Although powdered alcohol appears to be more common in the UK, there have been reports of powdered alcohol use in the UK – for example, in UK prisons.
Powdered alcohol has been around for roughly 50 years – and was first sold in Japan over 30 years ago. However, the idea hasn’t necessarily spread or ‘taken off’ – and they aren’t seen in stores in the UK.
But what exactly is powdered alcohol, and how does it compare to typical alcoholic beverages such as beer or vodka and coke? And more importantly, is powdered alcohol legal in the UK?
That’s what we’re going to explore on this page. Read on to learn more about powdered alcohol, including the science behind it and how it compares to alcohol in liquid form – and of course, where the law lies regarding alcohol powder in the UK.
Before we explore the UK law on powdered alcohol, let’s explore what exactly alcohol powder is. The concept of powdered alcohol is simple – you simply add water to alcohol powder, shake until mixed well, and then enjoy the beverage.
It seems like an easy concept, but how exactly does it work? What does it taste like? What is the science behind it? Let’s find out.
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A powdered alcohol drink can resemble a typical alcoholic beverage in appearance. Alcohol powder can resemble traditional alcoholic drinks – you can find powdered alcohol cocktails, whiskey, other spirits, and even powdered alcohol wine.
Some versions of alcohol powder you can buy in Europe include Booz2go or Subyou. In The US, you may purchase a brand of powder alcohol called Palcohol. Palcochol comes in a variety of flavours such as rum, vodka, and many cocktails such as Lemon Drop, Mojito, Cosmopolitan, and Margarita.
There are several ways to consume powdered alcohol – as well as mixing powdered alcohol with water, you can also find powdered alcohol in pill form or in a capsule.
You simply swallow a tablet or two and feel the effects, leaving you feeling intoxicated. You can also feel the effects via nebulization – you breathe in the water vapour. However, the most common form of powdered alcohol is a sachet of powder – this is how it is typically sold online. Simply pour the sachet into the water to create an alcoholic drink.
Most powdered alcohol options state that their powder is 50% alcohol by weight and 10% alcohol by volume. This can vary from brand to brand.
Liquid alcohol is also measured by volume, and most spirits vary in strength between 40% and 50% ABV, just like alcohol powder.
Due to the nature of alcohol powder, It can be difficult to know how much alcohol powder you’re consuming. This is because the measurements and alcohol content generally differ from liquid alcohol. See ‘The Dangers of Powdered Alcohol’ to learn more.
Now you understand the ins and outs of powdered alcohol, let’s explore the science behind it. Firstly, Alcohol powder uses compounds (cyclodextrins) to hold the alcohol.
Cyclodextrin compounds are made from starch – enzymes convert the starch into a cyclic molecule that is made of sugar molecules linked together in rings, known as cyclodextrin.
The cyclodextrin compounds feature a middle cavity which allows all forms of molecules, which is why it’s known as an inactive ingredient. Inactive ingredients carry other ingredients – active ingredients.
These have a variety of uses commercially – for example, holding fragrances for long-term release in the perfume industry, or removing cholesterol from animal products. In the alcohol industry, cyclodextrins absorb ethanol alcohol molecules. When liquid alcohol molecules are locked inside cyclodextrin, they create a powdered form of alcohol.
It is thought that cyclodextrins absorb around half their weight in alcohol. Alcohol is released by adding the powder to a glass of water. When mixed with water and dissolved, ethanol is released from the compound. As the cyclodextrins aren’t toxic, they are considered safe to consume.
Powdered alcohol was first approved for sale in the United States in 2015 by the Alcohol/ Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, under the name ‘Palcohol’. However, in the UK, it is not for sale in shops, and there are currently no plans to sell the substance in the UK.
In fact, some people want to ban the production and consumption of powdered alcohol in the UK as we don’t know much about the long-term effects, and whether it can be mixed with other substances such as illicit drugs or prescription drugs.
According to the Licencing Act 2003, alcohol refers to cider, spirits, beer, wine, and other fermented, spirituous, or distilled liquor. If powdered alcohol were included in this list, it would be regulated under the Licencing Act.
