This is a strange one, and I’m not entirely sure what to make of it, though my natural skeptical tendencies run toward worry. As reported in the USA Today last week in an article entitled Kudzu Compound Could Help Alcoholics Quit Drinking, “[a]n ingredient derived from the [Kudzu] vine noted for gobbling up native Southeast landscapes could help treat alcoholism.
Essentially the plant Kudzu, a vine that’s a native of Japan, later introduced in the U.S. and growing wild throughout the southeast, has been found to have a substance contained in it, daidzin, which researchers believe may help in the treatment of alcoholism. The article is based on a study published in the November issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research under the title Suppression of Heavy Drinking and Alcohol Seeking by a Selective ALDH-2 Inhibitor.
But here’s the odd bit, at least for me. The Daidzin found in Kudzu (and which the scientists now believe they can synthesize) makes “drinking alcohol an unpleasant experience.” Isn’t that how they treated the violent kids in Anthony Burgess’ novel A Clockwork Orange? In the novel (and film by Stanley Kubrick) the protagonist undergoes “a form of aversion therapy, in which Alex is given a drug that induces extreme nausea while being forced to watch graphically violent films for two weeks.”
Apparently using Kudzu in this manner is an ancient Chinese folk remedy, thousands of years old. To learn more about it, check out The Amazing Story of Kudzu. The addiction community seems interested. “The results seem promising, says Raye Litten, co-leader of the medications development team at the National Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. ”
But I can’t help thinking that’s still not the right way to treat addiction. I suppose if it’s reserved for the very extreme cases or is done voluntarily, but still I worry. Remember when fluoride was added to the drinking water? Sure, dentists are convinced it helps prevent cavities, but not everyone is so sure, and even today there are people who don’t believe it. (Doc, this would be a good place for you to chime in.) My mother — a nurse — and countless other parents complained and protested when they added it to the school water fountains in the mid-to-late 1960s. What’s to stop certain groups from trying to add this to the water to stop all people from drinking alcohol? Sure I sound paranoid, but it sure would make a good action/adventure flick, don’t you think?
michael reinhardt says
It may stop the addiction but it doesn’t change an addictive personality. I’m always curious when people find the easiest way to deal with a small part of a larger problem. I, like you, have reservations about creating aversion to deal with alcohol.
This sounds like the same concept as behind drugs like Antibuse (sp?). I think this is a fairly old technique for treating alcoholism.
Christopher F. says
Hmmm…I wonder why Fullsteam wants to put this stuff in their beer:
The Ludovico Technique was a failure in the novel. And this treatment will also be a failure because it treats the result and not the cause.
Sean Lilly Wilson says
For us at Fullsteam, the kudzu beer is less about the odd anti-alcohol components and more about trying to do something useful about the Scourge of the South. We have no idea if it will make good beer. It’s a fun exercise — one we’ll resume after the first hard frost.
We did joke around that we should name the beer “curb appeal” or “This beer is great! I never want to drink it again!”
For now, it’s all for fun — and with a hope that we can take this invasive species and harvest something useful out of it. If the story (or the end result) becomes less about the “Southern Ag” element and more about this on-going alcoholism treatment angle, I imagine we’ll quickly lose interest.
Mike Pierce says
How about a compound that targets intellectual laziness? American Idol reducing the masses to bouts dry heaving and foaming at the mouth?
If we’re going to get Draconian on our asses, let’s at least make it socially productive!