seeking a responsible alternative to alcohol©




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 25 2018 09:54AM

A step in the right direction?

The UK Supreme Court has ruled in favour of Scotland introducing a minimum price for alcohol. This law was suggested in Scotland over 5 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 goods1. 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!1 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 unit2. Research from the University of Sheffield has suggested that this would save one life every week and would prevent fourteen hundred hospital admissions3. This is thought to represent a potential saving of £6.5 million to the NHS3. 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 combined4. 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 population2. 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 alocohol3

26% of the population drink more than 14 units a week, and are responsible for 72% of alcohol consumed3.

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 ͚problem͛ or heavy drinkers is questionable, there is also little expectation of significant effects on moderate drinkers1.

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,

By philipedwards, Jan 14 2018 08:34PM

14th January 2018

Dry January was initiated in 2013 by the charity Alcohol Concern as a campaign which challenges participants to abstain from alcohol for the 31 days of January. The aim of Dry January was to change public attitudes and behaviours towards alcohol consumption, to raise awareness of alcohol related problems and educate people about the health benefits of abstaining. The Alcohol Concern website claims that 49% of people who participated last year lost weight and 67% had improved sleep1. Since its inception, registration to the Dry January app has increased 15-fold2. It has also been suggested, that in addition to the official figures, around 1 million people undertake a form of unofficial Dry January2.

The increasing number of Dry January participants indicates a growing awareness of the health benefits that reducing alcohol intake brings. The latest advice from the Chief Medical Officer specifies that no amount of alcohol is safe to drink and therefore any attempt to cut-back should be commended3. However, a common criticism of the campaign is that 31 days sober does not always lead to changing consumption behaviours all year round and can even be ruined by a celebratory February binge. The growing awareness of the harms of alcohol highlight that the time may be right for a revolutionary alternative.

At Alcarelle, we are looking to develop ‘free-from’ alcohol alternatives which would allow people to have the benefits of Dry January all year round. It would aim to mimic some aspects of alcohol but without the associated health issues like cancer, liver disease and hangovers.

The growth in participation in the Dry January campaign has partially been attributed to ‘social contagion’2. If people around you start to reduce their alcohol intake, you are more likely to do the same. Therefore, this campaign has illustrated the power of changing social attitudes towards alcohol consumption. These changing attitudes create a perfect environment to introduce a new ‘free-from’ beverage based on cutting edge scientific technologies, in order to permanently banish Christmas guilt and minimise the need for the new year detox.

Alcohol is ingrained in our culture and socialising and letting our hair down is vital to our wellbeing. A ‘free-from’ alternative beverage would allow consumers to make healthier choices all year round. So, let’s ditch the lime and soda, try something new and make a new year’s resolution we can get excited about.


1.Alcohol Concern Website

2.Richard O. de Visser, Emily Robinson, Tom Smith, Gemma Cass, Matthew Walmsley; The growth of ‘Dry January’: promoting participation and the benefits of participation, European Journal of Public Health, Volume 27, Issue 5, 1 October 2017, Pages 929–931,

3.UK Chief Medical Officers’ Alcohol Guidelines Review, January 2016

By philipedwards, Jan 5 2018 09:29AM

5th January 2018

Cannabis products

Constellation Brands Inc., a major US alcohol producer, has agreed to buy a 10% stake in Canopy Growth, which is the largest publicly traded cannabis company. This is with the view to market and sell a new cannabis infused drink. The company’s CEO Rob Sands, announced in the Wall Street Journal that this move anticipates relaxation of national legislation on use of Cannabis in the US, and also in Canada1. Canada is expected to legalise recreational use in 2018, and then allow the sale of edible and drinkable cannabis products by 2019. On 1st January, California became the latest and largest state in the US to have legalised the recreational use of cannabis and many more states have legalised its use medically. This branch into new cannabis products is a positive indicator of changing views towards cannabis and provides a glimpse into a future containing comparative options for adult beverages. This is in contrast to the current monopoly enjoyed by alcohol.

