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Will You Get Drunk On Powdered Alcohol?

Published:
April 17, 2024
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15 min read
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Written by
Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
April 17, 2024
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15 min read
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
April 17, 2024
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
April 17, 2024
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Reframe Content Team
April 17, 2024
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15 min read

Understanding the Dangers of Powdered Alcohol

  • Powdered alcohol is convenient but difficult to measure accurately, which adds to its many dangers.
  • Understanding what palcohol is and why it’s so dangerous helps us practice more mindful and intentional drinking.
  • Reframe can help you avoid the dangers of alcohol in all its forms with neuroscience-based education and support.

From instant coffee to sports drink powders, the powdered just-add-water versions of our favorite drinks make it easy to enjoy any time in any place. With convenience on the rise, it seems that there’s a different form of almost anything, even alcohol.

Powdered alcohol may seem like a great idea at first — no more clunky glass bottles and heavy cans. However, the dangerous intoxicating effects of alcohol are encapsulated into a more concentrated form — only augmenting the risks. To understand why, let’s better understand exactly what powdered alcohol is. 

What Is Powdered Alcohol?

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Powdered alcohol, or “palcohol,” is liquid alcohol that has been transformed into a powder through a process called microencapsulation. Through this drying process, alcohol molecules are absorbed by sugar molecules, turning alcohol into a solid form. 

Powdered alcohol can be rehydrated with water, turning it back into a liquid. In addition to being an on-the-go alcoholic beverage, the creator of powdered alcohol suggests that palcohol can be used as a makeshift disinfectant for emergencies. As it’s simply a different form of alcoholic beverages, does it make us drunk in the same way?

Does Alcohol Powder Get You Drunk?

Microencapsulation that turns alcohol into a powdered form does not alter the compounds of alcohol. Ethanol, the main component in alcohol that causes intoxication, is present in palcohol and can cause the same feeling of drunkenness that liquid alcoholic beverages provoke. Think of Gatorade powder: when mixed with water, the drink contains the same electrolytes as the bottled liquid form. 

Although powdered alcohol can cause intoxication, the level of alcohol content in the powdered form versus liquid differs. Most powdered alcohol is marketed as 50% alcohol by weight and 10% alcohol by volume (ABV). Liquid alcohol is measured using ABV and ranges from about 5% for lower-end beers to up to 60% for some distilled spirits. This inconsistency leads to confusion when calculating the number of standard drinks that palcohol contains. If we aren’t able to determine the amount of alcohol in a palcohol drink, is it legal?

Is Powdered Alcohol Legal?

In 2014, the Alcohol Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) approved the first labels for palcohol in the U.S. Two weeks later, the TTB recalled their approval and noted that it was an error. Following the recall, four types of palcohol were made legal. This back-and-forth foreshadowed the varying opinions and regulations surrounding the palcohol that developed in the following years.

In the United States 

Powdered alcohol started as a legal substance in all states. Due to its dangers, it’s now banned in 31 states with nearly all states considering legislation for regulation. Conflicting regulations by state are apparent in the U.S., but the majority of states recognize its dangers. 

In Other Countries

Like the states, other countries’ laws surrounding the legality of powdered alcohol vary. The toxic substance is banned in countries such as Canada and Australia. However, it’s legal in some parts of Europe and Asia with strict regulations.

Although containing the same intoxicating compounds as alcoholic beverages, the varied legislation surrounding powdered alcohol speaks to the heightened dangers of the solid form. Let’s get a clearer look at the differences between powdered alcohol and liquid alcohol to understand why.

Palcohol vs. Drinking Alcohol 

Powdered alcohol when mixed with water can create the same beverage as the ready-to-drink bottled versions we’re familiar with. Despite this, the two are distinct due to three major differences:

  • How it’s made. Traditional alcoholic beverages are made through a process called fermentation. Through this process, sugars are converted into ethanol — giving alcohol its intoxicating properties. Powdered alcohol goes through an additional microencapsulation process where the alcohol molecules in liquid alcohol are dried and absorbed by the sugar molecules, creating a powder.
  • Alcohol by volume (ABV). The majority of powdered alcohol products contain about 10% of alcohol by volume. Liquid alcohol varies more widely depending on the type of alcoholic beverage. Low-ABV wines and beers are around 5% whereas some distilled spirits can go as high as 70%.
  • Standard drink. One standard palcohol drink is equivalent to about 30 g of powdered alcohol mixed with roughly 200 ml of water. One standard liquid alcohol drink is about 1.5 oz of distilled liquor. If we’re mixing palcohol like we eyeball dinner recipes, a standard drink can be difficult to determine.
  • Legality. A majority of states in the U.S. have banned alcohol powder. Alcohol, on the other hand, is legal with age restrictions in all states and most countries. 

Due to these major differences, we can see that alcohol in its powdered form is considered more dangerous than liquid alcohol. Let’s further examine what the risks are.

