Snyder: Palcohol presents more harm than good


Kelby Wingert/Iowa State Daily

The minimal and trivial benefits of Palcohol do not come close to making up for the potential harm.

Stephen Snyder

Americans in many states may very soon have a new way to become intoxicated (it’s about time, am I right?). Thanks to powdered alcohol, or “Palcohol” as the creators of the substance call it, we can all finally rid ourselves of those pesky bottles and flasks of alcohol and carry around our alcohol in easy grab-and-go pouch form.

Palcohol will be convenient to carry, it could even fit into your pocket. Think along the lines of Crystal Light, but instead of a refreshing hint of lemon or pomegranate you get the taste of hangover and regretting your life choices. Palcohol is also easy to use, just add it to literally anything you’re drinking — bottled water, soda, pond water, urine, actual liquid alcohol, the possibilities are endless.

Actually, you could even snort the powder if you really put your mind to it, though it would only hurt and take a lot longer to get intoxicated than just drinking it.

Inventor of Palcohol, Mark Phillips, has high hopes for the product, apparently for the avid outdoorsman in particular.

“When I hike, kayak, backpack, whatever, I like to have a drink when I reach my destination,” Phillips said in an instructional Palcohol video.

Yes, Phillips has truly addressed the concern of every avid adventurer: How am I supposed to drink when I’m done? However, Phillips left out a few other places that people might enjoy a drink, like alcohol-free events or public spaces. You know, places where drinking isn’t allowed.

If you have yet to pick up on the tone of this column, let me help you out. Palcohol is a terrible idea and the benefits come nowhere close to covering up the risks.

Phillips dismisses claims that the Palcohol will find it’s way into the hands of minors and make illegal alcohol consumption easier because “it will be sold in the same licensed establishments where alcohol is currently sold, and only adults 21 years or older with proper identification can buy it.”

Of course, how could we have forgotten that it’s illegal for minors to buy alcohol? Problem solved everybody, no need to point out the statistic from a 2012 Archives of General Psychiatry — now known as JAMA Psychiatry — that found that 78 percent of people aged 13 to 18 had consumed alcohol. Phillips must have forgotten that just because minors can’t buy it from the store doesn’t mean they have absolutely no access to it.

I would be remiss to leave out this gem from the official palcohol website. If the segment is not written from Mark Phillip’s perspective, then it is certainly a perspective similar to his.

“A concerned parent came up to me and said she supported the ban of Palcohol to keep it away from her 15-year-old daughter. I asked her which is easier, for her daughter to buy marijuana or a bottle of vodka in a liquor store? There’s no way a 15 year old can buy vodka in a liquor store but it’s easy to buy marijuana on the street. That’s because marijuana is banned, so there are no rules on distribution and anyone can sell it to anyone else. Banning Palcohol will make it easier for kids to get access to the product because there is no control over distribution.”

Controlling distribution is not the issue. Be it alcohol, marijuana, Palcohol or any other substance, if it exists and people want it, they’re going to get it.

Many states, including Iowa, are working to ban Palcohol before it even becomes available, which will happen this summer, according to While I am personally no fan of banning a substance because it’s bad for you, I do think that Palcohol is a terrible idea.

I do not begrudge Phillips for creating the substance, I don’t even have anything against any states that are going to let it be sold legally. I just have an issue with Phillips and his business partners pretending that this product will do anything other than make illegal activities easier to accomplish. Anyone who can legally drink alcohol has the option to drink wherever it is legal to do so. If packing your bottle of vodka is too inconvenient, then maybe the place you’re going isn’t a place where you need to be drinking.

Palcohol will only do two things. One, it will make it much easier for those who cannot legally consume alcohol to do so. Second, it will make alcohol consumption in areas where consumption is illegal much easier. If, for those two reasons and those two reasons alone, states wish to ban Palcohol — and I’m sure their individual law enforcement agencies would be thankful if they did — then they would have legitimate reason and cause for concern under current standards for deeming what is and is not appropriate for public use.