Health Column: Powdered caffeine and alcohol a concern

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An expanding selection of powdered products is opening up some dangerous doors, according to federal officials who are warning consumers not to get caught up in the novelty.

The Suffolk County health department, too, is urging buyers to stay away from one product in particular: powdered pure caffeine.

A single teaspoon of the powder is roughly equivalent to the amount of caffeine in 25 cups of coffee, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which issued a warning following the death of a teenager who used the product in July.

According to the FDA, these powdered products are essentially 100 percent caffeine, which is a powerful stimulant that in even very small amounts may cause accidental overdose.

“It is nearly impossible to accurately measure powdered pure caffeine with common kitchen measuring tools, and you can easily consume a lethal amount,” reads a release from county health officials.

But caffeine isn’t the only stimulant taking on a powdered form.

In as little as a few weeks, a powdered form of alcohol known as “Palcohol” could be hitting store shelves, an announcement that prompted U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer to call on New York’s liquor store owners to boycott the new product.

As an alcoholic product, Palcohol is regulated by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, which does not have the legal authority to control label content beyond the product’s percentage of alcohol.

Mr. Schumer attempted to get the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to assess and respond to the product’s potential health risks, but was unsuccessful.

“While it defi es logic that the FDA will not investigate the obvious health concerns of Palcohol, responsible retailers should do the right thing and keep this dangerous product away from our kids on Long Island, who are already exposed to drinking at an incredibly young age,” the senator said.

Mark Phillips, owner of Lipsmark, which created Palcohol, said the product is like any other alcoholic beverage and is meant to be used responsibly.

The company claims the lightweight powder is easier to travel with and perfect for hiking, camping and other outdoor activities where lugging bottles of alcohol could be a nuisance.

The powder comes in a pouch that weighs about an ounce and is equivalent to one shot of alcohol, or one drink. It should be mixed with water or another form of mixer to be enjoyed, according to the Palcohol website.

As soon as September, powders will become available in six varieties: premium distilled vodka, Puerto Rican rum and cocktail mixtures in the fl avors of a cosmopolitan, mojito, margarita or lemon drop, to be made by adding water.

Mr. Phillips told the News-Review that while the product’s price has yet to be determined, it will be “more expensive than liquid alcohol” to deter people from abusing it.

According to the website, it would take “approximately 60 minutes of painful snorting” to get the equivalent of one powdered shot of vodka up the nose, something Mr. Schumer warned against doing.

Despite Palcohol’s touted convenience, owners at several area liquor stores, including Michael’s Liquors in Riverhead and Village Liquor in Southold, said they would not be interested in carrying such a product.

Miller_HeadshotGot a health question or column idea? Email Carrie Miller at [email protected]