Palcohol, or powdered alcohol, is touted by its creator as a quick and easy way to mix up a cocktail; all you need is water or juice, a packet of powder and something to mix it up in. If you’re like me, hearing that probably makes you think of a certain flavored, powdered drink enjoyed by kids everywhere, and the alarm bells go off in your head. Granted, the rational adult in me can appreciate how much more convenient Palcohol would be to mix up a margarita while camping, but we were all teenagers once; and, well, we didn’t always think rationally.
Alcohol is already the most commonly used and abused drug by people under 21 in the US.
According to a CDC survey, 28% of 8th graders and 68% of 12 graders had tried alcohol.
In theory, because packets of powdered alcohol would be easier to conceal, it could lead to more underage drinking and could be easier to “sneak” into venues, such as at sporting events and schools.
Great – just one more thing I have to worry about once my son is a teenager!
Palcohol has already preemptively been banned in five states (Alaska, Louisiana, South Carolina, Vermont and Virginia) due to its risk for abuse, and other states such as Colorado are considering it, but it has not been banned in Arizona. Resident expert Frank LoVecchio, DO, medical toxicologist with the Banner Poison and Drug Information Center has been following Palcohol closely, and I asked him if he thought parents should be concerned.
“Parents should treat this like a drug because it is,” says Dr. LoVecchio. “Alcohol, whether powdered or not, is a huge public health problem, any effort to limit its use among teens is welcome.”
According to the National Institute of Health, each year in the United States, about 5,000 persons under the age of 21 die from causes related to underage drinking. These deaths include about 1,600 homicides and 300 suicides.
Dr. LoVecchio also pointed out a danger I hadn’t even thought of with powdered alcohol.
“In theory, powdered alcohol could be added to alcoholic drinks to unknowingly increase the strength to the consumer,” he says. In other words: One small packet is the equivalent of one shot of alcohol, so it would be very easy to create a concentrated cocktail with just a small amount of liquid.
Another concern I’d read was that, because it’s a powder, some people might try to snort it, but Dr. LoVecchio points out this is unlikely because it would be extremely irritating.
Moreover, according to the company’s statement this week addressing concerns about the product and it would take an hour to snort a “shot” of vodka.
Powdered alcohol is scheduled to hit stores this summer, and as a concerned parent, I can promise you I’ll be following the developments of the same closely.