What is Palcohol?
Palcohol has recently been approved by the FDA and is expected to be available for sale by some time this summer. If you are not familiar with it, Palcohol is alcohol in a powdered form. The powder will be sold in individual pouches about 4 by 6 inches in size, and the alcohol content is equivalent to one shot of alcohol. Water or other liquids can be added directly to the pouch and stirred to create an alcoholic drink. It will be sold in several flavors including vodka, rum, and cosmopolitan. The makers of Palcohol state that it was originally intended as a more convenient way for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts to be able to indulge in an adult beverage without having to lug bulky and breakable bottles around.
It will be sold in the same places regular alcoholic beverages are sold. As with other forms of alcohol, you must be 21 to purchase it.
There have been some concerns expressed about Palcohol, and some states have already banned it.
What are the dangers?
Because the alcohol is sold in pouches, it will not be as obvious as a liquor bottle, making it easier for it to be hidden. (The product’s maker disagrees with this, pointing out that the pouches are 4” x 6”- larger than a shot vial of alcohol.) However, the fact that it is flat makes it possible for it to be hidden in unexpected places, such as under a mattress or in a stack of books.
There have been concerns that people may try to snort it. The makers of Palcohol state that it would sting and be quite painful if snorted. However, it is not impossible that someone would experiment with snorting it, especially if they are not aware that it would be painful.
The biggest concern, however, is that the powder can be doubled or mixed with other alcoholic beverages and drugs. This could heighten the potential effects of each, causing dangerous drug/ alcohol interactions and possible alcohol poisoning.
How do I protect my child?
As with anything that is potentially dangerous, the most important thing you can do as a parent is to be alert and informed. The reality is that for youth bent on risk taking, Palcohol is no more readily available than any other drug. Likewise, if a teen is looking to get drunk or high, they can abuse regular alcohol in the same ways as Palcohol.
So, know what to look for and take caution to “teen proof” your home, no matter what the substance may be. Don’t be afraid to open up the discussion; make sharing your values around using/ misusing substances a part of an ongoing conversation with your child. Your opinion may mean more than they are willing to admit.
If you suspect your child is abusing alcohol or drugs, you don’t have to handle it alone. Consider seeking help from local resources, such as a member of your local clergy, a family doctor, or counselor. If they are not equipped to help you, they are probably aware of resources in your area and the best ways to access them. The 211 Helpline could also be a good place to get information about available resources in your area to help address teen drug use. The 211 Helpline is an information and referral service which connects people with resources and services in their community. You can reach them by calling 211 or by visiting www.211.org in the US or www.211.ca in Canada.
The bottom line on Palcohol is that it is one more thing about which parents need to be aware so they may educate their children about the potential dangers. For further tips on how to deal with alcohol and substance abuse, check out some excellent articles and resources here on Empowering Parents. Remember, knowledge is power!