obvious demand from consumers for safer, hangover-free products. Alcarelle’s R&D Team is now working on a next generation ingredient technology which if successful could be used by drinks producers as an alternative to alcohol, to create safer, enjoyable, hangover-free adult beverages.


1. An effective hangover treatment: Friend or foe? Marlou Mackus, Marith van Schrojenstein Lantman, Aurora JAE van de Loo, David Nutt, Joris C Verster (2017) Drug Science, Policy and Law

2. Rohsenow DJ, Howland J, Winter M, et al.(2012) Hangover sensitivity after controlled alcohol administration as predictor of post-college drinking. Journal of Abnormal Psychology 121(1): 270–275.

3. Hogewoning A, Van de Loo AJAE, Mackus M, et al.(2016) Characteristics of social drinkers with and without a hangover after heavy alcohol consumption. Substance Abuse and Rehabilitation 7: 161–167.

By philipedwards, Oct 30 2018 10:32AM

October 30, 2018

Increasingly, more and more people seek out sensible, informed choices to ensure a long and healthy life: more fruit and veg, regular light exercise, and for nicotine users, the high without the burning. And it is so exciting to see the impact this growing wave of health-conscious consumers is having on manufacturers and on popular media.

But the challenge of living well was brought home recently by a World Health Organisation report claiming alcohol remains a leading cause of death worldwide: 5% of people die every year from alcohol-related illnesses and accidents. This seems to be an astonishing claim, especially at a time when in almost every bar and restaurant, new brands line the shelves, each one claiming to be healthier and more interesting than the next.

But what if there really was a truly simple thing the whole world could do to make adult drinking safe? What if there was a synthetic alternative to alcohol that did not lead to 5% of all the deaths that happen worldwide, every year?

That simple thing would have to be an adult alternative to the alcohol we already know – one that has been designed to have all the benefits of a relaxing glass of wine, without the drawbacks that ruin so many lives. Imagine a world in which one in twenty people don’t have to die young from the side effects of alcohol.

Count your number of friends on Facebook, divide by 20, and you’ll see just how many people you know personally are likely to die from the toxic effects of alcohol. For young people, the figure is even more sobering: 13.5% of all deaths among people aged 20 to 39 can be attributed to drink.

One in seven people under 40 this year will die from alcohol.

So why is alcohol so slated by the WHO, and what does the WHO report really tell us? Why are the figures so shockingly high? Why aren’t more people aware how alcohol can harm us – and why isn’t more already being done to cut back on this single cause of death and morbidity?

It is not just alcohol’s contribution to accidents, violence and poisoning that make it such a major cause of death: habitual drinking can worsen and hasten a huge variety of illnesses which most people would never associate with a glass of beer.

In fact, the WHO states that alcohol is a causal factor in more than 200 kinds of injury and diseases, including breast cancer, pancreatitis, and heart disease. In some cases the percentage of ailments linked to heavy alcohol consumption are dramatically high: 48% of cases of liver cirrhosis and 39% of physical injuries are caused by drink. Even when it is not directly responsible for a specific condition, habitual alcohol consumption weakens the immune system and can dramatically speed up the course of an infectious illness caused by a pathogen, such as tuberculosis or HIV/AIDS.

The WHO recommends educational campaigns to make the public more aware of the risks of alcohol, especially how it can contribute to the disease progression of dozens of conditions most of us would not have imagined could be worsened by a tipple, such as cancer. The WHO suggests higher taxes should be imposed to cut down on heavy drinkers – but taxes and public education campaigns did little to cut down on smoking. People understand the risks, and many still crave the hit of a nicotine. It was only when vaping hit the scene that many people have been able to easily ditch burning tobacco, because they have a desirable and far more sensible alternative in vaping.

Most people want to enjoy the benefits of a drink without the risks of accidentally becoming too inebriated, or suffering the long-term cumulative effects of ingesting a substance that is inherently toxic. Which is why it is so important not just to “drink aware”, but to drink differently: to have a genuine adult alternative at your local pub that offers all the benefits, without the drawbacks.

Today a fraction of Millennials smoke compared to their parents, largely because Vaping has completely transformed the way people consume nicotine. Imagine for a moment what a similar alternative to alcohol might look like – something that didn’t make you fat, destroy your liver, spawn cancers, impair judgment, or leave you feeling horrible the next day? What would it taste like? How might you drink it? Would it come in the form of a long relaxing pint, a bottle to be shared over dinner, or a quick shot for pep? What sort of ritual would it involve? Would you want a range of choices at a bar to share in a social setting, or would you want to select it from an array of options from a specialist emporium? What might life be like without “beer fear” – worrying about what you might have done before your memory tapped out? Imagine a year – or a lifetime – without the pain and regret of a blistering hangover.

