If non-alcoholic versions of alcoholic beverages just aren’t cutting it for you, help may soon be on the way.
That’s according to a recent Wall Street Journal article, which details the work of GABA Labs. The London-based company is perfecting a synthetic alcohol called Alcarelle that it claims will deliver the pleasurable side effects of the drug without the negative ones.
Gamma-aminobutyric acid, also known as GABA, is a neurotransmitter that slows the brain by blocking certain signals, thus producing a calming effect. When alcohol reaches the brain, it binds to GABA receptors and mimics its effect, relaxing people and giving them a warm feeling. But it also results in other neurotransmitters producing undesirable side effects, like difficulty thinking and moving, Dr. David Nutt, chief scientific officer at GABA Labs, told WSJ.
Alcarelle aims to target only GABA receptors in the brain, allowing for the release of dopamine and serotonin and nothing more, Nutt maintains. It’s tasteless and designed to be added to nonalcoholic drinks, though it could be mixed with real alcohol.
“It feels like what a glass of wine feels like,” he told the newspaper. “It feels relaxing. It makes you a bit more chatty, a bit more socially engaged with people.”
GABA Labs is working to raise about $10 million and aims to complete U.S. food-safety testing by mid-2026, before launching in European markets, the WSJ reports. Other companies are working to develop drugs that reduce alcohol cravings and speed recovery from hangovers.
The number of Americans who drink appears to be dropping. In the U.S., alcohol consumption peaked in 1977, when 71% said they drank at least occasionally, according to Gallup. In 2021, only 63% of Americans said they drank. Gen Z—those born from 1997 and on—is reportedly drinking less than Millennials did. And the number of Americans who aren’t in college and say they’re abstaining from alcohol rose 6% to 30% in 2018, according to a 2020 report from the University of Michigan and Texas State University.
Potential adverse health effects of drinking, according to the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, include irregular heart beat, stretching of the heart muscle, stroke, high blood pressure, fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis, fibrosis, cirrhosis, weakening of the immune system, and pancreatitis. What’s more, alcohol appears to cause several types of cancer, including head and beck, esophageal, liver, breast, and colorectal.