Conveniences of powdered alcohol clash with controversy of abuse possiblities

While powdered versions of items such as coffee and lemonade could easily be purchased in stores nationwide, powdered alcohol has revolutionized the alcohol industry by providing more of a convenience when consuming alcohol. Although the powdered versions of alcohol may seem ideal, there are tremendous concerns such as potential substance abuse. (Photo Illustration by Cassandra Nguyen | The Collegian)

Powdered versions of items like lemonade, coffee and protein drinks can be bought in stores across the country. Alcohol in powdered form, called Palcohol, will soon be added to that list. According to Palcohol’s website, the product is expected to hit stores in the summer of 2015.

In April 2014, the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau approved the product. Despite the approval, Alaska, Delaware, Louisiana, South Carolina and Vermont have banned powdered alcohol. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York and Ohio have proposed legislation to ban Palcohol.

The product is still legal in Kansas, legislation to ban the sale of Palcohol was introduced in February, according to the Kansas legislature website.

Chaz Mailey, psychologist and alcohol education services director, said there is a good reason for the controversy surrounding the product.

“A product of this type could prove quite hazardous to the user,” Mailey said.

Mailey said powdered alcohol can be dangerous in that it is easy to conceal, easy to use in a setting where one might not typically get access to much alcohol, and depending on how it is used, for example if it’s snorted, it can also be dangerous. He also said it’s difficult to make the precise measurement of powder to water.

“I’d be really cautious about putting something like this in my body without having much knowledge about what it is, or what it actually contains,” Mailey said.

Palcohol’s website said its ingredients include alcohol, and, in the cocktail versions, natural flavorings and Sucralose. Flavors will include premium vodka, premium Puerto Rican rum, Cosmopolitan, Powderita and Lemon Drop. Each pouch is an equivalent of one shot of alcohol. Consumers can add six ounces of water or other liquids to the powder, which by itself is 80 calories.

According to Palcohol’s website, Mark Phillips, the creator of Palcohol, created the product because he is an active guy who wanted to enjoy an adult beverage when hiking or camping, but didn’t want to carry heavy containers of alcohol.

Qingling Li, senior in food science and industry, said she can see the conveniences of the product for people travelling, and that at times carrying bottles and cans is quite dangerous. On the other hand, she said she is still unsure whether the positives outweigh the negatives of powdered alcohol.

“I really don’t know how I feel about it because there’s so many ways it could turn bad, if people start smuggling it or abusing it in some way,” Li said. “I also think people can abuse any product, so if it’s more convenient, that’s great.”

Mailey said he doesn’t know whether the product will be abused more or less if it’s made illegal.

“It is possible to see how other things that are considered illegal or off-limits draw the occasional thrill-seeker or curious individual,” Mailey said.

Depending on the ease of access, there could be a spike in use if powdered alcohol is made illegal, but that this largely depends on whether the individual using it was susceptible to such a condition, according to Mailey.

The Palcohol website cautions that alcohol abuse is a real problem, but that any product can be abused and it’s in the hands of the person using it.

“You don’t ban a product because of the irresponsible use of it by a few people,” Phillips said in a May 2014 video answering the public’s questions regarding Alcohol. “Especially with Palcohol that has so many innovative uses for individuals and businesses that saves money, reduces the carbon footprint and allows new opportunities that liquid alcohol can’t provide.”

Another controversy arising with the product is the possible increase in underage drinking.

Cameron Morgan, junior in finance, said a powdered form of alcohol would be especially enticing for those that are underage because it would be easier to get a hold of.

“People tend to follow trends, and if it’s the cool thing to do, there is definitely the possibility of increased underage drinking,” Morgan said.

Palcohol’s website said that by banning powdered alcohol, the state will create a black market which means the state loses control of the distribution.

Other concerns about the product include the idea that people will snort it to get drunk, it will be easier to sneak into venues, it will be easier to spike a drink and kids will get a hold of it easier.

“Because of the alcohol in powdered alcohol, snorting it is very painful,” Phillips said in the video. “It burns — a lot!”

According to the Palcohol website, since one drink is in a large package form, it would take about an hour to snort one shot worth of alcohol.

“You won’t get drunk faster by snorting powdered alcohol, and you’ll go through a lot of pain,” Phillips said in the video.

Also according to the website, it will not be easier to sneak Palcohol into venues because of the large packaging.

Phillips said it will not be easier to spike a drink because the powder must be stirred for at least one minute to become invisible, and it would in fact be much quicker and easier to spike a drink with liquid alcohol.

“It will take at least a minute of stirring for all the powder to dissolve,” Phillips said in the video. “Why would someone try to carry (a Palcohol package) in and try to conceal it and spike someone’s drink when it takes so long to stir, when you can do the same thing in three seconds?”

Phillips has many ideas for his product despite the controversy. He said millions of dollars could be saved on fuel if powdered alcohol is introduced in the airline industry. He also said hotels that rely on imported alcohol could save tons of money on shipping by using Palcohol.

Phillips said he is hoping to get past the state bans, and according to his website, create a “revolutionary new product” that creates a positive impact not only on individual consumption but the industrial industry as a whole.