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Powdered alcohol: new form, old problems (part one)

May 29, 2014 9:14 am Published by Comments Off on Powdered alcohol: new form, old problems (part one)

Powdered Alcohol

This is a two-part series about powdered alcohol. This is part one. You can find part two here

Powdered alcohol — which manufacturers hope to have on the market this fall, and which legislators are trying to ban — is a new alcohol delivery system with lots of potential problems common to alcohol — and some new issues, as well.

Powdered alcohol is exactly as it sounds — alcohol in powdered form. The creators of this substance market it as “Palcohol”. They are planning to sell the powdered alcohol in easy, just-add-water, juice drink-like pouches. They are available in “straight” shots (such as vodka) or as premixed cocktails (such as cosmopolitans and lemon drops).

They are clearly marketing to the “Alcopop” market — consumers who like colorful, sugary, fruit-flavored alcoholic beverages. Alcopops have their unique attractiveness to young (and often underage) consumers:

[Alcopops] are attractive to the young female market; they avoid the higher tax rates for spirits or liquor by being classified as beer; and thus, they can be sold wherever beer is available (convenience and grocery stores, for example). Because they don’t taste, smell, or look like alcohol, alcopops serve as a transition or bridge from soft drinks, especially for young girls. The packaging and promotion of alcopops has led to a misperception these products are “lighter” than other alcohol products, when they contain several times as much alcohol. Youth report drinking alcopops because they are easier to conceal and “go down easy.” [AlcoholJustice.org]

As with other “designer” chemicals, safety will be an issue. Some of the chemicals used to make powdered alcohol have known dangerous side effects, and (as with synthetic marijuana and “bath salts”) internet vendors may sell unregulated and potentially harmful chemical versions.

Novelty has its power. It’s new and intriguing, and bound to be purchased by the curious. It’s certain to be talked about (in fact, it already is) — and the buzz is bound to land on young ears.

The powdered form also invites dangerous misadventures. Already, a handful of young people have posted videos of themselves snorting their own versions of powdered alcohol — a highly dangerous and painful activity. An earlier version of the Palcohol website included encouragement to snort the powder — a fact the creator of Palcohol admits to.

Portability could also appeal to those who are not allowed (or not old enough) to drink. Compact packets of liquid-free powder are easy to pack and transport without detection.

Of course, this product also presents issues common to all alcohol problems — the possibilities of misuse and overindulgence.

Coming up: Part two — legislation and legality of powdered alcohol

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