Powdered alcohol: an easier way to sneak a drink?

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Palcohol, scheduled to hit shelves later this year, may seem safer and easier in its form, but it produces the same effects as regular alcohol.

By Emily Raab, Production Editor

Alcohol in a powdered form may seems like a dream come true for a rebellious minor: it’s such a simple way to sneak a drink into a school dance or a party, right? Well, not exactly.

Mark Phillips originally created powdered alcohol, or “Palcohol,” as a lighter and more compact alternative to carrying alcohol on his hiking and camping trips. The powder is set to hit store shelves in Fall 2014.

“A product like Palcohol would make it easier for students who make bad choices to sneak illicit substances into school functions,” assistant principal John Taylor said.

However, doing so would not be as easy as one may think. With proper use, Palcohol has the same effect on a person’s behavior as liquid alcohol, so it would be obvious when a student has consumed the product

“With any mind-altering substance, the easiest way to tell someone is using it is by their odd and erratic behavior,” Taylor said. “It really doesn’t matter the form the substance was in before—the behavior is the giveaway.”

In addition, Palcohol will not be very accessible to students because of its cost and bulky packaging, making it difficult to hide.

“Palcohol should have no effect on high schoolers,” a representative from Lipsmark, Palcohol’s parent company, said. “A packet of Palcohol is four inches by six inches, which is quite large, so it is not easy to conceal. A 50 milliliter bottle of liquor is much smaller and less expensive, so there would be no reason anyone would choose Palcohol to sneak into anywhere.”

According to an April 2014 CBS News article, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau approved Palcohol’s product labels earlier in April, but later revoked its decision because of safety concerns. The company is working on resubmitting the labels.

There are several health concerns over the powder, mostly dealing with the possibilities of over-consuming or inhaling the product. The Palcohol website strongly discourages users from attempting to snort the substance.

“If alcohol were snorted, the alcohol would enter the blood stream and be taken to the brain without any being broken down by the liver first,” said Dr. Aaron White, Program Director for College and Underage Drinking Prevention Research at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “This could lead to bigger and more dangerous impairments in brain function.”

In addition to the risks associated with inhaling the product, Palcohol carries the same safety hazards as normal liquid alcohol.

“Like the liquid form of alcohol, powdered alcohol can affect the brain in ways that increase the chances of getting injured or injuring other people,” White said. “As with liquid alcohol, if a person consumed enough powdered alcohol they could shut off the parts of the brain that keep the heart beating and keep us breathing, which could cause death. Powdered alcohol could be particularly dangerous if a person is unaware that they are eating food with powdered alcohol in it or if they added too much of it to a drink.”

Although it is lightweight and portable, Palcohol is not as convenient for high schoolers as one may initially be led to believe. It will be sold just like any other alcoholic beverage, and its consumption will be monitored just like any other type of drink.

“Like with any change in use and abuse patterns, we will educate our security team and staff, and develop protocols for checking and searching for the new substance,” Taylor said.