Is Powdered Alcohol Safe? This Guy Tried It And Debunked All Of Our Conspiracy Theories On It In Less Than Five Minutes — VIDEO

After more than a year of debate, the federal government approved the sale of Palcohol, or powdered alcohol, in March of this year. Slated to go on sale this summer, Palcohol has already been banned in a number of states, including Louisiana, South Carolina, Delaware, and Utah, due to fears that teens will try to snort or inject the substance, or that it could be used to spike people’s food or drinks. However, if this Wired video is anything to go by, these worries are mostly unfounded: It shows a guy trying powdered alcohol, and the results are...really not that scary.

Brent Rose, a tech writer for Wired, is the guinea pig in the video, and he stresses from the start that the substance he’s using is not Palcohol or any other commercial form of powdered alcohol. Powdered alcohol is not yet currently on the market, so he makes his own version from a recipe posted by Popular Science. He points out that the powdered alcohol in the video has key differences from what Palcohol will probably be like, because at this point, he can only guess its chemical makeup. For example, his homemade version uses a maltodextrin as the starch, while commercial grade powdered alcohol will likely use a cyclodextrin, which, Rose guesses, will probably be a more efficient vehicle for holding alcohol. Rose’s experiment also uses a less potent alcohol than the one that manufacturers will probably use, as he was limited to alcohols commercially available in California. Even with those caveats, however, Rose makes a compelling argument that powdered alcohol will simply not be as dangerous as many people fear.

The video shows Rose making the powdered alcohol and then mixing it with water. In Wired, he describes the concoction as “pretty foul,” explaining, “It was mildly sweet, almost like powdered milk, but it had this bready flavor coupled with the unmistakable flavor of Everclear.” He points out that commercial versions of powdered alcohol will be flavored and therefore might taste better.


After four drinks of powdered alcohol, Rose is buzzed enough to be slurring his words a bit (proving that, yes, powdered alcohol can get you drunk), and he moves on to addressing two of the main concerns people have about the substance:


Some have argued that powdered alcohol could be used to spike an unsuspecting victim’s food or drink, but Rose demonstrates fairly handily that this is impractical. Powdered alcohol has a higher volume than liquid alcohol, so to spike someone’s drink with the equivalent of a single shot of booze would require pouring in quite a bit of powder, and then stirring a lot to get it to dissolve. Even then, the powder would likely change the consistency and color of the person’s drink, making it difficult to sneak the extra booze past them. If you wanted to spike someone’s drink (which obviously you wouldn’t because that would be evil), it would make much more sense to simply pour in a shot of liquid alcohol.


Rose also points out that, even if you could spike a drink with powdered alcohol, it’s unlikely that a single dose (the equivalent of a liquid shot) would make someone drunk, let alone incapacitate him or her. A substance like rohipnol, which requires only a small dose to have a very serious effect, is much more dangerous.


People have also suggested that teens (or anyone, really) will try to snort powdered alcohol to get an instant buzz. Rose shows that that powdered alcohol simply doesn't work that way. Again, powdered alcohol has more volume than liquid alcohol, so one would have to snort a lot of the stuff to get the equivalent of a single shot. This much, in fact:


Pair that with the fact that snorting alcohol is really painful, and it seems likely that snorting powdered alcohol could ever really catch on. This is what Rose looks like snorting only a tiny amount (he’d have to snort 600 times that amount to consume the equivalent of a single shot of liquor):


All of this does not prove that teens won’t try to snort powdered alcohol. They certainly will because that’s what teenagers do. But I think Rose makes a pretty convincing case that snorting the substance is so unpleasant and ineffective that it’s unlikely that there will be some sort of nationwide epidemic powdered alcohol snorting.

We can’t know what effect powdered alcohol will have on people’s drinking habits until it’s available, and given the intense backlash it’s already had, the substance’s commercial release seems uncertain. Will it be a novelty that fizzles out in short order, or will we all be filling our bar carts with canisters of boozy Kool-Aid in a few years? Only time will tell.

WIRED on YouTube

Images: YouTube (5)