April 6, 2015

Tennessee Poison Center physician urges caution with powdered alcohol


Powdered alcohol, marketed under the name Palcohol, was recently approved by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau for sale in the United States. It is a powder that is packaged in a 4-by-6-inch pouch, to which water can be added to produce an instant alcoholic beverage.

A bill currently making its way through the Tennessee General Assembly would ban sale of the product in the state.

While proponents of its sale point out that this new product will be useful for purposes including camping, airline travel or any other activity where weight is a significant issue, Tennessee Poison Center officials have expressed concern that the availability of powered alcohol may lead to more instances of alcohol poisoning, especially among children and adolescents.

“We are concerned that as more flavors and more sophisticated marketing make this product more enticing and available, more children will ingest it,” said Donna Seger, M.D., professor of Clinical Medicine and medical director of the Tennessee Poison Center, located at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

“It’s also a concern that the availability of powdered alcohol will make it easier for adolescents to obtain and ingest alcohol, either by itself or with other drugs,” she said.

From a poison control point of view, acute alcohol toxicity presents as a central nervous system depressant, which can range from drunkenness to, most severely, coma and death, she said.

“Parents and other adults should treat powdered alcohol just as they would any potentially harmful substance—it should be stored away from children,” Seger said.