The licencing for powdered alcohol would not be dissimilar to vapourised alcohol. Vapourised alcohol is currently being sold in a select few licensed premises.
That being said, the UK Government isn’t aware of it being sold without a licence. Vapourised alcohol is being treated the same as regular alcohol in terms of licensing – but the legal position is yet to be clarified.
Because powdered alcohol hasn’t ‘hit off’ in the UK, the rules and regulations on powdered alcohol remain unclear for many. In short, alcohol powder is not yet available for sale in the UK, and the law regarding alcohol powder remains unclear due to the lack of demand for the product.
In the US, however, 24 states have banned the sale of powdered alcohol (Palcohol), and nine states are considering banning Palcohol for public health reasons.
One of the main dangers of powdered alcohol products is the lack of research and regulation as they rise in popularity. For example, people under the legal drinking age may be able to purchase powdered alcohol online due to the lack of regulations.
Unlike typical alcohol, there hasn’t been sufficient research conducted on powdered alcohol, so we may not be aware of the risks associated with consuming alcohol powder. In fact, some people have very serious concerns about powdered alcohol.
Powdered alcohol users may be at a higher risk of alcohol poisoning if the packaging isn’t labelled clearly.
People may add more powdered alcohol to their drinks to feel stronger effects or may be unaware of how much powdered alcohol they should be adding – especially when the packets are imported.
Alcohol poisoning should be considered a medical emergency – as well as feeling or being sick, people could choke on their own vomit and die, have a heart attack, develop hypothermia, have seizures due to low blood sugar, or stop breathing.
Alcohol abuse and binge drinking is also a danger to consider. The UK Government and the NHS recommend that we drink no more than 14 units of alcohol per week, spread across the span of three or more days. This equates roughly to six medium glasses of wine or six pints of 4% beer. Check out our alcohol units guide for more information.
Although there is no level of drinking that is considered 100% safe, sticking within these guidelines will likely lower the risk of developing alcohol-related health issues.
Frequent alcohol misuse can quickly develop into alcohol use disorder, which can take over all areas of your life – it can affect your finances, your relationships, your family, your career, and of course, your mental health and physical health. Alcohol consumption has been found to be a causal factor in over 60 medical conditions.
At Help4Addiction, we understand that It can be difficult to break alcohol addiction alone, especially by using the ‘cold turkey’ method. This is why many people choose to go to alcohol rehab to break their addiction and prevent relapse – or complete an at-home detox.
Our friendly team of addiction experts at Help4Addiction can find the right addiction treatment for you at the right alcohol rehab clinic – whether it be a 7-day treatment, 14-day treatment, or 28-day treatment.
The rehab process begins with detox – which means all access to alcohol will be cut off. Alcohol detoxification deals with the physical aspect of addiction, rather than the social or behavioural aspects.
You may experience withdrawal symptoms during this stage – which is why some people prefer a medical detox with medical assistance/ medical supervision. Some people get given detox medication to ease the process.
After detoxing, you may move on to the next stage of rehab treatment – therapy. Therapy in rehab can build your confidence and strength, and give you an understanding of your addiction – for example, root causes or triggers.
You may be offered a range of therapies depending on the treatment facility you choose. Some forms of therapy in addiction rehab include CBT, DBT, interpersonal therapy, family therapy, group therapy, and counselling.
Leaving rehab can feel scary – so many people prefer to continue treatment as an outpatient. Secondary treatment can involve support groups (e.g Alcoholics Anonymous), extended counselling, or group therapy sessions.
The main goals of secondary treatment/ aftercare are to achieve emotional sobriety, prevent relapse and ease the transition from rehab to your normal life. Contact us today if you are displaying signs of alcohol addiction to discuss your options and overcome your alcohol addiction.
Nicholas Conn is a leading industry addiction expert who runs the UK’s largest addiction advisory service and is regularly featured in the national press, radio and TV. He is the founder and CEO of a drug and alcohol rehab center called Help4addiction, which was founded in 2015. He has been clean himself since 2009 and has worked in the Addiction and Rehab Industry for over a decade. Nick is dedicated to helping others recover and get treatment for drug and alcohol abuse. In 2013, he released a book ‘The Thin White’ line that is available on Amazon.
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