05 May Palcohol: experts raise alarm over powdered alcohol soon to be available online – ESSENTIAL KIDS
If you think you are doing well in protecting your children from alcohol, you might need to think again.
Announcements from the US confirm that powdered alcohol will be on sale as early as June, and will be available to purchase online not long after.
The alcohol – known as Palcohol – is to be sold in small sachets, weighing about 28 grams, and flavours will include vodka, rum and cocktail. The sachets are added to water or a mixer to create an alcohol drink.
Australian rehabilitation counselor, Tabitha Corser, fears the worst. She believes that being able to purchase alcohol online will further fuel a culture of teen binge drinking.
“Palcohol should never be allowed into Australia because the dangers it presents are just too high and the first thing that springs to mind is alcohol poisoning,” she says.
“I’m concerned children and young adults will hide their alcohol consumption or dare each other to see how many alcohol sachets they can drink in one glass.”
Amongst her concerns, Corser sights; easy concealment, the increase of dangerous drinking games, increase in the spiking of drinks and alcohol poisoning.
She also believes it could impact hotels and clubs in terms of responsible service of alcohol.
“If people are buying a soft drink then adding their own alcohol, it makes it much harder to know who has too much to drink,” she says.
And she’s perfectly justified in being concerned.
Research shows that over 80 percent of adolescents have used alcohol by the time they are 14 years of age and one in five go on to binge drink every week.
Risks associated with binge drinking include memory loss, injuring yourself or others, loss of coordination, lack of judgment and, in extreme cases, alcohol poisoning.
But the risks don’t just end there. Research has also identified that alcohol can disrupt a teen’s critical brain development, particularly in those who start to drink from 12-13 years of age through until their early twenties.
“People don’t realise alcohol is classified as a Group 1 Carcinogen – a cancer causing agent – the same classification as Asbestos and Tobacco,” explains Corser.
“All State and Territory Governments need to act now and ban powdered alcohol to limit access to it and it’s important for parents to educate their children about the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption.”
CEO, Michael Thorn, from the Foundation of Alcohol Research & Education agrees that this product spells trouble.
“Palcohol is very likely to appeal to young people. Not just because of their preference for flavoured alcohol, but also because powdered alcohol is easily concealable and as such, more easily brought into venues,” he says.
He also believes that it is highly likely that drinkers would experiment with adding less liquid and more powder to strengthen the concentration of the product.
“In Australia, alcohol is already too available and the resulting harm is too great,” says Thorn. “It’s responsible for 15 deaths and hospitalising 430 Australians every day, so the last thing we should be doing is introducing a new product that has such obvious and inherent risks.”
It appears that some state Government departments are listening and already taking action.
In an interview with ABC News, Victorian Minister for Liquor Regulation, Jane Garrett, said she would write to interstate and federal counterparts to stop the powder being available in Australia.
She described the product as ‘dangerous’ and a ‘novelty’, and was backed by Victorian president of the Australian Medical Association, Dr Tony Bartone.
“It just lends itself to an unwanted possibility of abuse and excess that sends the wrong message of excess in a culture that is seeking to promote alcohol in moderation,” Dr Bartone said.
So are parents inclined to agree?
Tracey thinks the idea of this is appalling.
“Should we just hand our teenagers a gun and say ‘here have fun’,” she questions. “Alcohol is a massive problem with teenagers and by offering this, it’s simply fueling the fire.”
Liz echoes this sentiment.
“It seems like this is definitely a product being marketed for the young. I certainly wouldn’t touch it – it sounds disgusting. But for teens, I can see it would be considered a perfect solution, particularly for situations or events where alcohol is prohibited.”
However, not everyone thinks that we should be throwing our hands up in disgust just yet.
“I think instead of trying to stop it, our time would be better spent on education about it,” says Lisa.
“We should be talking to the kids about this being available, and asking them how they would handle it. We need to give kids an education and the opportunity to react.”
“It’s kind of like social media, it’s here now and it’s not going away soon, so you’re better off learning about it than ignoring the problem and hoping it goes away.
Sarah agrees. “I think harm minimisation would be a better strategy rather than getting hysterical about kids accessing it,” she concludes.
Whether or not Palcohol makes it into Australia, remains to be seen. But as our kids grow savvier and access to these kind of products becomes easier, there is no question that we need to be more aware. After all, who knows what they will come up with next?