Recent news reports indicate that the powdered alcohol product called "palcohol" was recently approved for sale in the U.S. This product is dangerous for both adults and children, and we at the Maryland Poison Center expect a number of calls regarding palcohol once it hits shelves in Maryland. In order to prevent injury or even death from this product, lawmakers need to act quickly to keep this product off of Maryland shelves. National Poison Prevention Week is March 15-21, and we see no better time to bring this risky new product to the attention of Marylanders and our legislators.
Palcohol is potentially a major public health problem, and not just for kids. Adults who are legally able to drink are generally used to ingesting a certain volume of alcohol to produce a specific effect. With powdered alcohol, even adults will not be able to use the volume of their beverage to judge how much alcohol they are consuming. Adding more powder to the same amount of liquid could drive the alcoholic content to dangerous levels.
The risk to underage drinkers is of particular concern. The portable nature of the powdered alcohol packets could enable teens to carry palcohol and add it — in any concentration — to the beverage of their choice without detection. For someone with a developing brain, unused to drinking, the dangers of such potentially high levels of alcohol by volume are particularly acute.
We call upon the Maryland General Assembly to get to work immediately to make this product illegal in our state. Otherwise, the Maryland Poison Center expects a rising number of calls to our hotline, 1-800-222-1222, regarding overdoses of this dangerous substance as soon as it hits stores. We hope that no serious injury or death will result.
Bruce Anderson, Baltimore
The writer is the director of the Maryland Poison Center at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy and is an associate professor in the School's Department of Pharmacy Practice and Science.