In the chronologically later Star Trek series, Starfleet officers rarely worried about overindulging thanks to synthehol, a substance that mimicked alcohol's effects without the drunkeness and hangovers. Now a team of researchers are working to make synthehol a reality.
Researchers at Imperial College London are working to create an alcohol-like drug that would let imbibers experience a pleasant state of inebriation without worrying about becoming drunk, hungover, or physically addicted to the substance. Led by controversial neuropsychopharmacologist David Nutt, the team is looking at benzodiazepines — such as the main ingredient in Valium — to achieve the desired effect. Nutt envisions a world where drinking is safer, with fewer of the accidents and incidents currently related to alcohol.
The advantages of benzodiazepines, according to Nutt, is that they don't affect the brain's addiction centers in the way alcohol does and that they can be easily purged from the body with an antidote. Effectively, if Nutt's research pans out, he claims that drinkers would be able to "switch off" the effects of the faux alcohol by ingesting a pill.
Nutt and his fellow researchers are currently trying to find the benzodiazepine that most closely mimics the effects of alcohol. However, he is concerned that — even if he is successful — European governments will refuse to permit the sale of benzodiazeprine "alcohol," since benzos don't enjoy the same privileged history that alcohol does.