“You won’t take this quadruple shot”.
I rarely turned down challenges.
Especially when it involved drinking. I got good. I’d go to class, football or rugby practice, study, party, and repeat. Several nights every week. I became competitive with my drinking and wore my tolerance with reckless pride:
- I took flaming shots
- My “pregame” cocktail consisted of whey protein mixed with vodka (gross, I know)
Over time that all stopped. I finally experienced hangovers. I began weighing the night’s fun against the next day’s discomfort. Drinking quickly lost its charm.
The best genetic analysis tool confirmed my sensitivity and suggested some things I could do to offset the damage:
Today I still drink, but usually only a cocktail or two. And when I do, I strategically damage mitigate with advanced supplementation and habits.
I missed the social and feel-good parts of drinking.I started wondering how to get a buzz without alcohol. So I got to work. Researching, sourcing, and testing several dozen ingredients. At last, I found healthy alcohol alternatives that feel great without draining your energy or the bedridden agony of the morning after. These are my go-to booze replacements to enjoy the night without regret.
For more ingredients, check out my thorough list of all the pre-made nootropic brain-boosting drinks on the market.
The Best Pre-Made Alcohol AlternativesCertain ingredients induce the same euphoric state, and actively strengthen the brain, without the toxicity of alcohol Click To Tweet
There’s a different option for every goal and desired effect.
The best non-alcoholic drink that makes you feel great is KetoneAid’s R 1,3. They have many of the same flavors of traditional booze but with a different active ingredient.
Other products like Feel Free, TRUKAVA, Kin Eurphorics, Sun Chaser, and Zenify are good but feel different.
KetoneAid Hard Ketones
Make no mistake, you don’t need to follow the ketogenic diet to enjoy this rare drink.
KetoneAid has produced the world’s first ketogenic alcohol.
Instead of containing the addictive and toxic form of alcohol called ethanol, KetoneAid has formulated something special. The active ingredient, “1,3 Butanediol” (explained later), produces similar a feel but without the drawbacks.
Where typical alcoholic drinks get metabolized into toxic byproducts, the liver converts R 1,3 into brain-strengthening molecules called D-BHB. Compared to ethanol, Hard Ketones:
- Suppresses hunger rather than stimulating it
- Protects the brain and body rather than damaging it
- Contains zero carbs and sugar
- Energizes rather than leaving you tired and hungover
Both the taste can resemble that of hard seltzer.
In 2022, Hard Ketones released a non-alcoholic Gin & Tonic drink containing a higher concentration of R 1,3. Hard Ketones now has Pina Colada, which has quickly become the crowd favorite.
I’ve enjoyed Hard Ketones enough to recently purchase a 50-pack (see my review). Here’s a quick summary.
In the coming years, expect to start seeing this everywhere among health-conscious crowds.
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Feel Free Classic Tonic
Feel Free is the ultimate versatile plant-based euphoric.
Half of a dose boosts your productivity, focus, and creativity.
While a full dose induces bliss, relaxation, and the perfect amount of social lubrication.
Each bottle contains a proprietary blend of ancient plants and kava. Along with a touch of pineapple and coconut juice.
The not-so-secret ingredient here is high-quality kava (also called Piper methysticum), which has quickly become a star in the sober community. It also contains a natural pain-relieving (physical and social) plant endemic to Asia called kratom.
You’ll feel Feel Free kicking in about 5-10 minutes after your first sip, with the primary active ingredient (kavalactones) working in the brain before the body. This has been my experience:
You get the feel-good effects of alcohol, without slurred speech, brain fog, or poor decision-making. Note that, due to the kratom content, I don’t recommend this drink for anyone with a history of substance issues. For maximum potency, Feel Free shouldn’t be a daily drink. Or at the very least, no more than one per day.
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Feel Free New
A unique formulation, carefully crafted to emphasize the energizing effects of ancient plants, great for productivity, focus, and creativity.
One crucial aspect worth highlighting is the absence of kratom in this particular tonic. By removing kratom from the equation, Botanic Tonics ensured individuals with substance issues can safely indulge in the Feel Free experience.
