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, 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

By philipedwards, Nov 17 2017 10:22AM

Modern Brain Science … huge advances in our understanding

Over years of research our understanding of the complex way in which alcohol acts on the brain has advanced astronomically. These advances have paved the way for exciting new ventures into alternative adult beverages.

What we used to think

Due to alcohols sedative properties, it was initially believed that alcohol acted in a similar way to several general anaesthetics1. It was hypothesized that alcohol had a general action on the Central Nervous System (CNS) by affecting the membrane fluidity of cells1. This would then effect neural function and exhibit the characteristic behaviours associated with intoxication.

What we know now

The exact mechanism of how alcohol acts on the brain is still not fully understood. However, subsequent research revealed that alcohol modified the action of receptors on our nerve cells2. It acts on two key receptor types namely GABA and glutamate which generally inhibit and excite brain activity respectively2. Alcohol modulates these systems acting mainly as a general depressant of the CNS. Alcohol also effects receptors of other systems in the brain including dopamine, serotonin, cannabinoid and opioid systems2.

However, alcohol does not act on these receptors ubiquitously across brain regions, cell types and even within cells. This is due to the receptors themselves being formed of different combinations of subunits3. The different subunits in a receptor are responsible for how sensitive that receptor is to the action of alcohol. New methods using genetic research in rodents has identified that each receptor subtype can have a specific functionality4. Individual subunits can therefore be associated with a behavioural characteristic of intoxication.

How can we use this information?

This new type of research is vital to understanding how alcohol modulates the function of the brain to cause those behaviours we all associate with intoxication. This advancing understanding of functional subunits provides a novel therapeutic opportunity, for the creation of an alternative adult beverage.

Using highly sophisticated pharmalogical targeting we are able to take advantage of subunit specific functionality to reduce toxicity and unwanted side effects. These new therapeutics could be used to further our understanding of the action of alcohol; to develop more intelligent medications for addiction and also to develop a substance which would cause only some of the behaviours associated with drinking alcohol.


1. Samson, H. H. & Harris, R. A. 1992. Neurobiology of alcohol abuse. Trends in Pharmacological Sciences, 13, 206-211.

2. Harris, R. A., Trudell, J. R., & Mihic, S. J. (2008). Ethanol’s Molecular Targets. Science Signaling, 1(28), re7.

3. Erdozain, A.M. and Callado, L.F., 2014. Neurobiological alterations in alcohol addiction: a review. Adicciones, 26(4), pp.360-370.

4. Mckernan, R. M., Rosahl, T. W., Reynolds, D. S., Sur, C., Wafford, K. A., Atack, J. R., Farrar, S., Myers, J., Cook, G., Ferris, P., Garrett, L., Bristow, L., Marshall, G., Macaulay, A., Brown, N., Howell, O., Moore, K. W., Carling, R. W., Street, L. J., Castro, J. L., Ragan, C. I., Dawson, G. R. & Whiting, P. J. 2000. Sedative but not anxiolytic properties of benzodiazepines are mediated by the GABAA receptor [alpha]1 subtype. Nat Neurosci, 3, 587-592.

By philipedwards, Nov 6 2017 11:38AM

Why alcoholism does not equate to bad character

Modern culture and bad habits

Alcohol is considered by society as both a desirable entity and a dangerous poison. Throughout history there has always been a fine line between alcohol being seen as a natural resource central to forms of human interaction in society, and as an invading ‘anti-social’ agent of intoxication.

Alcohol has become entrenched in society, it has evolved from a dietary staple consumed peoples long ago, as far back as the labourers who built the pyramids in ancient Egypt1. It then became strongly associated with religion and celebrations; offerings of wine and beer were made to a plethora of different deities across the world over several different centuries. We have the Roman Empire to thank for making intoxication common place and the invention of drinking games1. Plato famously encouraged young people to drink in order to learn the importance of moderation1. And we continue to see alcohol seeking behaviours today often initiated by social pressures.

The first sip... a slippery slope

Modern society continues to encourage alcohol seeking behaviours, and these often occur synonymously with cultural festivities2. Now established as an expression of social participation, the habitual consumption of alcohol is formalised, for example during festivities, or even daily to distinguish between work and play2. The social compulsion to seek out and drink more alcohol can unfortunately lead many an unsuspecting into an addiction. The likelihood of an individual developing an addiction can be influenced by several factors including genetic differences, environmental stimuli, and life phases3.

It has long been recognised that genes cause a massive variation in the metabolism of alcohol. In a similar way, genes can be critical in determining an individual’s initial sensitivity and reinforcement behaviour associated with alcohol3. Complex studies in rodents have identified key structural differences in the brains of those animals who seek out alcohol and those that don’t3. Long term alcohol consumption can lead to adaptation and long-standing change in the brain. This has been identified as the switch which can trigger compulsive behaviour (towards alcohol) rather than controlled moderation3.

The cycle of Addiction

In 10-15% of users this compulsion develops to an addiction with significant alcohol cravings. Over time the brain adapts. Long term alcohol consumption reduces the sensitivity of some neural receptors to alcohol; it can also change the composition of the receptors themselves.