Powdered Alcohol vs. Liquid Alcohol

Dangers of Powdered Alcohol 

Alcohol is an intoxicating substance that is associated with risks and harmful effects. Powdered alcohol comes with additional dangers due to unique factors of the altered form:

  • 1. Mixing. Instructions for palcohol direct consumers to mix the powder with water. However, the powder is also easily mixed with other alcoholic beverages, increasing the alcohol content. This compounds the risks of alcohol by making binge drinking easier and opening the door to other issues, like having our drink spiked.
  • 2. Concealing. A small packet is much easier to conceal than a glass bottle or can. This increases the chances of alcohol use in prohibited areas such as public spaces or among underage drinkers.
  • 3. Snorting. This altered form of alcohol provides another method of intoxication — through snorting alcohol powder. As if the dangers of alcohol aren’t enough, snorting alcohol exponentially increases intoxication and health risks, as the alcohol goes directly into our bloodstream. 
  • 4. Accessibility. The added convenience of the powdered form makes alcohol more accessible at any place and at any time. Accessibility is a major factor that drives consumption — leading to greater negative impacts.
  • 5. Dosing. Even if we’re considered a “numbers person,” measuring one standard drink with palcohol is tricky. It’s much more difficult to measure 30 g with 200 ml of water than it is to measure one can of beer or one shot of a distilled spirit. Mixed with another alcoholic beverage, things get even more complicated. It’s difficult to figure out how much is too much with alcohol, and ever more so with powdered alcohol. 

Aside from the distinctive risks of powdered alcohol, it also has the same risks as liquid alcoholic beverages. One of them being interactions with other drugs.  

Potential Risks and Interactions With Other Drugs

Palcohol and liquid alcohol have the same drug interactions. An interaction with a drug means that drinking alcohol can alter the way a drug affects our body. This can change the effectiveness and cause potentially dangerous side effects. 

When using other drugs such as prescription medication, it’s always important to check if there are any direct interactions. While there aren’t always direct interactions, the effects of ethanol on other systems in our body could still negatively impact the effectiveness of other drugs. Alcohol and palcohol’s extensive impacts on our health may encourage us to seek a healthier relationship with them.  

Developing a Healthy Relationship With Alcohol

Having a better relationship with alcohol is beneficial to our overall health and well-being. Mindful drinking practices help us prioritize our health:

  • Learn more. Alcohol impacts us in so many different ways. Just as documentaries about the harmful environmental impacts of eating sugar can make us have second thoughts about our diet, learning more about the effects of alcohol can make us more mindful of how much we consume. Check out trusted online resources such as Reframe to learn more about alcohol. 
  • Keep track. Tracking our drinking habits helps to keep us accountable. Recognizing toxic drinking patterns and what triggers them can help us set achievable goals.
  • Quit or cut back on alcohol. Reducing alcohol consumption or avoiding it completely minimizes or removes the negative impacts of its toxins. Prior steps such as staying educated and recognizing our drinking patterns can help us quit or cut back on drinking. 
  • Reach out for support. The reason most sports teams have cheerleaders is because support is so beneficial. We can reach out for support and have our own personal cheerleaders to keep us on the path to bettering our health and relationship with alcohol. 

The important thing is to start somewhere. Consider which of these steps would be most attainable and start there. 

The Nitty-Gritty

Powdered alcohol, another form of alcoholic beverage, was approved in the U.S. in 2014 but is now banned or strictly regulated in most places for good reason. Similar to flavored nicotine vapes, powdered alcohol‘s increased convenience adds to the already extensive list of negative impacts of alcohol. 

While powdered alcohol has additional risks associated with its consumption, the legislation surrounding it urges us to take a second look at the detrimental impacts of its close cousin — liquid alcoholic beverages. Is liquid alcohol so different from its powdered form? While we continue to question this, we can implement the outlined mindful drinking practices and gain a healthier relationship with alcohol. No matter powdered or liquid, cut back and embark on a new path!

Summary FAQs

1. What is palcohol?

Palcohol is another name for the powdered form of alcohol. 

2. Will powdered alcohol get me drunk?

Yes. Powdered alcohol is another form of alcohol and contains the same compound as drinking alcohol that causes intoxication. 

3. Is powdered alcohol legal?

Powdered alcohol is illegal in all states except three. Legality also varies between countries but is highly regulated in countries that do allow it.

4. Why is powdered alcohol so dangerous?

Powdered alcohol is so dangerous because it is easily concealed. The ease of access can encourage excessive consumption. 

5. How is powdered alcohol different from drinking alcohol?

Powdered alcohol is different from drinking alcohol because of the way it’s made, the amount of alcohol in it, and its transportability. 

Curious About the Dangers of Different Types of Alcohol? Learn More on Reframe!

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

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Plus, we’re always introducing new features to optimize your in-app experience. We recently launched our in-app chatbot, Melody, powered by the world’s most powerful AI technology. Melody is here to help as you adjust to a life with less (or no) alcohol. 

And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app through the App Store or Google Play today! 

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