Changing views

This new collaboration comes at a time when there is a growing acknowledgement of the potential uses of cannabis and other previously illicit drugs in the development of new medicines. The stigma surrounding such substances is now being drowned by a plethora of new research advocating the use of some compounds and derivatives for the benefit of human health2. This was highlighted recently by Oxford University who announced a £10 million research programme to uncover the medical uses of cannabinoids3. This view is also supported by the growing research into psilocybin (the active ingredient in ‘magic mushrooms’) in and its medical uses, including that of a treatment option for depression4.

Future possibilities

Modern developments are encouraging to us at Alcarelle, who believe that science can play a transformative role towards a healthier society, if given the opportunity. Our goal is to create a non-alcoholic adult beverage and we are targeting compounds which would aim to mimic certain aspects of alcohol. The promised deal between Constellation Brands Inc. and Canopy Growth Corporation confirms our beliefs that when common sense prevails, the alcohol industry will become an important partner in the development of ‘Free-from Alcohol’ products. The alcohol industry in general will need to move with the changing times and see these alternatives for what they are, namely opportunities to provide better options for consumers who increasingly demand a healthier range of food and drink products.


1.Wall street journal Big Brewer Makes a Play for Marijuana Beverages Jennifer Maloney and David George-Cosh, 2017

2.Bilkei-Gorzo, A., Albayram, O., Draffehn, A., Michel, K., Piyanova, A., Oppenheimer, H., Dvir-Ginzberg, M., Rácz, I., Ulas, T., Imbeault, S. and Bab, I., 2017. A chronic low dose of [Delta] 9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) restores cognitive function in old mice. Nature Medicine.

3.Oxford University

4.Robin L Carhart-Harris, Mark Bolstridge, James Rucker, Camilla M J Day, David Erritzoe, Mendel Kaelen, Michael Bloomfield, James A Rickard, Ben Forbes, Amanda Feilding, David Taylor, Steve Pilling, Valerie H Curran, David J Nutt, Psilocybin with psychological support for treatment-resistant depression: an open-label feasibility study, In The Lancet Psychiatry, Volume 3, Issue 7, 2016

By philipedwards, Dec 27 2017 08:47AM

27th December 2017

At Alcarelle we have explored the attractions and pitfalls of popular alcoholic drink products, and drawing upon modern science we have developed our understanding of what an ideal adult beverage would need to be.

29 million people in the UK consume alcohol1. A student survey from Cambridge University suggested that key reasons for drinking were: having fun, to relax after a hard day, as part of a social routine and to overcome anxiety2. Simply put, most people drink alcohol for relaxation and social stimulation.

Another survey (from the charity Drinkaware) suggests that friends and relationships have the biggest impact on increasing the amount of alcohol which we consume3. Therefore, an ideal alternative product would induce relaxation and conviviality.

Being all too familiar with the attractions of alcohol, the next step to developing an ideal alternative is to consider its pitfalls. So, what motivates people to cut back on their drinking?

I can definitely think of a few foggy (and dare I say) embarrassing memories of the night before, which have driven me to promises of future moderation. But, happily, I am not alone in this and a survey from the British Heart Foundation suggests that 77% of women consider embarrassing themselves in public as strong motivation to cut down4. For me, it follows that the ultimate adult beverage would not so easily overwhelm the body and senses. I hope this would help reduce the risk of embarrassment and maintain some level of self-control.

Further research by the charity Drinkaware highlighted health and financial benefits as key reasons for reducing alcohol consumption3. This means the ideal beverage would need to avoid the detrimental health effects associated with alcohol consumption while still being economically viable.

Research from the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies into e-cigarettes has found that a major reason that e-cigs are successful as alternatives to smoking is because they mimic the habitual sensation5. When creating an ideal alcohol alternative, it will be vital to ensure it can be consumed as a beverage in order to maintain a sociable habit similar to consuming alcohol.

So to get the ideal adult product right, both efficacy - for consumer satisfaction -and safety - for consumer health - are vital. The ideal future adult beverage will need to be enjoyed in a sociable environment, enabling relaxation and conviviality. It would also need to leave behind the associated health risks of alcohol, avoiding high levels of intoxication, the threat of cancer, and liver damage, and the all so common hangover.


1.Office of National Statistics, Adult drinking habits in Great Britain: 2005 to 2016

2.Results of Student Alcohol Survey Announced, 2017 University of Cambridge, News.