The proprietary blend of ancient plants and kava remains at the heart of this tonic, complemented by hints of a distinct Coke-like taste (from Kola seed). Tasting much better than its counterpart. I begin feeling the effects within 5-10 minutes after taking my first sip. The primary active ingredient in this formulation, include:
- Kava Root: Native to the South Pacific, kava root is commonly used to relieve occasional stress and promote relaxation.
- Kola Nut: Kola nut is a seed that naturally contains caffeine. It provides a boost of energy and alertness.
- Lion’s Mane: Lion’s mane is a type of edible fungus or mushroom that has been used in traditional Chinese medicine. It has the potential to support brain health and cognition.
- Rhodiola: Native to the mountains of Europe and Asia, Rhodiola is known for its ability to boost energy, enhance mental clarity, reduce occasional stress, and possibly increase physical stamina.
These powerful herbs, roots, and plants come together in a carefully blended tonic to offer a variety of benefits such as relaxation, increased focus, sociability, clean energy boost without crashes or jitters, and overall holistic wellness.
Unlike Feel Free Classic, since this one does not contain kratom, I wouldn’t mind using it daily. It does contain natural caffeine, so it’s better consumed at least several hours before bed.
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TRU KAVA Drinks
A perfect blend of tradition and modern science. The extraction process mirrors traditional kava preparation methods by applying high pressure at low temperatures without any solvents. Ensuring all the beneficial phytochemicals from the kava root are captured in this easy-to-consume form.
TRU KAVA brings tranquility along with sharpened focus – it gently takes the edge off, without sedating. Akin to a grounding or re-centering effect.
What intrigues me most is the ‘reverse tolerance’ effect. Unlike alcohol where you need more to feel less, with kava and specifically TRU KAVA, you might experience stronger effects over time (with the same or smaller doses) as your body becomes attuned to its calming influence.
The taste is rather pleasant too – expertly masking the earthy tones of most kava products. These have become mainstays in alcohol-free communities here in Austin, Texas. When I want an extra boost, I’ll either add KAVAPLEX Oil or one of the below ingredients. Calmness and emotional connection, alongside mental clarity. Learn more in my TRUKAVA KAVAPLEX Review.
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The original nootropic booze alternative, Kin does all the heavy lifting for you. Each Kin Euphorics product contains different ingredients tailored to your use:
- Vitamins and minerals
- And others
From brightening mood to sleep, to relaxation, Kin has crafted something for every occasion.
The bottles are wall pieces and they contain a special formulation of compounds. Their products are for special occasions.
Looking for another done-for-you mocktail? Sun Chaser is a new entrant to nootropic booze alternatives. Their original flavor tastes of fruit and mint, with the following ingredients added:
Or with a little elbow grease, you can make many batches with the following ingredients:
Using five ingredients you can customize your own nootropic beverage as fit.
Match your nootropic booster to a worthy base. For example, the earthy taste of Kava probably would go better with coconut milk than kombucha.
Zenify is a newcomer to pre-made relaxation drinks. Everything about these cans resembles that of your typical energy drink. Where they differ, however, is the way you feel after a can.
The team behind Zenify formulated it specifically to help you relax, de-stress, and enjoy after a long day without booze. The following ingredients produce its characteristic tranquility:
Sweetened with stevia, monk fruit extract, and erythritol. Making Zenify a guilt-free and blood-sugar-friendly way to unwind.
Supplements That Mimic Alcohol
Now, let’s discuss the best alcohol-like supplements and raw ingredients.
You can use them to augment certain effects in the drinks above. Or you can use them to make your own custom feel-amazing alcohol-free “cocktails”.
These are the boosters I add to my liquid of choice to give it a kick.
Cannabinoids (CBD, CBN, & More)
One of many cannabinoids in cannabis, CBD relaxes and de-stresses without the psychoactive effects characteristic of pot (THC). CBD comes in the form of flowers, tinctures, or food and drink infusions.
This cannabinoid, in particular, exerts adaptogen-like effects throughout the body. It puts my muscles and mind to ease without sedation. Over 100 studies support the neuroprotective effects of CBD.