What might our entire world be like without the bar brawls and foolish decisions that so many people make when indulging in excessive volumes of alcohol? What would the hospital A+E be like without the 70% of casualties attending due to alcohol? And what might the world be like for so many who want to get their lives back under control?

Is this something we should already be exploring?

Alcarelle believes that science is not a barrier to a brighter future for adult drinkers, and we are working to fill this space. Our goal is to use science and technology to develop and manufacture products which would enable a safer alternative to alcohol, with all the pleasant and relaxing upsides, without the dangers. We believe that by combining cutting edge science with the creativeness of the drinks industry, a new range of drinks products can emerge that will change the future of adult recreation for the benefit of all. The future is exciting… watch this space.


By philipedwards, Jan 25 2018 09:54AM

Jan 25, 2018

The UK Supreme Court has ruled in favour of Scotland introducing a minimum price for alcohol. This law was suggested in Scotland over five years ago but has been delayed by the efforts of the Scotch Whisky Association who claim that the law goes against EU laws allowing free movement of goods. The Scottish government claims that alcohol is now 54% cheaper than it was in 1980 and that it is possible to exceed the recommended 14 units per week guideline for just £3! It is thought that this new legislation could be implemented by early next year and Scotland could become one of the first counties in the world to establish a minimum price for alcohol by unit.

Similarly, the Welsh government has announced plans last month to introduce a new law setting a standard price per alcohol unit. Research from the University of Sheffield has suggested that this would save one life every week and would prevent fourteen hundred hospital admissions. This is thought to represent a potential saving of £6.5 million to the NHS. The new legislation would not be implemented as a tax but would instead provide a minimum unit pricing as a means of discouraging the sale of cheap strong alcohol.

Choices to be made

Alcohol enjoys a monopoly position protected by laws and the court system. Advertising and marketing of Alcohol is heavily funded by the alcohol industry which enjoys rich profits. It is therefore not surprising that Alcohol is by far the most popular drug in Britain, killing more people in the UK and across the planet than all other drugs combined. Yet alcohol also plays a valuable role in the private lives of many people.

So, there is a choice to be made. How should we as a society respond to the problem of alcohol? It is clear that reducing alcohol consumption could have a massive impact on the overall health of the population. At first glance therefore, almost any initiative claimed to reduce drinking seems laudable and worthy of consideration.

Common Sense

Minimum pricing is designed to target heavy drinkers. Research suggests

- 42% of high-risk drinkers in poverty drink a cheaper variety of alocohol

- 26% of the population drink more than 14 units a week, and are responsible for 72% of alcohol consumed.

The new legislation is designed to target heavy drinkers. Yet, for many heavy drinkers, alcohol consumption is relatively price inelastic. Importantly, this policy would significantly affect the pockets (but not necessarily the needs or habits) of people with a lower income, and would not affect many heavy drinkers with higher incomes. There is very real concern that more repressive pricing would simply cause further economic turmoil for many individuals and families already badly affected by alcohol abuse and addiction.

While the effect on the health of problem or heavy drinkers is questionable, there is also little expectation of significant effects on moderate drinkers.

We need better alternatives

Pressure to address the problem of alcohol abuse in the UK provides the perfect opportunity to enable people to have access to healthier options. But continued subservience to alcohol as a de facto monopoly in the adult drinks market leaves the politicians (of both major parties) with nowhere to go except more restriction. It is therefore almost predictable that government initiatives tend only towards further burden and interference in the private lives and behaviours of the population.

Policies in the UK ignore and side-line the wider opportunity to enable people to have more agency in improving their own lives. This is in stark contrast to recent but growing momentum in parts of Europe and North America towards removing long-established barriers for people to make better and more sensible health choices for themselves.

Alcarelle is working on the development of alternatives to alcohol. We believe that great progress in science points the way to more enlightened possibilities. We want consumers to enjoy access to adult beverages that provide for the enjoyment that alcohol can bring, but without the massive harms that alcohol creates.




3. Meng Y., Sadler, S., Gell, L., Holmes, J. and Brennan, A. (2014) 'Model-based appraisal of minimum unit pricing for alcohol in Wales: An adaptation of the Sheffield Alcohol Policy Model version 3’University of Sheffield.

4. David J Nutt, Leslie A King, Lawrence D Phillips, Drug harms in the UK: a multicriteria decision analysis, In The Lancet, Volume 376, Issue 9752, 2010, Pages 1558-1565, ISSN 0140-6736,

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