Alcohol also has a huge impact on the reward areas of the brain and increases levels of dopamine and endorphins. This stimulates feeling of pleasure and also induces reinforcement behaviours.

This means that increased drinking can change the way that your brain is wired, so positive or rewarding feelings are not felt as strongly without alcohol consumption. Alcohol can alter the brain so that a stimulus previously linked with alcohol triggers withdrawal and leads to a craving.

So, addiction can stem from a drinking behaviour which is initiated by society and reinforced by socially moderated habit. The action of chronic drinking itself can then perpetuate addiction by changing the structure and chemistry of the brain. Alcohol is then the most widely used addiction creating drug, and the one causing the greatest harm to consumers and society. Yet alcohol continues to get a pass and moral crusaders will often prefer to blame the victims claiming that alcoholism is associated with weakened morals. But modern science helps us to understand that addiction can in fact be the disastrous culmination of persistent societal influence combining with a genetic and environmental vulnerability.


1. Boyle, Peter, ed. Alcohol: science, policy and public health. Oxford University Press, 2013.

2. Social and Cultural Aspects of Drinking Culture Chemistry and Consequences social issues research centre, 2016

3. Vengeliene, V., Bilbao, A., Molander, A. and Spanagel, R., 2008. Neuropharmacology of alcohol addiction. British journal of pharmacology, 154(2), pp.299-315.

4. Erdozain, A.M. and Callado, L.F., 2014. Neurobiological alterations in alcohol addiction: a review. Adicciones, 26(4), pp.360-370.

By philipedwards, Oct 30 2017 11:19AM

Harms of alcohol: Brain damage

From social buzz, hilarity and euphoria to slurred speech and stumbling steps and - for many dedicated revellers - irrational aggression and the occasional blackouts. This journey describes a classic night on the town. Nothing so serious that a good sleep followed by plenty of water and coffee cannot fix?

Many of us are all too familiar with the initial effects of alcohol on our state of mind. But what can science tell us about the longer term health consequences of alcohol’s effect on our brains?

Effects of heavy drinking

The effect that alcohol has on the function and structure of the brain can be much longer lasting than the temporary struggle to make it home without falling over. Chronic alcohol consumption can lead to more permanent and severe conditions such as Wernicke’s-Korsakoff’s syndrome, and alcoholic neuropathy. Alcoholic neuropathy manifests as numbing of the limbs and the sensation of pins and needles. In 2014/15, 920 hospitalisations in England were due to alcoholic neuropathy1. Wernicke’s-Korsakoff’s syndrome is a disease resulting brain damage from thiamine deficiency caused by heavy alcohol use. This syndrome produces a loss of memory, vision, and muscular co-ordination2. Chronic alcohol abuse can also cause other serious conditions in the brain, such as depression, hallucinosis, alcoholic dementia, alcohol dependence, and increased risk of anxiety and depression1.

Moderate drinking may affect brain damage

Until recently it was thought that only heavy alcohol consumption could result in damage to the brain. However, new research published in the British Medical Journal3 describes a 30-year long experiment which assessed the drinking habits and cognitive function of 550 UK civil servants. The study culminated in a scan of each participant’s brain, and this revealed that 65% of those who drank only moderately showed evidence of shrinkage in their hippocampi (a brain region associated with memory). This new evidence also showed that increased levels of drinking were associated with a noticeably reduced performance when undertaking cognitive tasks. These results suggest a link between moderate consumption and permanent alteration in brain structure. While these observational results only suggest a relationship and further research is needed, the research does seem to contradict some findings which suggest4 that a small amount of alcohol can be protective against dementia.

The future of brain power

Alcarelle’s mission is to create a new adult beverage which will imitate the desired positive aspects of alcohol, but which won’t have damaging consequences on the brain. We are using new scientific research to understand exactly how alcohol affects and damages the brain. Our goal is an alternative adult beverage which will allow us to have fun and socialise, without the fear of future cognitive decline.


1. The Public Health Burden of Alcohol and the Effectiveness and Cost-Effectiveness of Alcohol Control Policies: An evidence review, 2016 Public Heath England

2. Institute of alcohol studies fact sheet, the health impacts of alcohol, 2016

3. Topiwala, Anya et al. “Moderate Alcohol Consumption as Risk Factor for Adverse Brain Outcomes and Cognitive Decline: Longitudinal Cohort Study.” The BMJ 357 (2017): j2353. PMC. Web. 4 Aug. 2017.

4. Weyerer S, Schäufele M, Wiese B et al. Current alcohol consumption and its relationship to incident dementia: results from a 3-year follow-up study among primary care attenders aged 75 years and older. Age and Ageing [First published online] March 2, 2011

5. Manzo-Avalos, S., & Saavedra-Molina, A. (2010). Cellular and Mitochondrial Effects of Alcohol Consumption. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 7(12), 4281–4304.

6. Patricia E. Molina, Jason D. Gardner, Flavia M. Souza-Smith, Annie M. Whitaker Alcohol Abuse: Critical Pathophysiological Processes and Contribution to Disease Burden, Physiology Published 2014

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