Powdered alcohol nothing to be sniffed at

Why do Europe and the United States get all the cool stuff while we’re stuck in Western Australia with no Krispy Kreme, no Burger King, and certainly no powdered alcohol?

I like to think we are so close to inventing more interesting alternative forms of food like a burger in pill form, but what do scientists do? They create alcohol in powder form, or Palcohol.

Add that to the list of things we don’t need right next to vegetables and valuable advice from our parents, am I right younger generation?

The US Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau briefly approved the sale of Palcohol last month, according to National Public Radio, then reversed what it called an error. There are no plans for it to be legalised in Australia.

Professor David Morton, co-course director of Pharmaceutical Sciences at Monash University said this isn’t the first time alternative forms of alcohol have been created and he expects it to be short-lived.

“When I was a student in the UK, I remember there were a few pubs and clubs that introduced nebulised alcohol and I think it was pretty quickly snuffed out, excuse the pun,” Professor Morton said.

“As you spray alcohol and breathe it in, it very rapidly gets into your body so you get drunk very quickly. That was a fad and it didn’t last very long.”

A man named Mark Phillips who is famous for his extensive knowledge of wines and spirits brought Palcohol into the US creating an up-roar about the adverse effects of the substance.

He said in a seminar that Palcohol was created with the help of scientists so that you could take the powder anywhere, mix it with water and enjoy a cocktail. Sounds harmless right?

Sure, in terms of a potential business proposal it sounds harmless, but like most things of this nature, it starts to be abused and all sorts of health risks come into play.

Dr Nial Wheate, senior lecturer of Pharmaceutical Chemistry at the University of Sydney, said there are two major health risks associated with Palcohol.

“The first one comes from simple over-indulgence. The company that proposed to sell this initially wanted to sell it in one-ounce packets, so that’s about 28 grams per packet, and each packet would have one standard drink in it,” Dr Wheate said.

“So you’re talking about one-quarter the size of a Wizz-Fizz packet having enough alcohol as one standard drink. So if someone wanted to miss-use it and swallow three or four packets at once, they could very quickly get a lot of alcohol into their system.

“The next problem then is the unique nature of the powdered alcohol because it could be taken in ways that you wouldn’t normally do, for instance, some people have suggested sprinkling it on food or snorting it.

“The nasal cavity is actually very good at absorbing drug molecules and possibly ethanol (which is in the powder).”

Professor Morton said the effects of Palcohol are fast-tracked when compared to the conventional consumption of alcohol, by drinking it.

“The concern I would have over it being in powder form, would be how quickly somebody could take it and then it be released into your blood stream,” he said.

“As with any pharmaceutically active compound, one of the biggest problems is the rate at which it gets into the body.”

Professor Morton explained that since its effects are so fast through non-conventional consumption, if someone was to abuse it, it could become very dangerous.

So who is Palcohol’s target audience?

According to the creator, Palcohol was originally targeted at people in their 30’s and 40’s who enjoyed a cocktail or four every now and then on the weekends when they visited their in-laws and needed to make things interesting.

But younger people looking to get drunk fast quickly adopted Palcohol. Dr Wheate said that the people who are most likely to use this form of alcohol in the wrong way are young people, perhaps even those under 18.

Even though it has been banned from being sold just days after it gained federal approval in Europe and the US, it has very little chance of become available in Australia.

With our already prolific drinking culture, the effects of Palcohol in the wrong hands could have detrimental effects. Australia already has record high alcohol and drug related crime rates. Just imagine if it was easily accessible and as concealable as a bag of Wizz-Fizz?

PS. Double check the label before you put it in your kid’s lunch-box.