Powdered alcohol: What makes it a bad idea

Powdered alcohol, or Palcohol, is a new powdered alcohol is being considered for eventual sale in the US. As alcohol pervades the social life of many Americans, how can young adults detach drinking from having fun?

Paulo Whitaker/Reuters
A barman prepares "Caipirinhas", Brazil's national cocktail, made with cachaca (sugar cane hard liquor), sugar and lemon or another fruit, at Fogo de Chao, a Brazilian steakhouse where food is prepared the traditional gaucho way, in Sao Paulo April 15.

Given the growing media attention on Palcohol, a new powdered alcohol product angling for America shelves, it’s a good time to talk to kids about the fact that you don’t need alcohol, in any form, in order to feel good or have a party.

While it was reported Tuesday that federal approval of Palcohol was an “error” on the part of the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau – which originally granted Palcohol “label approval” on April 8 – I doubt this is the last we’ll hear of the product.

This approval misfire and failure to launch of the product gives parents a great opportunity to course correct on how alcohol use is perceived by kids.

I already know that at least one of my teenage sons is going to hit me with the biblical reference to Jesus turning water into wine at a wedding as an example of how far back the ties between alcohol and having a good time go.

While it’s true that even the most pious adults, in scripture and elsewhere, can be seen partaking of a sip of wine now and again, it does not equate to the current comfort level of sporting events awash in beer, or alcohol woven into so many national holidays.

Bud Light drove the point home with its 2014 Super Bowl commercial, starring an average guy whose life is transformed into that of a superstar by accepting a single bottle of beer from a stranger.

Our kids see these type of ads, and watch the choices of adults, and may come to the conclusion that the only way to be “the most interesting man in the world” is with a Dos Equis beer in hand.

James Bond cool comes shaken, not stirred.

Many can’t seem to celebrate New Year’s Eve without champagne, and graduations, job promotions, and other holidays often include a toast. As the weather warms up this spring, ads touting instant frozen drinks, hard lemonades, and ice cold beer are hard to avoid.

Now Palcohol is taking the next step, creating a powdered, easily transportable pantry item.

According to early reports, Palcohol was on track to hit US shelves sometime later this year, turning healthy bottled water into instant alcoholic rum and vodka cocktails such as: Cosmopolitan, Mojito, Margarita, and Lemon Drop mixed drinks. 

Despite the setback in approvals, reports say that Palcohol will re-submit its labels for federal approval in the future.

Predictably, social media is experiencing a tidal wave of response ranging from jubilation, to concern, to wry humor over how long it will be before some chucklehead tries to snort the concoction. A couple of responses:

The company’s website has already posted the following disclaimer, addressing individuals who were asking about other uses for Palcohol:

Can I snort it? We have seen comments about goofballs wanting to snort it. Don't do it! It is not a responsible or smart way to use the product. To take precautions against this action, we've added volume to the powder so it would take more than a half of a cup of powder to get the equivalent of one drink up your nose. You would feel a lot of pain for very little gain. Just use it the right way.

The website also makes suggestions for using the product in foods after cooking for added “kick.”

When you add Palcohol to food, you're not really adding flavor to the dish, just alcohol. We've been experimenting with it like adding Powderita powder to guacamole, Cosmopolitan powder on a salad, V in a vodka sauce, etc. It gives the food a kick...

Because my father was an alcoholic and my younger brother is a recovering alcoholic, our family doesn’t celebrate the use of alcohol and my kids know it.

My oldest son, Zoltan, a college sophomore – who helped saved the life of his roommate freshman year when boy suffered apparent alcohol poisoning after a party – became concerned by the announcement that powdered alcohol is about to become “a thing” in America.

“The amount of usage that kind of packaging creates and the ability to hide it are un-measureable,” says Zoltan. “Not mention super dangerous when it comes to potential for slipping it to people in foods at parties, spiking drinks, and putting too much in jungle juices at parties.”

Iveta Petrosyan is both the mother of two young children and a campus police officer at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va. and the idea of powdered alcohol in the mix had her bristling.

“I saw that the other day and thought, ‘This too will get out of hand,’” says Ms. Petrosyan. “Some parents that drink regularly do send that message that you need alcohol to have fun, but those that don't drink probably don't convey a loud enough message to the kids that drinking is a huge responsibility.”

Petrosyan adds that from the perspective of law enforcement, “I'm afraid we'll be dealing with a whole lot of this, especially football games.”

Adults and kids are constantly conditioned by marketing and commercials to believe that no good time can be had without an alcohol chaser.

However, it’s never too late or too soon to have the conversation with your kids about the fact that good times are not dependent on alcohol for the fun factor.

The reality is that, all too often, parties laced with alcohol are either forgotten in a haze or remembered for the the hangovers and the humiliation of decisions made under the influence.

If we want to teach our kids to “drink responsibly” we need to hand them a bottle of plain water and keep the “pal” out of alcohol because it’s not their friend or ours.

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