Is Palcohol, Powdered Alcohol, Safe? Sure, It Sounds Amazing — But Things Could Easily Go Wrong

You might have heard rumblings about Palcohol last year. Reports of the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau approving its sale to the public sent people wild with anger or excitement, depending on which side you're on. Though later rescinded (the bureau citing the approval as a mistake), the federal government officially approved Palcohol, or powdered alcohol this week, reigniting the debate surrounding the dangers of the substance.

It's a rather ingenious product, truth be told. Simply add water to a pouch containing the powdered alcohol, and voila! An alcoholic drink. Palcohol creator Mark Phillips said the product was created for outdoor activities where pouches of powder would replace lugging bottles of alcohol around. But the government's decision to approve such a product is a highly controversial one, as critics point to Palcohol's massive potential for abuse.

The list of concerns runs long. Many people worry that teenagers — or adults, let's be real here — will snort or inject the powder. Carrying a pack of Palcohol instead of a bottle of liquid also makes sneaking alcohol into concert halls, schools and sporting events infinitely easier. And what about sprinkling some on your food for a quick buzz, or worse, having someone spike your already-alcoholic drink with Palcohol?

Being a new product, these concerns have neither been proven nor disproven. But several states have already moved to pre-emptively banned Palcohol, and last month Colorado advanced a bill that would temporarily halt its sale, CBS News reported.

One of Palcohol's chief detractors is Sen. Chuck Schumer, who has been vocal in his criticism. Shortly after the government announced the product's approval, Schumer introduced federal legislation to ban the production, sale and possession of powdered alcohol. He said in a statement:

I am in total disbelief that our federal government has approved such an obviously dangerous product, and so, Congress must take matters into its own hands and make powdered alcohol illegal. Underage alcohol abuse is a growing epidemic with tragic consequences and powdered alcohol could exacerbate this. We simply can’t sit back and wait for powdered alcohol to hit store shelves across the country, potentially causing more alcohol-related hospitalizations and God forbid, deaths. This legislation will make illegal the production and sale of this Kool-Aid for underage drinking.

Amid newfound fears of the product, Phillips released a video dispelling some of these concerns — for example, it would take 60 minutes to snort the equivalent of a shot of vodka, and it burns a lot, anyway — which seems sincere, for the most part, but as with any sort of intoxicant, when there's a will, there's definitely a way.

Palcohol on YouTube

Images: vamapaull/Flickr; ABC News (2)