A new product called “Palcohol” has been approved by the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, garnering a great deal of attention from the media.
Palcohol is a new powdered alcohol product that allows consumers to mix alcohol powder with any liquid to instantly create a cocktail. The founder of Palcohol, Mark Phillips, states that the product is largely intended for hikers who may want to consume cocktails without hauling heavy bottles around, but many experts agree that the ease of accessibility and potential for abuse pose many risks for impressionable young adults who may experiment with more creative ways to use the substance. Due to the fact that it is sold in a powdered form, Palcohol can be ingested by mixing it with beverages, consumed with food, or even snorted for a more immediate effect. Many states have sought to ban Palcohol, including Colorado, which recently legalized recreational marijuana use.
Early last year, Palcohol labels were mistakenly approved and the approval was immediately rescinded, with a spokesperson stating the approvals were “issued in error.” In spite of this, Palcohol went on to become available in the market with labels designed to ensure consumers knew the exact contents of the product. Powdered alcohol, coming in several delicious-looking flavors, brings with it a high potential for abuse. Some experts have expressed concern regarding the availability of this new product, echoing the cries of dismay that rang out a few years ago over sweet alcoholic beverages that also contained caffeine, such as Four Loko. These products appealed to young adults, but their contents caused individuals to become dangerously intoxicated in a short period of time.
As a powder, Palcohol is easy to conceal and can be consumed in places where alcohol is prohibited. These same factors also raise concerns of the possibility of abuse by underage drinkers. With a growing presence in homes, Palcohol could be easily obtained and misused, and in homes with small children, the risks associated with not locking up Palcohol could be dangerous and potentially fatal. Thus, many experts are concerned about the potential for misuse and overdose because users can mix it on their own and possibly ingest too much. These concerns are similar to those surrounding the recent increase in accessibility of edible marijuana in states that have legalized the drug. These states have seen increases in marijuana overdose due to high consumption of edibles. These concerns were further escalated When the makers of Palcohol encouraged users to experiment with creative concepts such as sprinkling it on food for “an extra kick.” Furthermore, experts are concerned about the potential for abuse by mixing Palcohol and other illicit substances to enhance the effects.
Underage Drinking and Palcohol
Alcohol is one of the most commonly abused substances in the United States, and with the introduction of Palcohol, the opportunities for experimentation and abuse could increase substantially. Although Palcohol will be sold in liquor stores and to only those who are 21 and older, the portability of it makes it easier to acquire, conceal, and use. Underage drinking is a major concern in the United States, and with an easier method of acquiring, concealing and using alcohol, Palcohol may contribute to a statistical increase in underage drinking. Liquid alcohol may be just as readily available in many homes, but Palcohol opens the door for new methods of ingestion and abuse that may come with unforeseen consequences.
Although it is illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to consume alcohol, underage drinkers are responsible for 11 percent of all alcohol consumed in the United States. A 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that among high school students in the past 30 days:
- 35 percent drank alcohol
- 21 percent engaged in binge drinking
- 10 percent drove while under the influence
- 22 percent rode in a vehicle with a driver who was under the influence
Generally speaking, the younger an individual is when they begin using alcohol, the more likely they are to develop problems with alcohol later in life. Adolescents who use alcohol are more likely to struggle academically and may experience disruptions in physical development. In addition, adolescents who consume alcohol may undergo changes in brain development that can impact them for the rest of their lives.
Young adults are especially susceptible to alcohol abuse because of how it is portrayed by the media, as well as pressure from their peers. Often, pop culture depicts alcohol as an acceptable method of relating to peers and a tool that can boost popularity, reduce social anxiety, and increase happiness. The introduction of new types of alcohol and new methods of consuming alcohol will only increase accessibility and provide more creative ways for adolescents to become intoxicated, putting them and those around them in danger.