Get ready for powdered alcohol

Call me naïve, but I was surprised a few days ago to learn that powdered alcohol will start being sold this summer. I guess I missed that memo. This new product will initially come in five flavors: rum, vodka, cosmo, margarita, and lemon drop Just mix the contents of a foil packet in water, and presto, your cocktail is ready to drink. Will wonders never cease?

Please understand that I am not opposed to using technology to improve human welfare, but I do not understand why society needs instant alcohol packets. I am concerned this new alcohol formulation will lend itself to misuse and abuse. Small foil packets of instant alcohol will be easy to carry around undetected. Drinking water is ubiquitous. Mixing up a cosmo or a margarita in a public place, including those which do not allow alcohol, will be simple.

Experts on addiction are worried that powdered alcohol will be creatively used in ways the manufacturer claims are not intended. Possibilities include snorting it, injecting it, and mixing it into other alcoholic beverages to increase the alcohol content. It does not take much imagination to realize the possibilities of instant alcohol in foil packets being an easy-to-use and easily-available product for consumption by young people.

Interestingly, and in contrast to widespread inertia in regulating e-cigarettes and vaping, many states of both red and blue persuasions have already banned powdered alcohol. California is not among them. No, when Palcohol, as it is cleverly named, becomes available this summer, it will be sold throughout California, unless the legislature decides to ban it, as has happened in Vermont, Tennessee, Washington, Nebraska, and many other states.

Primary care clinicians need to be aware of the existence and risks of this new alcohol delivery system, coming to all of our communities in the next few months.

Richard Fleming, MD

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