New alternative to alcohol contains illegal substance

Dec 27, 2018

Health Canada is warning consumers against the potential dangers of a new non-alcoholic alternative drink, Pace, manufactured by Diet Alcohol Corporation of the Americas (DACA).

Pace is described by its manufacturer, on its website, as a “healthy alcohol alternative.” The company claims that Pace can provide consumers with the same intoxication effects they would get from alcohol, while containing no alcohol, zero calories, and not resulting in a hangover.

The active ingredient of Pace, MEAI (5-methoxy-2-aminoindane), is described by DACA as “a new synthetic” that delivers “a mild inebriation along with a feeling of contentedness that curbs overconsumption and excessive drinking.” In addition, according to the manufacturer, MEAI reduces the urge to binge drink.

In a statement to CBC News, Health Canada has said Pace is a controlled substance and its sale is illegal: “Pace is an illegal and unauthorized product in Canada… Health Canada is taking appropriate follow-up actions to prevent the sale of this product.”

However, according to the Pace website, the product is absolutely legal. Ezekiel Golan, the creator of Pace, said “tens of thousands” of bottles have already been sold on the product’s website and shipped across Canada. Golan is a controversial figure, and was the co-creator of other psychoactive drugs, including mephedrone, which was a club drug that resulted in 38 deaths and was subsequently banned in the U.K.

According to the Pace website, the main active ingredient, MEAI, is “neither regulated nor scheduled in the USA or Canada.” However, in a statement with CBC News, Health Canada said that the agency “is aware of MEAI and that it is considered to be a Controlled Substance (Schedule I)”. Indeed, due to the similarity of Pace’s chemical structure to amphetamines, it can be covered under the schedule’s analogue provision, making its possession illegal.

However, it seems that both RCMP and the Canada Border Services Agency do not have the authority to stop Pace from being shipped to Canada, or penalize individuals for its possession.

Golan has said that in contrast to mephedrone, MEAI has “never killed anybody.” However, there are concerns surrounding unpredictable effects and unknown long-term effects. Even Golan admits that all of the effects of Pace are still unknown: “Maybe incorporating it into your life is debilitating in a way we haven’t found out yet. Maybe there is some kind of long-term damage.” According to Golan, MEAI may provide benefits for individuals suffering from alcohol addiction by providing an alternative to drinking.