Powdered alcohol is a form of “dried” alcohol made by encasing molecules of alcohol inside sugar molecules. Is using this form of alcohol any safer than regular alcohol?

Many people don’t think of alcohol as anything other than a liquid, so powdered alcohol may seem odd or fake. In answer to the question, “What is powdered alcohol?” the Journal of the American Medical Association provides this definition: “Powdered or crystalline alcohol is alcohol that has been absorbed into a carbohydrate, resulting in a dry state rather than its usual liquid form.”

Powdered alcohol is essentially a packet of powder that can turn water into a mixed drink. The concept of powdered alcohol has existed since the 19th century with the first mention in an 1877 patent. It has been sold internationally, but has not yet successfully sold in the United States.

How Is Powdered Alcohol Different From Liquid Alcohol?

Powdered alcohol is different from liquid alcohol in several ways. The most obvious is that powdered alcohol is in a solid form, instead of the usual liquid form. Powdered alcohol products that are attempting to come to the market state that their powder is 50% alcohol by weight and 10% alcohol by volume.

Most liquid alcohol is measured by volume and is typically around 40-50%. This difference may make it more difficult for people to understand the amount of alcohol they are consuming. Another obvious difference between liquid and powdered alcohol is the production process.

How People Ingest Powdered Alcohol

The typical method to ingest powdered alcohol is to dissolve it in water and drink it, like liquid alcohol. However, there are concerns that powdered alcohol will be abused and ingested in unintended ways, such as snorting.

Snorting Powdered Alcohol

Although the intended use of powdered alcohol is to dissolve it in a glass of water, some people may choose to ingest it in other ways. One of these ways is snorting.

One company producing powdered alcohol in America stated that there is little concern for snorting. A report from ABC News on powdered alcohol said that “not only does it have the burn of alcohol, but it would take an hour to snort a ‘shot’ of vodka.”

However, critics of powdered alcohol are concerned that the quick absorption of alcohol in the nose will compel people to snort it.

Concerns About Powdered Alcohol

Experts in public health and safety, as well as government officials, have raised several concerns about powdered alcohol. Some of the biggest concerns include:

  • Ease of sneaking it into other peoples’ food or drinks without their knowledge or consent
  • High binge drinking potential, as it may be difficult to track the amount ingested
  • Highly concentrated drinks could lead to unintentional over-consumption
  • Increased potential for consumption by minors due to the ease in which it can be transported or concealed
  • Abuse of the product, such as snorting
  • Sneaking it into public venues, such as schools or other events that do not allow alcohol consumption

Making Powdered Alcohol

Microencapsulation is the method of how to make powdered alcohol. Microencapsulation is when micro-particles have a core surrounded by a different kind of material. For powdered alcohol, alcohol is absorbed by a sugar, leaving powder that can be re-hydrated. Alcohol molecules are surrounded by sugar, and the sugar dissolves in water and releases the alcohol.

The Legality of Powdered Alcohol

In April 2014, the Alcohol Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) approved a powdered alcohol product in the United States. Less than two weeks later, the TTB stated that it had issued the label approvals in error, then reissued approval for four types of powdered alcohol.

After this approval, states began enacting legislation to regulate or ban the sale of powdered alcohol. As of 2017, powdered alcohol is banned in 35 states, so people can only buy powdered alcohol in some states. Several others introduced legislation that regulates powdered alcohol like other alcoholic products.

Key Points: Powdered Alcohol

Some important points to remember about powdered alcohol include:

  • Powdered alcohol is a dried form of alcohol
  • Powdered alcohol is about 10% alcohol by volume, but this may not be an easy way to know how much a person consumes
  • It can be dissolved in water or ingested in other ways
  • It is legal in the United States, but at least 35 states have banned its sale

If you know someone who is suffering from alcohol abuse or addiction, or if you need help, The Recovery Village can help. Our locations across the country can offer treatment programs to meet you or your loved one’s unique needs. Take the first step toward recovery by speaking with a representative today.

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Editor – Camille Renzoni
Cami Renzoni is a creative writer and editor for The Recovery Village. As an advocate for behavioral health, Cami is certified in mental health first aid and encourages people who face substance use disorders to ask for the help they deserve. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Conor Sheehy, PharmD, BCPS, CACP
Dr. Sheehy completed his BS in Molecular Biology at the University of Idaho and went on to complete his Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) at the University of Washington in Seattle. Read more

Lupkin, Sydney. “Everything You Want to Know About Powdered Alcohol.” ABC News, 2015. Accessed June 17, 2019.

Naimi, Timothy S.; Mosher James F. “Powdered Alcohol Products.” JAMA, 2015. Accessed June 17, 2019.

National Alcohol Beverage Control Association. “Powdered Alcohol: An Encapsulation.” (n.d.) Accessed June 17, 2019.

Morton, Heather. “Powdered Alcohol 2017 Legislation.” The National Conference of State Legislatures, 2017. Accessed June 17, 2019.

Singh, M.N.; Hemant, K.S.Y.; Ram, M.; Shivakumar, H.G. “Microencapsulation: A Promising Techn[…]ed Drug Delivery.” Research in Pharmaceutical Sciences, 2010. Accessed June 17, 2019.

Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “Powdered Alcohol.” 2016. Accessed June 17, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.