Drinking: A new drug could prevent drinkers from feeling the full effects of alcohol but researchers feel releasing it would encourage people to consume more
Doctors are testing a drug that could stop alcohol making people drunk.
The researchers believe iomazenil, taken before drinking, might negate some of alcohol’s effects on the brain.
Tests in a driving simulator will determine whether the drug makes volunteer drinkers safer behind the wheel after imbibing.
The results of a pilot study suggest those who take iomazenil before drinking brake more quickly and are less likely to stray into the wrong lane.
But the researchers, from Yale University in the U.S., do not want to develop a drug that simply allows people to drink more.
They hope that by stopping alcohol from getting to work on particular brain cells, iomazenil could help in developing a ‘stay sober’ pill to wean heavy drinkers off alcohol by taking some of the pleasure out of drinking.
This would reduce the damage done to the liver and other organs.
Researcher Deepak D’Souza, a psychiatrist, said: ‘A medication that has the potential to block alcohol actions in the central nervous system could act as a unique medication in the treatment of alcohol intoxication and alcoholism.
‘Alcohol is abused commonly but there is no remedy for alcohol intoxication.
‘This project is looking at the substance iomazenil and its effect on alcohol intoxication and alcohol’s effects on driving an automobile.’
He is far from the only researcher trying to find a way to take some of the harm out of drinking.
Studies: Researchers at Yale University in Connecticut, U.S. have already tested the drug on people in driving simulators
In other recent work on a potential ‘stay sober’ pill, mice given a drug didn’t get drunk, despite being given enough booze to make them stumble and fall.
It is hoped the drug, naloxone, a chemical cousin of a drug already used to save heroin addicts from overdose, will be given to people for the first time within 18 months.
In development: A number of other research is looking into potential ways to reduce the impact of alcohol on drinkers
However, the treatment is also likely to take the pleasure out of boozing.
So while you might be able to tolerate booze better, you wouldn’t feel like drinking in the first place.
It is also unlikely that a ‘stay-sober’ pill would protect other organs, such as the liver, from damage.
A third option could be ‘harm-free’ alcohol.
British researchers are trying to develop liquid drugs that give all the pleasure of alcohol but without any of the harm.
The Valium-like pharmaceutical shots would mimic the pleasant buzz of alcohol without leading to drunkenness.
The substance would have the added bonus of an antidote that when taken would immediately ‘switch off’ its effects, allowing drinkers to drive home or return to work.
Critics say there is nothing to stop someone taking the new potion, getting tipsy and forgetting to take the antidote before getting in their car.
Such a potion is also unlikely to be welcomed with open arms by the multi-billion-pound drinks industry.