3.Drinkaware Monitor 2015: UK adults’ experiences of and views on cutting down – an Ipsos MORI report for Drinkaware April 2016

4.Alcohol and heart disease: our exclusive survey, British Heart Foundation, YouGov Plc., 2013

5.Hajek, Peter et al. ͞Electronic Cigarettes: Review of Use, Content, Safety, Effects on Smokers, and Potential for Harm and Benefit.͟Addiction (Abingdon, England)109.11 (2014): 1801–1810.PMC. Web. 21 Sept. 2017.

6.Institute of Alcohol Studies Fact Sheet, The Health Impacts of Alcohol, 2016

By philipedwards, Nov 17 2017 02:32PM

Alcohol Awareness Week: seeking a responsible alternative

David Nutt

13 November 2017

Most of us are aware that chronic, heavy alcohol consumption and binge drinking leads to a plethora of health issues including liver damage and addiction. However, many of us are still unaware of the dangers associated with even moderate alcohol consumption or the cumulative effects that alcohol can have on our health. So just what are those regular trips to the pub, or the frequent cocktails after work really costing us?

Research into effects of alcohol provide a range of results. Some research (funded by the alcohol industry) has even been claimed to demonstrate that alcohol consumption is actually beneficial to our physiological health. Conversely the International Agency for Research into Cancer has demonstrated that the more alcohol you drink directly increases the risk of seven common cancers including: mouth, throat, oesophageal, larynx, breast, liver and bowel.

Similarly, new research published in the British Medical Journal has revealed a potential link between moderate drinking and shrinkage of the hippocampus, a brain region associated with memory. These results suggest a link between moderate alcohol consumption and a potentially permanent alteration in brain structure.

The overwhelming majority of research confirms that there is always a health risk associated with consuming alcohol and the latest guidelines published by the UK Chief Medical Officer suggest that detrimental health effects can be seen with only a small amount of alcohol, i.e. no amount of alcohol is completely safe to consume. In spite of this, an extensive recent University of Sheffield study revealed a shocking general lack of health awareness in the general population, including that nine out of ten people were unaware of alcohol’s link to cancer.

So how should being aware of these risks change how we celebrate and socialise? Alcohol plays a vital role in the social lives of many people and practicing moderation would seem to be very beneficial to our health, reducing the associated risks. But to dramatically reduce the risks whilst also maintaining an equally fun social atmosphere, we need a revolutionary alternative.

We believe that scientific progress has opened the door to dramatic new possibilities. But to turn such possibilities into reality, we need to engage the very same drinks industry that depends upon alcohol for its success. We want to offer a practical solution to drinks manufacturers that they can employ to produce a wide range of attractive, enjoyable, ‘free from alcohol’ adult drink alternatives to suit every taste.

There is further development and food safety work to be done, including close coordination with the regulatory authorities in each national jurisdiction to ensure any future product fully conforms to food and health standards. This type of project involves laboratory work and clinical trials. The work is expensive and realistically must be funded by private investors, rather than academia or the public purse. To take this forward, a new company called Alcarelle has been formed.

Alcarelle’s goal is to raise the money required to then fund and lead the development of an alcohol-free adult beverage, which imitates the desirable features of alcohol’s pharmacological profile but without propensity to cause the disastrous effects of alcohol. The vision is a ‘free-from’ alcohol alternative that would enable a relaxed stress-free effect, calming inhibitions to encourage gregariousness and enjoyable social interaction.

Alcohol’s role in society is firmly embedded and ‘free-from alcohol’ alternatives would not be intended to replace alcoholic beverages altogether. Rather, Alcarelle’s goal is for modern science be enable the drinks industry to generate additional beverage options for health-conscious consumers. If Alcarelle is successful, making an easy switch to truly enjoyable free-from alcohol products could mean that an evening of social interaction with friends or colleagues at home or in the pub is no longer fraught with the dangers that we must navigate today with conventional alcoholic drinks.

Professor David Nutt (@ProfDavidNutt) is currently the Edmond J. Safra Professor of Neuropsychopharmacology and director of the Neuropsychopharmacology Unit in the Division of Brain Sciences at Hammersmith Campus.

By David Nutt

Categorised under Department of Medicine

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