Cracking down on powdered alcohol - Sovereign Health Group
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powdered alcohol

Alcohol … powder?

It sounds strange, but it’s a product that’s been around for a long time. Mix enough alcohol with a moisture-absorbing food additive and you get a powder. Add water – or any liquid of your choice – and you have a beverage with the strength of a mixed drink. Last year, Lipsmark LLC got its new product – which it calls “Palcohol” – approved by the Alcohol Tax and Trade Bureau, an arm of the U.S. Treasury Department.

Lipsmark calls its product “revolutionary” on its website, but not everybody agrees. Several states, including California, have taken measures to ban the product’s sale.

California Senate Minority Leader Emeritus Bob Huff, R-San Dimas, introduced SB 819 in the state senate in January. The proposed bill seeks to ban alcohol powder from being sold in California. In a press release, Huff said, “This substance is yet another drug that we should be concerned about and for good reason. Some are predicting Palcohol will become the’Kool-Aid of teenage binge drinking,’ and this is a concern I agree with.”

He isn’t alone. California State Assemblywoman Jaqui Irwin (D-Thousand Oaks) introduced a similar bill in the assembly during the same time period. Like Huff’s bill, AB 1554 seeks to ban the sale of alcohol powder in California.

Critics of alcohol powder say it’s easier to conceal, and might be more easily purchased by underage drinkers. Underage drinking is certainly a problem; the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported 35.1 percent of 15-year-olds said they have had at least one drink in their lives; the same survey also showed 5.4 million people aged from 12 to 20 engaged in binge drinking.

So what is alcohol powder?

Just add water

Although alcohol powder sounds like the kind of bizarre idea that could only come out of the Internet age, the concept’s been around for decades. According to the National Alcoholic Beverage Control Association (NABCA) a patent for “alcoholic dry beverage powder” was filed in 1964, using a similar production method to the one used today. In the early 1970s, Sato Foods of Japan sold capsules of alcohol powder as a food additive.

NABCA also reports General Foods was granted a patent in 1976 for a form of powdered alcohol, although the product was never used. California adopted its first regulation on powdered alcohol in 1978.

According to NABCA, the substance is generally made by combining alcohol with dextrin, a derivative of sugar that can hold 60 percent of its own weight in alcohol. The damp powder can be combined with water or a mixer; it can also be consumed on its own. Like most consumer products, there’s nothing to stop consumers from using alcohol powder in ways it wasn’t intended to be used, like inhaling it or using the powder to increase a drink’s alcohol amount. Studies on alcohol powder’s potency and effects have yet to commence.

It may well be that the concerns over alcohol powder, however well-intentioned, are misplaced. Alcohol powder may just be a fad product making another attempt to crack the marketplace. What’s clear to anyone is alcohol is an addictive, mood-altering substance that should always be kept out of the hands of children; new packaging and methods of delivery don’t change that.

Sovereign Health of California offers proven, effective treatment methods for substance abuse and mental health. For more information on substance abuse disorders and treatment, please call our 24/7 helpline.

About the author

Brian Moore is a staff writer and graphic designer for the Sovereign Health Group. A 20-year veteran of the newspaper industry, he writes articles and creates graphics across Sovereign’s portfolio of marketing and content products. Brian enjoys music, bicycling and playing the tuba, which’s he’s done with varying degrees of success for over 25 years. For more information and other inquiries about this media, contact the author and designer at news@sovhealth.com.

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