Alcohol inhalation is a disturbing trend among young adults that involves “smoking” alcohol instead of drinking it in order to get a quicker, stronger and supposed zero-calorie buzz.
This method of consumption actually originates from a medical procedure used to treat excessive lung fluid as well as withdrawal symptoms in alcoholics who have been through intestinal tract surgery. As a medical procedure, alcohol inhalation is closely monitored by doctors. However, in recreational, do-it-yourself home procedures, there are no monitoring mechanisms which make the process that much more dangerous.
How It Works
Alcohol is turned into inhalable smoke or vapor in various ways:
- The alcohol is poured over dry ice in a narrow container, and the resultant vapors are inhaled through an asthma nebulizer, straw or pipe.
- A plastic bottle is filled with alcohol and corked, then a bicycle pump needle is pushed through and air pumped in to vaporize the alcohol. The cork is removed and the vapor inhaled.
- The alcohol is repeatedly heated to produce inhalable steam.
- Relatively cheap devices such as the Vaportini or AWOL (Alcohol without Liquid), can thermally vaporize the alcohol and turn it into breathable fumes.
Why Smoke Alcohol?
It would be less of a hassle, one would think, for people to drink alcohol straight than to inhale it, but research has revealed that people get intoxicated much more quickly this way than the normal way.
One would think that drinking alcohol straight would be less of a hassle compared to the complicated process of vaporizing it for inhalation, but research reveals it’s actually a much quicker way to get intoxicated. As alcohol goes straight into the bloodstream and brain, it bypasses the digestive system where its effects would be slowed down. Many also see it as a way to avoid consuming calories from ingesting beverages the conventional way. At the same time, the inhaling method offers alcoholics with liver disease a way to continue to get drunk without causing more stress to the liver. Alcohol vaporizer manufacturers use these supposed advantages as selling points claiming that their product facilitates “safe” and “responsible” alcohol intake.
Concerns Around Alcohol Smoking
Inhalation takes the alcohol directly into the bloodstream, brain and other organs without losing its potency. Because of this, the user gets drunk more quickly and intensely. However, the pleasure spell last only a few minutes, which may prompt the user to repeatedly inhale more alcohol to maintain the sensation. Since this method makes it difficult to keep track of the amount consumed, the user can easily slip into alcohol poisoning. Usually, the body would try to expel excess “poison” through vomiting, but bypassing the stomach removes this mechanism out of the equation and leaves the user with hardly any means to get out of the deadly situation.
Since alcohol smoking is a relatively new trend there, no scientific data on its dangerous effects in the body and its organs are clear. However, barring the liver from doing its natural job of regulating alcohol consumption is a very risky procedure. Some experts say repeated inhalation may lead to irreversible nerve damage, brain swelling and dementia over time. According to NCADD, it can also dry up the nasal passages, respiratory system and lungs, making it more prone to infection.
Inhalant Abuse Prevention. Inhalant Abuse: Dangers & Effects. Retrieved on September 23, 2015 from http://www.inhalant.org/inhalant-abuse/dangers-effects/
Elements Behavioral Health. Have You Talked to Your Teen About the dangers of Inhaling Alcohol? Retrieved on September 23, 2015 from http://www.drugrehab.us/news/have-you-talked-to-your-teen-about-the-dangers-of-inhaling-alcohol/
BBC News. Inhaling alcohol may harm brain. (2004, February 16). Retrieved on September 23, 2015 from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/bristol/somerset/3493487.stm
National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. Inhaling Alcohol: Dangerous Trend. Retrieved on September 23, 2015 from https://ncadd.org/in-the-news/748-inhaling-alcohol-dangerous-trend