Professor David Nutt was sacked by the UK government in 2009. He was dismissed for reporting on the comparative harms of various drugs. He claimed that ecstasy and LSD were less dangerous than alcohol which didn’t go down well as the government would not even acknowledge that alcohol was a drug in the first place!
In 2010 he published a landmark study in The Lancet – a study that ranked the harm done to users and society by a range of drugs. His study put alcohol as number one – as more harmful to society than heroin and crack.
Since leaving his government position, Professor Nutt has been chairing Drugs Science, an NGO which does groundbreaking research and provides independent, evidence-based information on drugs.
He’s been engaged in some fascinating research into alcohol, cannabis and psychedelics and for the last few years he’s been working on the development of a drink which has just been launched in the UK – called Sentia.
Sentia is a new type of drink that doesn’t contain alcohol but aims to recreate its relaxing effects. The blend of botanicals in Sentia does this by enhancing the activity of a neurotransmitter called GABA in the brain.
Since recording the interview I’ve been lucky enough to sample Sentia and can report that not only is it delicious but it certainly does hit the spot and deliver a gentle buzz.
I drank mine neat with lots of ice and enjoyed the spicy bitterness.
Our lucky UK listeners will be able to order it right now and hopefully, those of us in the rest of the world will get to sample it soon.
In this Episode
- David’s interest in the effects of alcohol began during his career as a doctor
- Like most doctors, he would see patients who had been damaged by alcohol practically every day
- His goal has been to produce a drink which provides the buzz of alcohol without the harm
- Sentia replicates the positive effects of alcohol (sociability and relaxation) without the negative effects (aggression and dependence)
- Alcohol affects the brain a bit like a sledgehammer whereas Sentia is much more targeted
- The benefits of alcohol kick in after one or two drinks when it affects our GABA system which keeps the brain calm
- But if we push the dose up to more than two drinks then it affects other brain neurotransmitters and can lead to more-ish-ness, craving, binging, amnesia and hangovers
- So the Prof has found a way to minimise the unwanted effects
- Sentia has been designed by a world-renowned team of botanists, innovators and scientists and it only targets the GABA system
- The fact that the herbs which have been used to create it can be found in nature and have been used for centuries means that it’s exempt from food safety testing
- We talked about the fact that if alcohol was invented today it would never pass any of the rigorous food and drink safety tests which new products have to go through
- David reflected that alcohol seems to have a special and privileged status in the world and came up with an interesting comparison with the fact that guns seem to have a privileged place in US law
- He also pointed out that alcohol kills more people than guns each year!
- I Googled this stat and discovered that 45,000 people died from gunshot wounds in 2020 whereas alcohol-related deaths average around 140,000 a year in the US alone – 3 million worldwide
- I asked the Prof if Sentia was safe for those of us in recovery – he made it clear that Sentia is not a medicine or a therapy
- However, it will not create dependence and it will create a feeling of relaxation
- He sees it as a good alternative for people who are vulnerable to alcohol dependence
- At Tribe Sober, we always say don’t drink alcohol-free drinks if they trigger you so we would advise the same approach with Sentia
- The advantage of Sentia is that it’s not fake alcohol so probably is unlikely to trigger ex-drinkers
- Sentia is available in the UK right now and you can read more about it on the website which is sentiaspirits.com
- International distribution has its challenges but the first step may be to get it manufactured in the US and it could be sent as a concentrate to other countries – watch this space and we’ll keep you informed
- David took us through what happens in our brains when we drink alcohol
- The first neurotransmitter to get hit is GABA – which makes us feel calmer, more relaxed and more like socialising
- Drinking more than a couple of glasses will trigger dopamine, a stimulant which will make us want more and is why we go on binges
- It also releases endorphins which contribute to addictiveness and lack of control
- Carry on drinking and we start to block the most important neurotransmitter, Glutamate, which keeps us awake
- Glutamate is vital for consciousness and for laying down memories – so that’s why we get blackouts
- Blocking glutamate can lead to brain damage, and withdrawal and is responsible for hangovers
- I told the Prof about the 6-hour walking, talking blackout that finally made me decide the quit
- He confirmed that blackouts are a huge red flag as there is a danger of brain damage
- We talked about the fact that deaths from liver damage in the UK have increased 3-fold in the last 30 years
- This is because the real price of alcohol has reduced to a third of what it was 30 years ago and availability has also increased dramatically
- If David was in government he would address this by limiting availability and increasing taxation – these two measures would massively reduce the harms of alcohol.
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