Unlike booze, my Oura Ring shows that CBD actually improves my sleep scores. CBD works on the endocannabinoid system which is responsible for maintaining homeostasis.Consume too much, however, and you’ll wake up feeling a temporary haze. Combat the mild “CBD hangover” with a squeeze of lemon or a drop of a clean lemon essential oil.
Some cutting-edge research is finding that CBN improves sleep better than CBD. Causing some researchers to call CBN “Nature’s Ambien”. Few pre-made products contain CBN and finding high-CBN hemp has been tricky. FiveCBD contains various cannabinoids, including the slightly euphoric and deeply relaxing CBN.
Kava is among the most popular alternatives to alcohol. It’s made from a plant native to the Pacific Islands and is in the pepper family. Kava is a social brew used in the South Pacific, traditionally served in a shell. Its relaxing, anti-stress, and insomnia-relieving properties are thought to come from an ingredient called kava-lactones.
Kava has an “earthy” flavor best described as an acquired taste. Few sweeteners and mixers effectively mask the taste.
Island rituals have included kava for thousands of years. There’s a myth that kava can lead to liver injury. WHO research found that “Kava has had at least a 1500-year history of relatively safe use, with liver side effects never having arisen in the ethnopharmacological data… Clinical trials of kava have not revealed hepatotoxicity [liver injury] as a problem.” Follow-up studies confirm the safety of high-quality kava for recreational use.
When choosing a safe and effective product I look for:
- 100% certified Noble Kava varieties
- 100% naturally made
The product I’ve found that fits the bill is TRU KAVA.
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Keto has become a household name. The diet boomed for its brain-boosting, appetite-reducing, and general health-improving effects. What makes it so powerful? Restricting carbohydrates causes a natural surge of an alternative fuel source called ketones. The brain is accustomed to glucose, and these molecules are like rocket fuel. You can produce them naturally, or take ketone-boosting supplements. But one special type of ketone called 1,3-butanediol mimics the effects of alcohol.
Researchers are still investigating the long-term effects of 1,3-butanediol. Early users compare the buzz to a drink or two of alcohol. You can learn more from this short interview snippet. Or check out KetoneAid’s R1,3 product listed above.
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I hesitated to put phGABA (also called phenibut) on this list. It’s a potent grey-area nootropic regulated in certain countries. Of course, it’s intended for research purposes only. PhGABA is an upgraded version of the relaxing brain chemical called GABA. Why not supplement normal GABA? The phenyl group in phGABA (hence the ph) helps it cross the blood-brain barrier. So phGABA feels similar to alcohol.
But that’s not all.
PhGABA only targets a specific type of GABA receptor. Causing the feel-good effects of alcohol without slurred speech or loss of coordination. But I was reluctant to list it. Why?
Phenibut builds tolerance extremely quickly. And abuse leads to nasty withdrawal symptoms. I’m able to stick to taking it just once every week or two. If I were prone to addictions, I wouldn’t even consider it.
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Picamilon is an interesting alcohol alternative that I’ve used a number of times. It’s a GABA and niacin (vitamin B3) derivative, meaning it has a molecular structure similar to the neurotransmitter GABA which our body naturally produces, and niacin which is an essential vitamin obtained through diet. The main difference and what makes Picamilon exceptional, is its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier.
This increased bioavailability of Picamilon exerts some remarkable effects on the brain. What I’ve noticed from personal use is a pleasant euphoric buzz that parallels the sensation one might experience after consuming alcohol—without any of the negative side effects like impaired cognition or coordination issues. With the addition of niacin, it’s slightly more energizing than phGABA too.
It uplifts your mood, eases social interactions, clears away unnecessary stress and nerves but leaves you clear-headed and completely in control.
Overall, it’s a nice blend of relaxation without sedation combined with improved cognition and energy levels. Picamilon is an excellent choice for those seeking a balance between tranquility and mental alertness without resorting to substances that may come with unwanted side effects.
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Taurine is one of the two primary “anti-aging” amino acids, and it has gained recognition for acting gently on the body while exerting wide-ranging effects.
It’s naturally found in certain foods, but supplementation yields additional benefits. In fact, it’s the reason energy drinks with 300+ milligrams of caffeine can still feel smooth. Taurine doubles as a great physical performance booster (ergogenic aid).
