From the files of "Something you didn't even know you didn't know" and "Yet another reason why ER doctors have job security" comes a new product approved in 2015 by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau: Palcohol.
What is it? Palcohol is freeze-dried alcohol (no, it's not for astronauts). It comes in multiple flavors (vodka, rum, cosmopolitan and margarita) and just needs to be mixed with water (or other mixer) to create an alcohol-based drink. Why create it? The founder says that when going hiking, he likes to have alcohol at the end of a long day (perhaps he likes being dehydrated?) and carrying it in a powdered form is easier than carrying a bottle.
With the approval, the company expected to auction off the formula for sale in the U.S. However, several states have raised concerns and are pursuing measures to ban the sale within their borders.
There are many patients who come to the ER with problems due to alcohol abuse, poisoning or overdose - in 2009 alone, there were more than 650,000 ER visits involving alcohol. So it's clear that we don't seem to suffer from a lack of access to "the sauce." But this new form of alcohol is concerning for a couple of reasons:
- Appeal to youth. It's tough enough for parents to keep control of teenage drinking. Something like this could only make it easier for kids to covertly access alcohol. Should this become widely available, parents of teenagers and children should talk to them about it and be exceptionally vigilant. It's definitely easier to carry a 4x6 inch packet in your backpack than a full-sized wine bottle.
- Inexperience with using it. We shouldn't be complacent about the effects simply by likening it to alcohol. In reality, individuals can't be sure how their body will react. Will the powdered form make them more intoxicated more quickly? We don't know. Anyone (no matter what your age) should be careful when consuming this the first few times until you know how your body will react.
- Illicit use/sneaking it into someone’s drink. Is it possible? Maybe. The company says you have to stir it for a minute to dissolve and that theoretically it has a flavor that could make it obvious, but does it?
In short, we don't truly know what to expect -- that will depend on how available it is and how popular it becomes with the public. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will undoubtedly monitor its usage for health problems, but that will take time (and sickened individuals) before any restrictions would occur. We recommend parents keep an eye on whether their state allows the sale or not, continue to be vigilant in monitoring your teens and educate them about the dangers of alcohol use.