For at least a year we have been writing about the secular shift in the beverage world to non-alcoholic drinks - and the corresponding ways with which alcohol giants are changing their product roadmaps to adapt.
Now, the next "big thing" in the alcohol world could wind up being synthetic alcohol, according to the Wall Street Journal. The idea of a synthetic alcohol substitute could seek to address hangovers or other ill-effects of cocktails, according to the report.
GABA Labs is one company that is looking to try and make synthetic alcohol that can deliver the positive effects of the drink, without the negatives. Namely, the company is seeking to avoid hangovers, health problems or slurred speech. The company is using gamma-aminobutyric acid to try and hit relaxation receptors in the brain while avoiding the negatives that alcohol delivers to the body.
David Orren, managing director of GABA Labs, told WSJ: “Alcohol is like playing the piano with boxing gloves on. You hit too many keys.”
Dr. David Nutt, the chief scientific officer of GABA Labs, is a former psychiatrist and neuropsychopharmacologist. He has spent two years as chief of section of clinical science in the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism at the National Institutes of Health, the Journal notes, and has long argued about the negative effect of alcohol on society.
“It feels like what a glass of wine feels like. It feels relaxing. It makes you a bit more chatty, a bit more socially engaged with people,” he said about the company's product, called Alcarelle.
GABA is looking to raise $10.3 million and finish food safety testing in the U.S. by the middle of 2026, the report says. Orren and Nutt have been testing the product themselves, with Orren commenting: “It feels like a warm glow. You’re being you. And you’re being with somebody that’s being them. You’re being real.”
The next step will be testing the product, including testing it when mixed with actual alcohol.
Dr. Mack Mitchell, senior medical advisor for Amygdala, a company working to inhibit alcohol cravings with an oral drug that targets similar receptors, commented: “People who can’t control drinking don’t always want to stop drinking completely. They just want to be able to drink normally.”
Another company, Indivior, is working on a nasal spray to inhibit alcohol cravings as well. Its CEO Mark Crossley added: "I arrive in the parking lot. I don’t want six or seven drinks. I’ll top up with a nasal spray.”