Yet it also acts as an agonist for GABA receptors, which helps regulate mood and reduce feelings of anxiety and stress. By promoting a sense of calmness, it enables you to unwind without the need for alcohol’s intoxicating effects. At the same time, it can improve learning, memory, and clarity.
The effects of taurine are more subtle than some of the others on this list. When I consume taurine, I notice an overall sense of calmness and relaxation wash over me without feeling intoxicated or impaired.
Taurine offers a unique alternative to alcohol, providing mood regulation (great for social nervousness), cognitive support, and maintaining energy and mental clarity.
Often referred to as the “love hormone” or “cuddle chemical”, oxytocin plays a crucial role in social bonding, trust, and emotional connection. There are two routes: boosting levels naturally (hugging, cuddling, or engaging in acts of kindness) or supplementation. Supplementation is far more powerful.
While you cannot directly compare the effects to alcohol, supplementing oxytocin does accomplish some of the same pro-social benefits.
Oxytocin promotes feelings of trust, empathy, and emotional closeness. It can enhance social interactions and foster stronger connections with others, making it an intriguing option for those seeking meaningful experiences without relying on alcohol-induced social lubrication.
As you’d expect, higher oxytocin is associated with reduced stress and deeper relaxation.
Users describe feeling more open-hearted, compassionate, and attuned to the emotions of those around them. Helping them form a deeper sense of connection with others—whether it’s with friends, romantic partners, or even strangers.
Its ability to induce positive emotions, improve mood, and support overall well-being makes it an alternative avenue for unwinding after a long day or during social situations without the clouded judgment of consuming alcohol.
Note: oxytocin heightens your perception of trust. Only consider using this when you trust those you’ll be interacting with.Buy Oxytocin
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MitoZen sprays are instant relaxation in a bottle if you can handle it. Probably the strongest item on this list.
The ZEN Vertical Spray™ is a cocktail of medicinal plant extracts from the Amazon, essential oils, and nano liposomal terpenes designed to calm the mind and reduce stress. Its potency comes from its powerful impact on vagal nerve activation.
One particular ingredient that stands out is hapé (also known as rapé), a sacred shamanic snuff used extensively among indigenous tribes in the Amazon basin. Hapé is made from various medicinal plants, herbs, seeds, and leaves, and often contains Nicotiana rustica (a variety of tobacco). It’s traditionally used in healing rituals to re-align with one’s energy and cleanse oneself spiritually. MitoZen took the idea of hapé and bioharmonized it to be more compatible with the body.
With one to two quick sprays, it shifts your nervous system into serenity. Within about 20-30 seconds of inhalation, I notice a powerful head rush. Clarity, focus, and presence wash over me.
The profound calming effect it has on the nervous system mimics meditative states or the calming effects of breathwork. This “zen” feeling has been associated with increasing brain blood flow and positively affecting the release of several stimulatory neurotransmitters. The effects fade, and a soothing wave of tranquility persists. I’m met with an ‘afterglow’ effect – a warm flushing feeling of groundedness, presence, and heightened sensory perception.
This stuff is quite powerful. The formula contains nicotine which is an addictive chemical. For the strongest effects, I limit my usage to once per week.
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Dihydrohonokiol-B is an active compound derived from a magnolia bark extract. It’s been hailed as a natural wonder for nervousness, fear, and anxiety.
If you feel paralyzed by your nerves running wild in social situations and don’t want to drastically alter your mental space, DHH-B might be a good option.
So much so that some research comparing it to benzo drugs found DHH-B effective and far safer [R].
The anxiolytic activity without sedation or muscle relaxation makes it a candidate as a stress-reliever that maintains alertness and coordination – something compromised by alcohol.
Plus, DHH-B appears to improve sleep quality. Making it a well-rounded option for late-night events.
The only issue?
Quality DHH-B is hard to find.Buy DHH-B
Liposomal GABA + Theanine
The neurotransmitter GABA is the brain’s chief ‘calm and connect’ agent. It helps balance nerve transmission, quelling emotional storms and supporting healthy stress response. Most relevant of its many roles, it helps quiets the activity of neurons in the brain – essentially chilling them out.
