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What does smoking alcohol mean?

Vaporizing or “smoking”alcohol is 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 novel trends in inebriation, experts are warning that smoking alcohol is dangerous and possibly deadly.

A Dangerous New Trend

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.

Misconceptions and Misinformation Abound

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.”

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.

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