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GUEST COLUMN: New methods to consume alcohol open danger door

By: Lois Langraf
August 24, 2014 Updated: August 24, 2014 at 11:40 am
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The latest craze to hit Colorado is powdered or vaporized alcohol. Teens are experimenting with alcohol in gas and solid forms at increased levels.

Denver Health Medical Center reports having treated over 24 patients recently who have gotten sick after inhaling alcohol vapors or ingesting solid alcohol.

"Vaping" is a process where alcohol is heated in a device similar to a vaporizer and inhaled, usually through a straw. Vaping has been described by users as causing an immediate and intense high. Normally, when a drink is taken, alcohol is absorbed 10 percent through the stomach and 85 percent in the small intestine. By bypassing the digestive system

Vaping causes alcohol to be ingested directly to the bloodstream through the lungs. This causes dangerous levels of intoxication. Research shows that the swift infusion of alcohol to the brain makes inhalation more addictive than regular drinking. The danger of vaporized alcohol entering the bloodstream directly, as opposed to the digestive system, means that protective impulses - such as vomiting - are bypassed.

Similar to a traditional vaporizer, the Vaportini became available online in December. Selling for only $35, the device heats and releases intoxicating vapors, which are breathed through a straw after being heated by a candle to 140 Fahrenheit.

On the other end of the spectrum is the Vapshot, selling for $600 to $700. According to the creators, Vapshot is an entire drink system consisting of "specially designed containers, which are pressurized and premixed with various spirits. When served, you simply twist the cap, "pop the top" and a portion of the liquor will instantly vaporize right before your eyes."

How can one resist?

Powdered alcohol is just that: alcohol in powdered form. But it isn't dehydrated or freeze-dried booze, instead it's tiny bits of liquid ethanol enclosed in cyclodextrins, which are literally small rings of sugar. When added to water, the sugar dissolves and the alcohol is released into the drink. It's intended to make drinking alcohol a little bit easier - and more portable. Unfortunately, like so many things, it can be misused.

Because powdered alcohol is very easy to eat, consumers can very quickly ingest dangerous levels of alcohol. Powdered alcohols contain anywhere between 30 to 60 percent ethanol. A 1.8-ounce packet could contain as much as 1.06 ounces of ethanol; that's almost twice the alcohol content in a can of beer.

It is easy to conceal, making it perfect to sneak into concerts, sporting events, school. It's easy to sprinkle on food.

In addition to over consumption new, creative methods of use have been discovered. One of those is snorting. Snorting creates the same problems as vaping. By bypassing the digestive system the results are intense and dangerous.

Unavailable for sale in the U.S., the most popular product, Palcohol, is available on-line and is awaiting federal approval to hit the shelves this fall. Made by Arizona company Lipsmark, Palcohol will come in six different varieties of single-drink pouches. It will be packaged like Crystal Light and Kool-Aid.

Alaska and South Carolina have banned the sale of Palcohol. New York, Minnesota and Vermont are trying to do the same. I intend to add Colorado to the growing list in 2015.

If you would like more information on this or any other issue you can visit me on the Web at www.loislandgraf.us, twitter: landgrafforjobs.com, Facebook: lois.landgraf.5, email: lois.landgraf.house@state.co.us.

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Lois Landgraf is a Republican member 
of the Colorado House of Representatives 
representing District 21.

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