Adding to the calming effects is L-theanine, an amino acid that induces relaxation and enhances mood. Found primarily in green tea leaves, L-theanine smooths out brain wave patterns (inducing alpha brain waves) much like meditation does.
What makes this formulation stand out is its unique delivery system: Liposomal encapsulation. Most supplements struggle with bioavailability – little of the ingredient actually enters your bloodstream for use by your cells. Most oral GABA supplements get obliterated during digestion. Liposomes protect these valuable molecules during their perilous journey through your digestive tract.
The initial taste is mild with a hint of sweetness, nothing overpowering. You swish the liquid around in your mouth for about 30 seconds before swallowing. You’ll start to notice that the familiar background noise of stress starts to recede; your thoughts aren’t bouncing around as much anymore.
Like turning down the volume knob on your worries and concerns. You remain cognitively sharp, but with a sense of tranquility and centeredness.
The effects are not instantaneously profound. They gradually unfold and seep in subtly, so that you’re left with only what matters most – clarity and peace.
These calming vibes persist for hours afterward without impairing sleep or your day’s activities.
Micro-dosing LSD or magic mushrooms, a practice that originated in the Silicon Valley tech scene has steadily gained traction as an alternative to traditional cognitive enhancers and anxiety aids.
Micro-dosing involves regularly taking sub-perceptual amounts of psychedelic substances (generally 1/20th to 1/10th of a recreational dose) which doesn’t invoke the hallmark hallucinatory effects. Instead, it can enhance creativity, focus, and emotional balance over time.
Alcohol is famously a social facilitator; it lowers inhibitions, making individuals feel more relaxed and open in social situations. However, these effects typically come with downsides such as impaired judgment, hangovers, sluggishness, and potential addiction.
Microdosing may offer a unique set of pro-social, relaxation, and stress-reducing effects that contrast and, in some ways, resemble the impacts of alcohol. Microdosing psychedelics seem to offer similar benefits but through different mechanisms. Users often report feeling more empathetic and open to others’ perspectives while microdosing. This increased emotional sensitivity might enhance interpersonal connections and facilitate deeper understanding and bonding in social situations.
Without feeling drained, unsteadiness, or memory gaps sometimes caused by long nights of drinking.
Those that are micro-dosing notice subtle yet significant shifts in perception, mood, productivity, creativity, receptivity to new ideas, emotional attunement, and overall mental well-being.
Unlike alcohol which is legal in most parts of the world, LSD/magic mushroom use remains illegal in many jurisdictions despite growing evidence supporting their therapeutic benefits.
Raw cacao, the untouched, unprocessed version of cocoa, is a superfood that’s chock-full of beneficial antioxidants, minerals, and mood-boosting compounds. It’s made by cold-pressing unprocessed cocoa beans which not only helps retain its nutritional value but also gives it a richly decadent chocolatey flavor.
Compared to booze, raw cacao feels more subtle yet still noticeably enhances mood and mental state. Effects-wise, raw cacao offers a different kind of sensation.
As ancient South Americans knew, high-dose raw cacao from the right strain provides a great synergy of effects. Stimulation through the theobromine content, bliss through activation of the endocannabinoid system (anandamide), and acts as an empathogen.
Making it great for socializing, dancing, and general creativity.
This natural antidepressant owes its mood-lifting capabilities to serotonin, dopamine, and phenylethylamine.
Make sure to get high-quality, ceremonial-grade raw cacao for the best effects. One of my friends who is quite into cacao ceremonies swears by the “FlyKakao Signature“.
I like a dose of between 15-30 grams. As you may expect, it’s safe for daily usage.Buy Cacao Powder (Amazon)
Sceletium tortuosum (kanna) is a plant native to South Africa used for centuries due to its unique properties. Today, it’s catching attention as an empathogen among folks seeking healthier alternatives to drinking and toxic drugs.
In fact, Kanna is sometimes referred to as “nature’s MDMA”. It’s a subtle natural anti-depressant and it’s thought to activate various pathways throughout the body (GABA, prostaglandins, opioids, cholecystokinin, melatonin) [R].
