The making and manufacture of alcoholic beverages is a huge global business, and entrepreneurs are constantly searching for new ways to make drinking seem exciting, tasty, or attractive. One of the most recent innovations is powdered alcohol, with varying products from Japan, Germany, and the Netherlands that are essentially powdered versions of alcoholic drinks.
In the United States, Mark Phillips has recently created a product he calls Palcohol, a powder that can turn into shots of liquor or flavored cocktails when mixed in water. According to the company's website as of April 8, 2015, Palcohol will offer a "light and compact" way to carry and consume alcoholic beverage in situations where space is limited, such as on camping trips, in airplanes, or in far away locations where shipping alcohol is difficult.
Palcohol is currently in the process of being approved for sale to adults, most recently being approved for sale by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau in April 2015.
The controversy, and dangers
Powdered alcohol is the subject of a great deal of controversy, because many people are worried it could easily be abused. Moves are being made in 37 state legislators to ban powdered alcohol, and Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is calling on the FDA to ban its sale and manufacture nationally. Schumer argues that this new method of potential alcohol abuse could exacerbate underage alcohol abuse, "a growing epidemic with tragic consequences."
In a video, Phillips addressed people's concerns. He showed that each packet of Palcohol contains the equivalent of one serving of alcohol. However, this safe alcoholic content assumes the consumer mixes the powder in 6 ounces of water. If the powder was simply eaten, mixed with less water, snorted, or mixed with other powder drugs, it would be significantly stronger, potentially becoming dangerously potent.
A changed message
It is worth mentioning that Palcohol's current, carefully measured company website differs wildly in tone from the original ad campaign which was significantly less measured. Suggested uses include using it to stealthy drink at concerts where drinks were otherwise priced prohibitively high, as well as sprinkling it on food, "for an extra kick," that seems worrying to anyone aware of the behavior of alcoholism. "Cosmo on a salad, or vodka on eggs in the morning to start the day off right."
Originally, Palcohol was going to be sold in a small sugar packet, but Phillips added volume the powder and placed it in a larger, drinkable container to discourage people from snorting it. He also argues that the large bag can't be easily concealed, and so would make it difficult for people to sneak alcohol into places where it is unauthorized.
While this careful response to criticism and steps taken to discourage unauthorized use is commendable, there are still some concerns that powdered alcohol could make it easier for people to consume alcohol irresponsibly.
While it is true, as Mark Phillips claims, that using Palcohol as intended will be no more harmful than liquid alcohol, experimental kids could consume lethal doses without detection from teachers or parents. People struggling with alcoholism could also find more ways to sneak alcohol into drinks or food, putting them at greater risk.
Alcohol is already the most abused substance in the U.S. While many adults do drink under responsible conditions and moderate levels, there are other people who consume alcohol under dangerous and addictive patterns, or at levels that are often deeply destructive to themselves and to society. Misusing powdered alcohol could offer new potential dangers, and it is for this reason that it is appropriate that lawmakers proceed with deep caution.