Smoking vaporized alcohol is a dangerous practice that involves the over consumption and abuse of alcohol in a non-traditional way. Adolescents, college students, and adults of all ages are trying this method of alcohol consumption for a variety of different reasons, and this is just one of many dangerous alcohol trends.
What Is Smoking Alcohol?
Vaporizing or “smoking” alcohol is the process of preparing alcohol so that it can be inhaled rather than consumed as a liquid.
The manufacturer of a device known as the “Vaportini,” a device which uses a candle to heat alcohol to a vapor state, claims that once the alcohol is inhaled it is “…absorbed directly into the bloodstream and does not go through the digestive tract. This has the advantage of almost no calories; no carbs, no impurities and the effects of consuming alcohol are immediately felt.”
They claim that this means a nearly instantaneous calorie-free buzz for the drinker without actually drinking. But like all alcohol trends, experts are warning that smoking alcohol is dangerous and possibly deadly.
Is Smoking Alcohol Dangerous?
A lot of people ask, “Is smoking alcohol dangerous?” In truth, health professionals like Dr. John Roache, professor of Psychiatry and Pharmacology at UT Health Science Center San Antonio, are concerned. In an interview with San Antonio’s KENS 5 he said, “This method of alcohol delivery is targeting more selectively the brain, and not other bodily organs.” Inhaling alcohol means that it bypasses the stomach, liver, and intestines which act as a natural filtering system, and help to protect the body against toxins. Dr. Roache continued, “It’s a poison, and it can kill living tissue,” he explained. “You’re putting a large amount of alcohol into your brain, and that can damage the brain.”
Inhaling alcohol allows it to bypass the body’s natural filtration system. Organs like the stomach, liver, and intestines normally attempt to filter out toxins. In the case of over consumption of alcohol, the body may trigger a vomit response in order to remove excess alcohol, but with inhaled alcohol, there is nothing in the system that can be removed, the alcohol goes directly to the brain and over consumption can mean alcohol poisoning and death.
In short, smoking alcohol is very dangerous, and despite the benefits it claims to offer, it may, in fact, be even worse for you than drinking alcohol.1
How Do People Smoke Vaporized Alcohol?
To smoke vaporized alcohol, most users pour the alcohol over dry ice and inhale the vapors with a straw. Others make DIY vaporizing kits at home with bike pumps. To do so, they take any kind of alcohol, pour it into a bottle, cork the bottle, and poke the pump needle through the top of the cork. Then, they pump air into the bottle and vaporize the alcohol before inhaling it.2
Who Is Smoking Alcohol Vapor?
Although alcohol trends like smoking alcohol vapor are typically picked up by adolescents and young adults who like to experiment with alcohol and other drugs, this is not necessarily the case with this trend.
In recent years, smoking alcohol has also become more popular among people trying to lose weight. Many of them want the effects of using alcohol without all the calories.2 Unfortunately, health experts say this is not a valid reason to smoke alcohol vapor, as users still consume the calories regardless of how they ingest the alcohol.3
Misconceptions and Misinformation About Smoking Alcohol
As the novelty of smoking alcohol has spread, YouTube has been flooded with videos of drinkers consuming vaporized alcohol with homemade devices.
In an article on Today.com, Steve Pasierb, who runs the partnership at drugfree.org says, “These videos scare the hell out of me. It’s binge drinking in an instant. It’s like doing five or six shots into your bloodstream right away. “While the manufacturers of the Vaportini claim that the inhalation of alcohol makes it safer as the “buzz” can wear off in 20 to 30 minutes, a report on their site shows that one vapor “shot” can be equivalent to 4 liquid shots for some drinkers. A “buzz” that hits so quickly and fades so completely means that many drinkers won’t realize just how much alcohol they have put into their system and will overindulge as they feel the effects wearing off.
Many consumers have been drawn to smoking alcohol because of the claim that inhaling alcohol means inebriation without calories, but Pasierb argues against that idea and says, “When you’re consuming alcohol, you are consuming calories, period.”
Side Effects of Inhaling Alcohol Vapor
Although there isn’t much research studying the short-term and long-term effects of inhaling alcohol vapor, studies on rats have proven it has adverse effects.
Some side effects of inhaling alcohol vapor may include:
- Respiratory depression
- Lung damage
- Brain damage
- Loss of consciousness
- Increased risk of overdose
- Alcohol withdrawal4
Smoking Alcohol vs. Drinking Alcohol
Although there are many dangerous misconceptions about smoking alcohol vapor or taking vapor shots of alcohol, here are the main differences between smoking and drinking alcohol:
- The user experiences a “buzz” much faster when alcohol is smoked.
- Instead of being filtered by the body’s natural systems, smoked alcohol goes straight to the brain.
- Smoking alcohol is the equivalent of consuming four shots of alcohol at once.
- A user is much more likely to overdose when smoking alcohol, as it is difficult to monitor exactly how much alcohol they have consumed.
- The “buzzed” feeling hits users quickly and wears off quickly too, so users are more likely to overdose by smoking more to enhance the effects.
- The body cannot expel the alcohol like it normally does (via vomiting) so alcohol poisoning is much more likely.5
Vaporized Alcohol: Not Worth It
Dr. Roache worries that inhaling alcohol will lead to increased dependency issues, “When you’re smoking it, you’re making it more powerful and addictive.”
So, while smoking alcohol may be a new trend in inebriation, experts argue that the risks of damage to the lungs and brain, the increased risk of substance abuse and dependency, and the possibility of accidental alcohol poisoning make it a novelty that’s simply not worth the risk.
If you or a loved one is suffering from alcohol addiction, call Nova Recovery Center today to learn more about our personalized addiction treatment programs.