Kanna helps “open” your heart, enhances empathy, and facilitates connection with others. Its effects are twofold: on one hand, it provides a calm euphoria paired with clear thinking – on the other hand, it offers tranquility, slight social inhibition, and reduced anxiety.
This relaxed awareness enables individuals to delve deeper into their inner thoughts if they so choose.
Small doses relieve stress and elevate self-confidence and well-being. Kanna can also heighten sensitivity towards touch which explains its frequent use as an aphrodisiac.
In terms of dosage, 25-50mg per day is considered effective for cognitive improvements while doses ranging from 100-200mg are typically prescribed by psychiatrists in South Africa for major depression and anxiety treatment. Some folks snuff just 20-30 mg to get the desired effects.
Between the safety and social enhancing effect profiles, Kanna is one little-known ingredient worth consideration. You’ll find the patented extract “Zembrin” used in some high-quality nootropic supplement formulas. You can also buy it as a standalone powder or capsule.Buy Kanna
I’ll admit that beets are a bit of a stretch.
If you like the energetic effects of drinking, eat (or drink) your beets. Beet juice is well known to promote blood flow. The exotic neon-pink glow makes for an interesting conversation starter.
Beetroot also reduces blood pressure. All of which makes it a great post-work beverage.
Don’t want the hassle of gathering ingredients and blending them yourself?
Popular Alcohol Alternatives That I Wouldn’t Buy
I get a ton of questions via email and private messages about new and emerging products that market themselves as buzz-inducing alcohol alternatives.
I’ve spent hundreds of hours researching, studying, testing, and reviewing everything on this list. Certain products come up often enough to warrant me sharing my thoughts.
Nama Buzz Liquid THC Drops
Delta-9 THC is the primary (of multiple) natural active ingredient within cannabis responsible for the psychoactive high. It’s also what induces cannabis’s euphoric state.
When I reviewed the Nama Buzz marketing and product information, I disliked a couple of things.
First, these are isolates of the hemp plant. Hemp contains hundreds of bioactive chemicals, each playing crucial supportive roles. This contains only two: THC and CBD. In a sub-optimal 1:1 ratio.
The best hemp-derived products are full-spectrum, containing high levels of all the important cannabinoids.
Plus, the Nama Liquid Drops are expensive for the low dosage and few servings per container. You could easily choose another higher-dose product, use less, and save a ton of money. Finally, Nama Buzz isn’t organic.
You can find superior cannabinoid product options listed above.
How to Make Potent Buzz-Inducing Alcohol-Free Drinks (DIY)
There are two components to creating your own nootropic brain-state-enhancing alcohol replacement:
- Powerful “boosters” that make you feel great
- A delicious drink base to add volume and flavor
First, determine which effects of alcohol you’d like to replicate. Then, choose one or more of the above ingredients that share those effects.
Where possible, you’ll then add them to your drink base.
There aren’t many wrong choices. In my drinks, I enjoy either:
- Kombucha (bonus points for homemade)
- Flavored sparkling water
- Fresh juice
- Coconut milk
Pour the flavorful base liquid into your glass, and add one or more nootropic ingredients. If the raw ingredient doesn’t taste horrendous, you can break open the capsule and manually mix it into your drink.
Enjoy a healthy buzz without feeling bad the next day.
The No-Hangover Outliyr “Cocktails” That Feel Better Than Alcohol
I still drink. Lightly here and there. But here’s the thing:
I don’t really miss it.
The right replacements offer far more than booze. You can experience the fun parts of alcohol without the stupor or next-day pain.
In fact, part of the appeal is that these alternatives improve your cognition, sleep, and recovery. You’ll feel great, and wake up the next day primed to perform your best. Your Oura Ring scores will prove it.
Some of my favorite alcohol alternatives that produce a buzz or social energy boost include:
- TRU KAVA
- Feel Free
- Kin Eurphorics
- Hemp Cannabinoids
- Hard Ketones
- Mitozen Spray
- Liposomal GABA
- Sun Chaser
- Nootropic “cocktails”
I’ll continue to test new ingredients and formulations as the research emerges.
Am I missing anything?
Let me know your favorite alternatives to alcohol in the comments.