Have you heard about “smoking” or inhaling alcohol? Maybe not, but I bet your teen has! YouTube videos of kids engaging in this risky trend have gone viral — and doctors say it could have deadly consequences.
Instead of drinking an alcoholic beverage, users inhale it. They’re actually breathing in vapor, not smoke. Posted videos show different methods of vaporizing alcohol — it looks like a game. Participants say they’re drunk in seconds. But here’s what teens need to know: Getting drunk this way has serious dangers — even more than the old-fashioned method.
That’s because when you drink alcohol, it takes more time to affect you. Alcohol gets absorbed in your stomach, and then processed by your liver. That’s part of the liver’s job: to break down and remove toxins. About 20 minutes later, the alcohol enters your bloodstream. When you inhale alcohol, it bypasses your digestive system. Vapor goes straight to the lungs, where it is instantly absorbed and carried to the brain. Doctors say that can poison you faster.
“The normal sensation when you drink and you are getting more drunk is to vomit. It’s your body’s way of expelling alcohol,” explains Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. “However, when you inhale alcohol, your brain has no way of expelling it.”
Some teens may not realize the danger. And they could be lured by false claims about inhaling alcohol:
Myth: It can help you lose weight without giving up the effects of alcohol.
Fact: If you are feeling the effects of the alcohol, it means that you are absorbing the calories associated with ethanol, the active component in alcohol. You may not absorb the added calories of the sweeteners or mixers if you vaporize pure spirits, but calories are still absorbed.
Myth: It can hide drunkenness from police and parents.
Fact: Breathalyzers and blood tests can detect inhaled alcohol just as easily as ingested alcohol.
Myth: It’s allowed for people under the legal drinking age because no “drinking” is involved.
Fact: No matter how the alcohol is consumed, it is still illegal for people under 21 years old.
There aren’t yet statistics on people being hospitalized as a result of inhaling alcohol. But doctors are worried about its increasing popularity, and they are on the lookout.
Make sure your teens know the facts about this potentially deadly trend.